You maybe reading our blog posts to prepare for your own Duke Engage-Zhuhai trip or interview. Congratulations! Hsiao-mei would call you “one prepared to seize opportunity.” If you are reading, thank you! But some of my teammates and I have remarked, both in the spirit of self-criticism towards our posts as well as in gratefulness, that this program has been a very full two months — it’s possible that you won’t really understand the nature of this project until you actually go and join the coalition of those who have partaken. Maybe this post will just confuse and stress you out more? That’s definitely not the point! Nothing to worry about! If you feel stressed by too much planning, stop reading now you, Duke student, you!
In short: You and your team are going to teach English speaking classes and an extracurricular arts class. You are going to be adopted by a host family. And lots and lots of stuff will happen in between and all around those 3 things. You are going to have the most wonder-filled summer of your life.
I have some suggestions if you’d like them. You will for sure get a packing list before you go, but here are my personal addenda:
1) If you have tendencies towards peckishness, pack your own American snacks. Although I certainly never needed to search very hard for delicious food in Zhuhai, I found my Costco packs of Clif Bars to be very handy meals. There’s no shortage of food! But it may serve you to prepare for shortages of time.
2) Cash is king. (I picked that up somewhere in Financial Accounting. Here’s to you Professor Zhang.) Credit/debit cards work out, but in my last three trips to China, Zhuhai included, I’ve found cash pretty convenient. Bringing RMB would be great if you can order it at AAA or something, but when you first get to Guangzhou, Hsiao- mei will take people over to the bank to exchange your cash. We got a pretty favorable rate. Then I didn’t have to worry about it the rest of the trip.
3) If you teach an extracurricular that will require props, try to pack those. Zhuhai will start to feel like a home of sorts, but you will not know where to find everything like you do in your hometown. Prepare before, or ask for help upon arriving.
4) I could have packed less clothing. Opportunities to launder abound.
5) I was really nervous to teach English classes. I went to a few teaching stores for inspiration. I bought two books, but I didn’t really need them. Store up some games in your brain. Think about the American English middle-schoolers will find exciting. I packed a lot of sticky notes and they really helped me prepare flexible lesson plans.
6) Rain gear. Rain in Zhuhai is more of the deluge variety. I don’t remember my rain jacket being that helpful. It’s pretty hot and then it was hard to find a place to hang it up when I got inside. An umbrella will serve you well, but you can also buy one there. Rain boots! I packed them apprehensively, at the suggestion of a friend, but I was so happy I brought them! Thank you Lilly Xie <3 I don’t really dig wearing wet socks, but in my boots, I felt invincible!
7) American gifts. You’ll meet a lot of lovely people– students, host family members, new friends from excursions. Looking back it was a great idea to bring small gifts like Duke pencils/ stationery. In addition to the Duke gear that I brought, I would have loved to have given my host family something unique to my hometown. Save yourself the shipping cost friend!
Maybe there’s lots of other stuff, and I’m sure we’ll all have the chance to meet up before you go, but that’s what I have right now.
Lastly, service learning can be complicated.
A lot of people, myself included, say things like, ‘At the end, I just want to feel like I did something good — maybe even for just one person. That’s all I want.’ I think that’s a lie. We want so much more than that. Even generosity can be greedy in this way. I don’t know if that’s bad. But I thought about this video a lot while I was in Zhuhai:
I don’t know if that will help you like it’s helped me, but I have full confidence that Hsiao-mei will leverage the fullness of who you are (self-proclaimed strengths, self-diagnosed weaknesses, your past experience, and experiences you lack) to serve and just be with No. 9 Middle School and the connected Zhuhai community. Try not to pack your insecurities. Try, but it’s all ok. We all have them, but they will weigh you down. You’ll see what I mean when you get there. But don’t worry about it too much! Just be yourself, generously.
Good luck and best wishes! May the road rise to meet you.