How to Plan Your Gap Year Program in China
If you’ve already decided to take a gap year, you know that it’s not “free time” to be wasted. To get the most of a gap year, many are coming to China to learn the language, travel to historical sites, enjoy the beauty of nature, and get real world experience through an internship or volunteer opportunity. There are several advantages to taking a Internationa Gap Year Program Before, during or after College
However, unless you know someone living in China, and perhaps even if you did, it’s imperative to find a gap year program who can manage the fine details and rescue you if necessary. If not for your peace of mind, then for your family and loved ones’.
China has become an important destination for Gap Year participants due to many reasons but the best is that no other destination offers a wide range of meaningful combinations. Before taking a Gap Year in China, there very important factors to consider in order to make the best our of your program.
Gap Year in China? Consider your Safety
Most people consider safety in terms of crime or accidents. The first requires that the program has a contact person who is readily available, responsible, and easy to contact. Such a person should be there when you arrive at the airport, walk you through the basics of life, and introduce you to other people who can be of help. A good gap year program will introduce your contact before you arrive so that you can get to know the person and build rapport.
The second part that comes to mind with safety is insurance. Most gap year programs will include a mandatory insurance policy that will cover accidents and illnesses. Make sure you understand exactly what coverage they offer, and what your costs may be (deductible, out of pocket, co-pay, etc.)
Gap Year Accommodation in China
Trust me, you don’t want to have to find your own accommodation in China.
Make sure your gap year program in China takes care of accommodation for you, whether in the form of a dorm room, a shared apartment with other foreigners also taking classes or interning in China, or homestay with a Chinese family. The time costs and troubles that come with finding your own apartment are not worth it, and you will be more at ease if you can arrive and trust that you are not homeless.
Which City will you be based in China (Locations)
When considering where to take your gap year in China, it’s important to think of what you would like to do. Metropolitan cities are large and will have the western comforts that you’re used to, while serving as a good bouncing board for wherever you’d like to travel.
Medium-sized cities, namely second and third tier cities, tend to be less-westernized, closer to scenic nature sites, but still offer the modern facilities that you’re accustomed to.
Rural areas, such as ethnic villages, make for great experiences, but living in such small towns and villages long-term require a certain temperament. Villages do tend to have the most star-eyed foreigner-friendly residents who will gladly practice the language with you.
When you’re thinking of locations, you should also consider transportation. How do you want to move around China? Are you a backpacker who can fit all your belongings in a hiking bag? Or are you a city dweller who needs two suitcases just to survive? How much you travel with should help you determine what type of transportation you prefer, where you want to live, and whether you want to travel by moving from place to place or travel from a home location.
The most common types of transport for short-distances are bicycles, e-bikes, and public transportation such as metros and busses. Keep in mind that it’s not easy to rent a car or scooter in China. Not every city has metros, and even if they do, it might not reach the corner you’re in.
Mid-level to small cities have shady taxi services and often rely on bus transportation, whereas major cities will have more players in the taxi field (e.g. Uber) and fast-speed subways in addition to rickshaws and other illegal transportation.
Language and Culture
When it comes to Chinese language and culture immersion, not all cities are made the same. Think about how much culture you want to experience, to what extent, and which specific aspects of culture you’re most interested in before deciding on your gap year destination.
If your goal is to learn Chinese language, keep in mind that depending on the region, you might end up with a different version of “Chinese” altogether. If you want to study Mandarin Chinese, choose the city with the most accent-free Mandarin you can find. If you want to experience different dialects or have a preference for another dialect, then decide accordingly.
For culture, choose a city that has opted to preserve its historical roots and promote their local culture. Once you’ve traveled enough, you will find that the many of the second and third tier cities are either industrial or commercial, having very little culture to show for.
Are you a loner or a people person? Some feel comfortable trekking through a foreign country with no common language and survive through miming and translating with dictionary apps. Others want a warm welcome from a local guide, host family, or community organization. Then, there are some who want to be with people like themselves, needing the comradery only another foreigner experiencing a foreign culture can provide.
Recognize yourself in one of these groups, or perhaps as the lone ranger who needs no one, and think about where you want to stay, with who, and for how long. Your China gap year can be spent with similar aged students in a dorm environment, with a Chinese host family, with roommates, or even in hostels while getting to know new people every day—it all depends on you!
As previously mentioned, how much you want to travel will determine your China gap year. Some will want to volunteer in various areas, others change jobs every month or so in order to city hop, and some just want to stay put and get the most out of where they’ve chosen. You can always travel from where you’ve settled, join tours, or make plans with the new friends you’ll make. You can tailor your China gap year into whatever you want!
Gap year in China is a world of opportunity opened to participants and there are lots of possible combinations you can make without sacrificing the real intent of the program. Some of these combinations are
a. Gap Year Internship combined with Travel and Chinese Language Immerssion
b. Intensive Chinese language with Community Service and Travel
c. Meaningful Volunteering combined with Internship Travel and Immerssion
The decision is essentialy dependent on the motive of Gap Year participants.
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