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International Volunteers Project China

Page history last edited by Fenella Shelford 9 years ago


Partner institution: International Volunteers Project China



Contributors (2015):

Charlotte O'Grady

Fenella Shelford




Contributors: for details on what is required in each section, please look at the Guidance Notes


Placement Information



Social life

Things to do, things not to do

Useful Contacts

Before you go

Placement Information

International Volunteers have two main projects in China; special needs/childcare and teaching English. The project that we took part in was teaching English at a small, privately run kindergarten called Family Around. The kindergarten was set up by a mother who could see that her child wasn't happy in a mainstream Chinese kindergarten as they were too big and had too many children in and decided to set up her own kindergarten in her living room. The kindergarten has grown however is still small as they believe that the children benefit from this. The kindergarten is situated in a beautiful gated community meaning that it is very safe for the children, people walking around the community are very friendly. The majority of the buildings in the community replicate tall office buildings, including the kindergarten, which is very odd when you first walk in!



The kindergarten is situated in rooms the similar size to a medium sized apartment; there are three main rooms, which are the teaching rooms for the 'smallest', 'small' and 'bigger' children. The children also have a two large spaces, on each floor, which is intended for their playtime as Family Around limited the children's outdoor play due to the pollution in China.



Although the purpose of our project was to teach English, this was very difficult as only a small amount of the staff spoke good English and only the older children would know basic words such as 'hello' and 'goodbye'. However, I taught English, Art and Music lessons which were successful when I planned the lesson beforehand as there were very little English resources in the kindergarten. 


We usually got to the kindergarten around 9:00 am, at 11:30 am the children would have their lunch and then nap until 2:30pm. The kindergarten provided lunch for us which was very nice; normally rice or noodles with some kind of meat or vegetable. We were then allowed to either stay in the kindergarten in a classroom or leave the kindergarten whilst the children napped.


The school day finished around 4:00pm but the children stayed to have dinner, we were given this option but as we had dinner prepared for us at home decided not to. 





During our time on placement we stayed in a volunteer apartment. The apartment had a separate floor, dorm rooms and bathrooms for both girls and boys, the rooms were large with plenty of space and bunk beds in each room. The bathroom was quite small, but adequate for our needs, with western style toilets and plenty of running water, although it was difficult to control the temperature. The apartment had a large dining room, and a small kitchen. When we arrived in China all heating had been turned off, so the apartment could be quite cold. 

During our stay our meals were provided for us with breakfast and dinner at the apartment and lunch at our placement. All meals were Chinese, usually consisting of rice or noodles and then some vegetables and meat dishes. This includes breakfast. Close to the apartment there are some food stalls selling Chinese street food, and also some small shops, similar to corner shops. The shops sell basic things such as drinks, bread, and sweets and crisps, but nothing much more substantial than this and very little fresh food. In the local area there were fruit stalls and larger supermarkets but still very limited western food. 





We were collected by a taxi and taken to our volunteer apartment when we first arrived in Xi'An. However the most common and best way form of transport was by bus. Their was a bus stop right outside our apartment block, from which we were able to take a bus to our placement. For us it was approximately an hour journey however volunteers had much shorter journeys, some were even able to walk. The buses were extremely cheap to travel on, costing about 15p per journey. They were also usually extremely busy, with the aim being to fit as many people on the bus as possible. The bus had some seats but more space for standing with railings to hold on to for the journey. During the weekend we were able to use the buses to explore the city. They were usually quite regular but it was sometimes difficult to locate the bus stop, particularly when travelling back from somewhere. The buses only announced the stop in Chinese so quite often we counted the number of stops it was to a place. It was also possible to hail taxi's and often these weren't to expensive, although again it was sometimes difficult to communicate to the driver where you wanted to go.  

Social life

There are lots of things to do in Xi'an at night; although we did not take part in many of them, a few of the girls in the volunteer house often went to clubs and bars around Xi'an and enjoyed it, however did mention how expensive it was. We often did things with the other volunteers such as going for dessert, going for a walk etc. which was very enjoyable!



