Friday, September 21, 2018

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Ignore the Importance of Rest

“If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days” (Kris Carr).

This is the time of year for college students where the days start to mess together and stress runs rampaged. My mind has been hazy for weeks with my workload, school, extra-curricular activities, and responsibilities for clubs. I go to work, school, and sleep. That’s it. If I was ten years younger, I would be one step away from going crazy with everything that is on my plate.

There’s a reason for my madness. This article isn’t be written at random. In the last three weeks, I lost two people I know to suicide and one of my close friends have stated that they didn’t want to suffer anymore and that they were contemplating bowing out of life.

This isn’t just stressful for the person involved. I’ve been struggling with understanding how I can help my friends and acquaintances when situations like this arise. I’m not a counselor. My only job is to help these people find resources to help them. I can suggest and advise the individual to seek help. I can be moral support, but I am not trained in crisis situations.

There is an organization called NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) that works closely with the college I go to. I have hope that this organization can educate and support my community. I get emotional every time I hear about another suicide. It’s even scarier when many of these people are college students or college-aged individuals.

There seems to be no end to situations that can cause stress.
  • School
  • Work
  • Family Life  
  • Bills
  • Your Health
  • The Car…to name a few. 

We hear about the suicides that have been happening around the world. Celebrities like Robin Williams, Chester Bennington (Linkin Park), Tim Bergling (Avicii), and Jonghyun, who was a member of the popular K-Pop group Shinee, have died before their time. There has to be a way to reach these people before they get to the point of no return.

I believe there are many ways we can address suicide, depression, anxiety, and stress. We can educate and offer services to communities. We can team up with NAMI and Suicide Prevention organizations. Yet, there is one thing that everyone can do, that may help alleviate some of the stress, and that is to rest.

Here are 5 reasons you should rest.

1. Energy

There is no debate that stress, anxiety, and depression wear a person out. Let’s look at a rechargeable battery. When the battery is fully charged, the electronic or toy works perfectly. Even when the electronic gets overused or when the toy hits bumps, the battery keeps the electronic and toy going. But when the battery needs to be charged because it has been used for so long, the electronic and toy will rest.

This is the same process we should be applying to our life. We can work hard and push ourselves to get things done, but there is a point where we need to step back and take a break. Without a break, our battery will run out and then we crash. Resting is when we recharge our battery. Without rest, we won’t have enough energy to get through the day and this can lead to stress, anxiety, and sadness.

2. Physical Health

Like with energy, rest helps us physically. Without adequate rest, our body shuts down. Irritation, confusion, and body aches are more common when we neglect our body’s needs. Without rest, our body works harder to do the basics. Stress, anxiety, and depression are linked to our physical health.

Look at a marathon runner. The person trains all year for the race. The person may change their diet to meet the requirements for the run (like eating more calories and protein to promote muscle growth). After running, the person needs to hydrate, eat, and rest to replenish their body. We need to do this to assist our body so we can stay physically healthy.

3. Recovery

Rest helps us recover from stressful situations. After a long week of work, resting helps our body heal. We feel better after we rest and our appetite may increase.

4. Mental Health

I’m repeating “stress, anxiety, and depression” over and over in this article for a reason. The people who have died before their time have all reported feeling stress, anxiety, and sometimes are depressed. If these factors are the most common, then there has to be a way to address these issues.

For weeks, I’ve dealt with stress and anxiety attacks. I’ve pushed myself too far and the only thing that happens when new stressors are added to my life is immense sadness. The feeling of hopelessness is real. I’m acknowledging that I need to rest and so I am working on creating a schedule that can help me accomplish sleeping at least 6-7 hours each night. This rest time should help my mental health and eventually my physical health.

5. Prevents Accidents

By this point, we all know that rest is a requirement, not a suggestion. Without rest, our body can shut down and accidents can happen. I have a history of blacking out while driving. Whenever I feel like I am not able to concentrate or that I’m too exhausted to drive, I carpool. Considering I commute two hours every day back and forth between school and home, the risk of me getting into an accident without enough rest are massive.

This post is quite dark and sad. The last three weeks have left me feeling vulnerable. I never could’ve imagined that the small community I live in would have reports of kids (some still in high school) who have ended their life. 

Life in Beijing, China

While I was in Beijing, China, my host mom, and dad would always encourage me to rest.

“Take a rest, Heather.” Or “Why don’t you rest for a bit.” I heard this every day.

I didn’t understand it right away, but after about two weeks, I really appreciated the time I was given to rest. Back home in the U.S., I’m not given the opportunity to rest halfway through the afternoon or after supper.

