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Samuel Wejchert 23/07/2018

Tsinghua University Voluntary Teaching Programme Summary

The volunteer teaching programme began on the 9th of July. I met my team members for the
first time that day in the Kaifeng train station in Henan Province. I was happy to discover that
my team of nine students came from diverse backgrounds. Not only were there students
from across greater China, such as Taiwan and Hong Kong, but there were also several
students from different parts of the US.

First Location: Kaifeng, Henan Province 河南,开封

Our first school was located in the outskirts of Kaifeng city, an ancient Chinese capital and
former provincial capital of Henan. The middle school students were around the ages of 16-
18 and we lived with them in the nearby student dormitories. Upon arriving there, I was first
struck by the rudimentary nature of their lodgings. Each room was fitted with eight beds
made of wooden planks with only a thin blanket on top. The washing facilities similarly lacked
a sense of privacy—the toilets were nothing more than open squat toilets and students took
showers together at set times in the evening. Although the quality of the accommodation
was not ideal, I was nevertheless glad to experience a week in the life of an average Chinese
school student.

As for my teaching, I designed my classes with two goals in mind: improving the students’
spoken English skills and their understanding of the cultural diversity of the ‘West’. The quiz
game ‘Guess the Country’ proved to be an ideal way of achieving these goals. Students were
able to exercise their spoken English skills by asking yes-or-no questions to guess the mystery
country. They also had the opportunity to develop their geography skills. I hope my students
gained a greater appreciation of the variety of Western cultures and realised that not all
Western countries are like the USA!

Second Location: Xincai, Henan Province 河南,驻马店,新蔡

We spent our second week in an elementary school located further south in Henan. The
county we were sent to, Xincai, gained notoriety in China several years ago because of severe
outbreaks of HIV/AIDS infections caused by poor villagers in the mid-1990s who sold blood
illegally. Xincai county appears to have largely recovered from this health crisis, but the area
still seemed poorer than the previous areas we had seen in Henan. The facilities in the
accommodation block we lived in here were even more basic than the previous school. Our
rooms were infested with insects and generally far dirtier than the ones we became
Samuel Wejchert 23/07/2018

accustomed to in Kaifeng. Like the previous location, though, I was happy to get out of my
comfort zone.

Given that most of the students in the elementary school had never learnt English before, our
classes focused on teaching the basics of the English language. To this end, we taught the
children how to sing the alphabet, count numbers, and respond to basic conversational
questions. It was very satisfying to see the progress they made in the space of a few days.
Overall, I was amazed to see the amount of time these students dedicated to study. Classes
began very early in the morning and ended around 8 o’clock in the evening. This routine even
continued into the weekend! I hope their work ethic will continue to inspire me in the future.

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