As is the case with a lot of Asian countries, work opportunities are difficult to come by in China due to the weakness of the economy. Most chances of work will be found in teaching English, or volunteering.
Schools, colleges, and universities are often looking for teachers to help with educating their students in English. Start looking for work in the main cities, Shanghai for example. Training to receive the TEFL qualification before leaving the UK can sometimes be advantageous, but in China it is not usually essential or even necessarily looked at, but teaching experience is always helpful to have. The British Council organise one year placements for students wanting to teach English in China, the requirements are that you speak English, hold a valid EU passport, and have completed secondary education. Language assistants usually earn between 2500 and 3500 yuan per month (approx. �183 to �256), for up to 18 hours of weekly work and are often provided with accommodation.
In China, volunteers with the Project Trust work in developing areas as teachers of English in schools. In 2003 volunteers were sent to Guangdong, Shandong, and Gansu, three somewhat different areas in terms of their stage of development. This type of work gives volunteers the opportunity to help in the community and to experience a completely different lifestyle to what they are used to, seeing communities develop and being part of this.
GAP Activity Projects Ltd
GAP arranges volunteer programmes specifically aimed at gap year students. In China, volunteers work in schools with children aged 11 to 18 and in teachers’ colleges with students aged 18 to 22, as well as some placements in a medical college. Work consists of teaching spoken English to the students in different areas south of Beijing. GAP provides accommodation and food, and pocket money is provided.
Baptist Missionary Society
This organisation sends youth teams to help with teaching and community work, as well as practical projects including building and development of particular sites. Volunteers are required to fund their own travel, insurance, accommodation, and food, which can amount to up to �3000. Applicants for the BMS should be aged between 18 and 25 and be Christian.
The agency runs one month or more long programmes where volunteers teach English to schoolchildren, take part in animal care, or even work in the local media and medical centres. In China volunteers go to Shanghai on whichever type of work they choose. Accommodation is provided either with host families, or living with other teachers in local hostels.
VentureCo’s 16-week programme combines aid projects with expeditions from Cambodia, through Vietnam, to Laos, and finally China. The first three weeks are spent in what is known as ‘cultural orientation’ consisting of visiting various places guided by a team who introduce you to the culture and traditions of the country, and learning the Khmer language. The following four weeks consist of community aid work in Koh Kong, involving teaching and food distribution to underprivileged children. A 9-week expedition then follows taking you through Vietnam: Saigon, HoiAn, China Beach, and Hue City; Laos: Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and the Mekong River, and finally China: Kunming, Lijiang, the Yangtze, Xi’an, Beijing, and finishing with a trek on the Great Wall of China. Programmes with VentureCo are self-funded and can cost you up to �5000, which includes travel, food, accommodation, transport, and fees for the activities themselves.