Live with a Chinese family and take daily Mandarin lessons to improve your proficiency.
VolunteerImmerse yourself in the community and make an impact by sharing your skills and passions.
24/7 SupportWe know you’ll love the independence but it’s also a huge step so be assured we will support you all the way.
China Gap Year Program Summary
Departs: January / May / August
Accommodation: Hotel / Home-stay / School Apartment
Project work: Mandarin, Working with children, Art, Drama, Music, Sport
Explore further: The Great Wall, Yunnan, Tibet, Inner Mongolia
Jiang Jia Zheng
About the program
Briefing & Orientation
On arrival in Shanghai, you will be met by our China representative. You’ll then continue your journey on the World’s fastest train to Hangzhou, said to be China’s most beautiful city.
After settling into a hotel next to West Lake you can enjoy a number of activities to help you get to know our staff, China and the other volunteers better, such as a welcome banquet, Karaoke night, visit to West Lake, and a trek through a stunning bamboo nature reserve.
Over three days we will cover:
• Some of the cultural and historical background to the modern Chinese society.
• Programme introduction
• Safety issues.
It is a chance for you to ease yourself in to China, as at first, the pace of life here can be a little disorientating! Our Western and Chinese representatives will be on hand to help with everything, from getting registered at the police station and hospital to showing you all the places you’ll need to know about in Hangzhou.
After your orientation you’ll move in with a local family and study Mandarin intensively for four weeks at the Pro-Mandarin language school alongside your fellow volunteers with no more than six pupils per class. There’s an average of 4 hours of Mandarin tuition per day, 5 days a week, allowing you to grasp a usable level of spoken Chinese, which will be essential for your time spent volunteering.
The teaching style at the Pro-Mandarin language school is modern and progressive in its approach, with students being placed in practical situations to learn oral Mandarin, and classes often being moved outside the classroom to locations such as local food markets or the banks of West Lake. At the end of the month, you’ll receive an internationally accredited certificate proving a competency in Mandarin (HSK certificate).
Outside of the classroom, you’ll be offered occasional free cultural experiences (e.g. Tai Chi and Kung Fu lessons – depending on the season and availability), and will have plenty of time to see the other volunteers and new Chinese friends in the evenings and weekends. There’ll even be time to earn some spending money doing private English tuition.
After the welcome period, a month spent learning Mandarin, and a briefing day at the start of term you will be sufficiently prepared to volunteer and head a little deeper into the real China. You’ll be based in a rural community at Jiang Jia Zheng in the Thousand Island lake district, three hours from Hangzhou.
Here, schools provide accommodation and education for children aged 7 to 15 who are extremely bright but poor. Schools are located approximately 20 minutes from stunning Qiandao Lake, and only a 10-minute taxi ride from a small city with modern hospitals, supermarkets and bars.
Our gap year projects and volunteering opportunities in China give you the chance to help with English lessons two-three hours/day, and you are encouraged to get involved in other areas too, for example playing sport, and organising after-school clubs for music, drama, etc. You tell us what you want to help with and we will make it happen!
At weekends you could arrange sports or English language events for the children. We also encourage you to travel to the surrounding areas. Popular weekend destinations include, the Hot Springs in the mountains just outside Ningbo, the water town of Shaoxing, said to be the Venice of the East, and of course Shanghai, one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and exciting cities.
During the induction period, you will stay in a very comfortable hotel next to West Lake in Hangzhou. During this time, all your meals will be included; our team will take you to a wide variety of restaurants to show you how much tasty and affordable food is on offer in Hangzhou.
Whilst learning Mandarin in Hangzhou, you will stay with a local family. You will have your own bedroom with shared bathroom, and the family will provide breakfast and dinner for you. However, it is likely you will eat the majority of your meals with friends in Hangzhou’s many restaurants. You will be able to purchase lunch from a restaurant local to the language school.
In Jiang Jia Zheng
During your volunteering phase, you will stay with the other volunteers in an AV apartment on the school campus. An important part of the AV experience is living in local accommodation, shopping at the local markets, being invited to fellow teachers’ houses as well as entertaining the teachers or fellow AVs in the evenings. Accommodation will be basic, usually with shared bedrooms, a communal area, a shared bathroom with cold running water and an Asian toilet. You will also have access to the Internet. Three meals a day will be provided in the school’s canteen – a great chance to get to know people and gain the best possible understanding of living there – you are not a bystander watching from afar.
24/7 AV representative support
Whilst not living with you full time, the AV representative is never far away and there whenever you need them. They can be contacted by phone 24/7 and will visit you during your project. You will also have an English speaking contact working at the school for more local support.
As your project comes to an end, the 24/7 support network that AV offer comes to an end too. But the fun you’ve had so far doesn’t have to end there.
If you don’t want to fly home straight away you might choose to explore the many fascinating parts of China the outside world is only just beginning to discover.
Travel independently, or alternatively, you can join AV’s associated company’s all-encompassing backpacker tour of China at a discounted rate. It could include:
- Hiking and camping on the Great Wall of China
- A bungee jump in Macau
- Panda spotting
“All in all a great trip which leaves you with a great knowledge of Chinese life across multiple demographics, a feeling that you have helped and inspired young children though your English teaching and a set of skills (including a descent chunk of mandarin knowledge) which you did not have before.”Robert
Everyone from US lawyers to Mark Zuckerberg have been taking Mandarin language classes, as China has emerged as a global superpower. But it’s a challenging language to get to grips with, hence the reason our AVs spend the first month of their gap year in China learning Mandarin intensively.read more
These kids show the lengths they go to after the school day, to seek out nature, excitement and a new experience. Let’s watch them head to the bat cave….read more
Our AVs teach basic English language through lessons, games, songs and art activities.read more