Hello my name is Sofia Jordan and I am from Australia. I decided to volunteer for 5 weeks teaching English after completing my international teaching qualifications. The choice to teach particularly in China dates back to childhood when my father was the Director of the NT Trade Development Zone with strong connections to Chinese culture. Our family spent a great deal of time with Chinese colleagues and delegates. 

After a long flight from Adelaide in South Australia I arrived to Shanghai and was greeted by a happy staff member from Xu Bo and taken to the flat by bus and taxi. I found myself holding my breath and closing my eyes a couple of times amazed by the traffic, the cars, buses, bikes, scooters and people all trying to get somewhere in what appeared to be a great hurry.

After completing two days orientation in Shanghai (leaving with my Chinese name Su-Fei) I flew to MianYang and was greeted by two of the primary school teachers holding a very beautiful sign. I was so touched by the warm welcome and such genuine appreciation of me coming all the way to MianYang to teach at their school, Longmen Primary, as they do not have many foreigners coming to their school.

Longmen is out of the main city of MianYang so it's 'off the beaten track’ as one would say in Australia, a quiet town that is very committed to education and family. For me this was the perfect location as I was a little nervous about the placement and only being able to speak 'Hello’ in Chinese as this was my first travel experience to a place where English was not their first language.

On my first day at school I was greeted by smiling faces of children, some curious, some shy, some nervous as many here had not even seen a foreigner. This was also event in the town as I walked around with many adults looking with curiosity. I did feel a couple of times like an alien, however as the weeks past parents became aware I was at the school teaching English.

The town has a wonderful intimate community spirit which can be lost in larger towns and cities and I have really appreciated getting ‘back to the basics’ of caring about your friends, family and neighbourhood with the food here in the Sichuan Province being spicy and so delicious with ‘Baozi’ being my favourite breakfast snack.

I enjoyed the opportunity to be creative with the lessons bringing in songs, dance and a sense of humour with stories from Australia about my favourite animal the koala, to a bird taking bacon from a picnic and getting to speak about my family. I was very fortunate to teach in both the primary school and middle school from Grade 1 to Grade 8 and received a warm welcome from both teachers and students.

I would highly recommend a volunteering experience to MianYang in particular Longmen Primary School as the people here are so friendly and welcome you into their community.