We get the other side of the story

Young students in a remote school in Hunan are attending an English class done by Amity's overseas volunteers

In the media, there are mostly negative aspects of China portrayed and we are experiencing the daily life here in China and this is completely different from how life in China looks like from Germany. When we learn about this culture we can also bring a little bit of this culture to other people back in Germany. So more people may understand a little bit how these cultures work.” Jonathan, Jacob and Moritz are participants of Amity's YAP program and tell us their first-hand impressions of their volunteering work with Amity in the following interview.

What are your names and what are you doing here in China?

Jonathan: My name is Jonathan and i am teaching in Yumen oral English classes for 7th and 8th grade for already five month in China.

Jacob: My name Jacob and i am also in Yumen at a middle school like Jonathan. We are part of the Amity YAP program. It stands for Young Adults Program and at beginning of summer we had the YAP STP (Summer Teaching Program) for us volunteers. Now we have the mid-term seminary. First we had the winter-conference with many other volunteers of Amity and now we have the 'Weltwärts' summer seminary with our German organizations.

Moritz: I am Moritz. I also teach in Yumen at another middle school. I only teach the 7th graders.

Jacob, Jonathan and Moritz (left to right) are preparing for a day of teaching disadvantaged students in Hunan

Why did you choose to take a gap year and do a volunteer service between high school and university and do you think it was a good decision?

Jacob: For me it was clear that after school i didn't want to study immediately. I wanted a one-year break of learning. That is why i decided to join a volunteering service. That i came to China was a lucky hit, i think. Now since i am here i think it is the best decision i could make.

Jonathan: For me, i also wanted to have a break between high-school and university to come a little bit down after all the studying. I think it was the right decision.

Moritz: For me it is similar. I wanted to have a break and also i did know what to do after school. I had no idea whatsoever, so i decided to go abroad. I was only certain, i wanted to go to a far-away country and not Europe.

Does it help you with your decision what to do afterwards?

Moritz:Yes, it does really. Now i know that teaching is an option. It was an option in the beginning, but now i know it is fun for me and i could imagine doing it professional in Germany and now i also have time to think and try out things that interests me and decide what to do afterwards.

Is teaching challenging?

Jacob:Yes, sometimes it is challenging. I think the biggest challenge we face is the English level of students because we don't speak so much Chinese and the students don't speak so much English, so sometimes it is hard to communicate with them but i don't remember any case where in the end they did not understand what i want to do. So using body language and a bit Chinese, that works quite well.

Besides teaching English, what other impact do you have on the students?

Jonathan: I think we can give an impression of how we see Germany and how our 'home' Germany is. Often with pictures we can show the students what we eat, where we live and how our school was. We get an impression of China here and we can give the students a little bit impressions of our 'home'.

What else did you get personally from this volunteering work in China so far?

Jacob: On the one hand side, of course, the language skills. We all can learn Chinese and i think we enjoy learning Chinese. It is maybe challenging for us, but i like it, that after living 18 years with our parents, now we have our own flats, we can have our own daily routines and so we start our own life apart from our 'home' in Germany.

How was your preparation with Amity and for this program and how do you think about this mid-term conference?

Moritz: It was and is a great preparation. In the beginning i had practically no idea, what i was going to do at my school, how i was going to teach. I did not know anything about it. But in the first weeks during the STP, we were prepared very well and were taught how to teach and now we just finished our mid-term winter conference after half of our service.

Jacob: I think it is also an important point, that in Amity, there are so many warm-hearted people and we can talk to them about everything and that is quite helpful to have so many people we can trust here.

Moritz and Jacob encouraging the young students to speak up

Jonathan: I think Amity is great organization because in western countries we see in China only the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. But there are many many people who are not that rich as the people in the big cities and the urban areas. And with Amity we have seen some development projects in small villages and i think that is really helpful for the people here. And also the volunteering work Amity does is a great opportunity us, for people from western countries to come here and to learn. And i think it is also great for the cultural exchange, because when we learn about this culture we can also bring a little bit of this culture back to other people back in Germany. So more people maybe understand a little bit how these cultures work.

Has your image of China changed since you are here?

Jacob: In Germany in the media, there are mostly negative aspects of China portrayed and we are experiencing the daily life here in China and this is completely different from how life in China looks like from Germany. And i like that we get the other side of the 'story', that we can get to know China from a different side and from a very nice side.

You became kind of TV-Stars in a local Yumen TV-program. Can you tell how has this happened?

Moritz: Well, it was a little surprise in the beginning. I got a surprising call to drive over to the other school to shoot a movie. (to Jacob and Jonathan) I think you also had no idea what was going to happen? And then for one and a half days we drove around Yumen and shot scenes and some interviews for TV. But it didn't really affect us afterwards.

Are you looking forward to the next half-year volunteering in China?

(All) Of course, yes!

You can watch the TV features with Moritz, Jacob and Jonathan here and here.

The young pupils are exposed to the English language spoken by overseas volunteers for the first time in their lives