Things to do, things not to do

  • As Xi'an is the capital of Shaanxi province and is one of the oldest cities in China, there is a lot of history to see. Main tourist attractions include The Terracotta Warriors, The City Wall, The Bell and Drum Tower and The Muslim Quarter to name a few. David, IVHQ's representative in China and who lived in the Volunteer house, was always on hand to ask for directions or the best way to book tours etc. 
  • Always have the chinese translation (symbols) of where you want to go!! A lot of people in China cannot read English even if the name of the street/attraction is in Chinese. Having the translation is good to show taxi drivers, people on the street etc. if you get lost! We downloaded translator apps to our phones.   
  • It is important to remember that the Chinese find western people very interesting. We were often stared at down the street and people would take pictures of us without us knowing! However, this is not meant in a nasty way and should be seen as a compliment. 
  • Take tissue and hand sanitiser out with you: In the city, there are rarely western toilets meaning that the alternative are squat toilets. Some of the squat toilets are well looked after and very clean however some require you to hold your nose! Toilet roll is not provided so make sure that you have a pack of tissues with you. As well as this, in China, toilet roll is put in a bin and not down the toilet as it will block the toilet. 

  • The roads in China are very dangerous; although there is a green man (which in England would mean that you would cross) there are always cars coming from a different direction meaning that you should always look both ways whilst crossing the road. 
  • Buy lots of water due to the pollution and the dry air. You cannot drink tap water in China but bottled water is very cheap if you buy Chinese brands. 
  • Be careful of pickpockets. Most people in China carry their backpacks on their front so that they can see if anyone goes into their bags. Secure your bags and make sure not to keep anything in your back pockets, just incase.  
  •  If you are a vegetarian or cannot eat certain things, use a translator to get the Chinese word and symbols as it is not always clear what is in each dish. 




Useful Contacts

David Zou, was our point of call in China, we were able to phone him if we got lost or had any problems at all. He was also very helpful before we arrived in China, so if you have any concerns or queries you could email him and he would get back to you ASAP.



Before you go

  • IVHQ supply you with a booklet with lots of information about China, your placement and things that you need to take with you. Make sure you look at the booklet and complete the interactive training as it was very helpful.
  • In order to take part in the project you must supply a recent DBS check and a doctors letter to say that you are fit and healthy to work with no transmittable diseases.  
  • VISA: You can arrange your visa by visiting http://www.visaforchina.org. You can then click on 'Step by step guidance' and it will take you through the steps you need to complete in order to get your visa. You can either apply for you visa by visiting a Visa centre or sending off your application by post. The visa costs around £66 however if you post your application, there is a postal fee which is £84 altogether. Make sure to visit the post office and ask them the best way to post your application, as you have to include your passport it is important that it is the most secure and safe method. Make sure that you send off for your visa around 3-4 weeks beforehand as we didn't and were very worried that we wouldn't get it in time!
  •  VACCINATIONS: Make sure that you do a lot of research on what vaccinations you need (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/china) or ask a Doctor. To go to China you need your routine vaccines which you should have had when you were a child: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine and polio vaccine. As well as this, it is recommended that you get Hepatitis A and Typhoid. My doctor also gave me the flu vaccine as there were reports of swine flu in China at this time. 
  • The weather in China is quite like English weather, very random! One day it would be extremely hot (I got sunburnt) and the next it would be freezing and pouring of rain. Make sure that you pack a variety of clothes as the weather forecast is not always accurate.   


Through IVHQ, the cost of the project is $240 USD for one week, $440 USD for two weeks and $600 USD for three weeks. As well as this, there is a programme fee of $279 USD on top of the cost of the project. The project fee included two meals a day and accommodation which was very reasonable. Look on https://www.volunteerhq.org/affordable-volunteer-fees#fees135 for the up to date costs of the project. 


You also need to pay for your own flights. For a return flight we paid £472 which was organised through STA Travel. 


Things in China are very cheap. You are able to go to a restaurant and get 4-5 dishes for around 80-100 yuan which is around £10. 




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