My host parents worked from 7-8 in the morning to 6-9 at night every day except Sunday. Without rest, they wouldn’t make it through the day. Their concentration would be flawed and they would be risking their life and others if they decided to drive. Public transportation is readily available in China, so the options for ways to get home are endless.

Even though Chinese people work longer than what I’ve seen in the U.S., they handle stress, anxiety, and depression differently. Mental health is rarely spoken about publicly or in the home. Because of this, my host parents have created their own system to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. Their solution is rest.

Take Away

Rest is a universal way to help with stress, anxiety, and depression. If you ever find yourself in a position where you feel hopeless, stressed, anxious, or depressed, seek help! You are amazing and you deserve to be happy. If you feel cornered, there are people who are here to help you. There is always hope. 

“Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life” (Andrew J. Bernstein).

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7.

NAMI Fox Valley: National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-920-954-1550

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Becoming Part of a Chinese Family Story You’ll Never Forget

There nothing special about me.

I grew up happy or as happy as someone in my position could. I struggled through my teenage years as many do and didn’t enjoy going to school until I entered high school. I was following a path my parents and the school system had set for me. I took tests and quizzes; I woke up each morning to get on the bus and did homework when I returned home.

My life was mundane. Graduating high school was something new and exciting but once it was over, the feelings of excitement disappeared. The real world was going to start.

Mindlessly passing my time with working odd jobs in fields I had no interest in was my life. I thought I was going to be a secretary at my dad’s tax office for the rest of my life. Every year at tax season I would smile through three to four months of angry clients and auditors bursting through the doors. Once April 15th came around, many people celebrated, but April 15th only meant that the office had until September 15th for corporates and October 15th for personal returns to be finished. And people usually waited until the last minute to get their extensions taken care of.

Even though working in the accounting field was stressful, I had a family who I trusted and were made up of my co-workers, manager, tax clients, and bookkeeping clients. I had a group of people who cared about my well-being and wanted to see me succeed. These people, my family, was the ones who convinced me to start college.

And after spending a few years in college and now back in college, I’ve found myself with more opportunities than I can count on both of my hands. Because of my current degree in educational consulting and my tutoring business that raises awareness to the number of students in special education who drop out of high school, I was able to fulfill something on my bucket list—traveling abroad.

I created my degree at Fox Valley Technical College. I had to get my degree approved by the board at the Tech and speak to people who work in the field I wish to be in—education. Picking my classes and determining how long I was going to be in college was all fun and games; the hard part was figuring out what classes I was going to take for my two electives.

As it turns out, my two electives are studying abroad opportunities and I’ve finished one elective course this summer from May 21 to June 23, 2018, in Beijing, China. I found a non-profit, CHI, that gave me the opportunity to travel to China, teach English, and experience a new culture without breaking the bank. I lived in Beijing for 33 days.

Meeting my Host Family

Imagine spending over thirteen hours in the air and landing in a foreign country in the dead of night, living off two hours of sleep in 24 hours, and finding out that no one speaks English. This was my reality when I arrived in Beijing.

Zombie-like, I stumbled off the plane and mindlessly followed the other passengers through airport security, customs, and a police officer check where I needed to get finger-printed and fill out paperwork. By the time I reached my hotel for the night, I didn’t remember what I had filled out on the entrance papers with the security guard.

Sleeping for the first time in over 24 hours came quickly and ended as quick. Waking up at 4 am (Beijing Time), I found myself unable to sleep. I knew my chances of sleeping was next to none, so I slowly dragged myself out of bed and started my day. I needed to look awake and alert as that day was the day I met my host family who was going to be housing and feeding me for the next 33 days.

Nervous and sleep deprived, I entered a taxi for the first time in my life. The drive wasn’t as bad as I expected, mainly because how slow everyone was going. Traffic in Beijing is insane!

With some struggle, I finally arrived at my destination and started the journey of getting used to my new surroundings. Entering the elevator to the ninth and top floor, I silently stared at the numbers as they slowly changed, praying for a miracle that I made a good first impression with my new family.

Not two seconds after the elevator opened on the ninth floor was I suddenly hugged and told “I love you” by my host sister, Dora. I almost started crying. I knew, from that moment, I had nothing to worry about. Apparently, after I met my host mom, Vera or Verade, Dora had accepted me as her new “sister” months ago and had been preparing for my arrival since March.

The Family Dynamic

My host family has a very strong bond with each other and they share this bond with everyone who lives with them and with friends. I was immediately part of the family. This meant I was included in everything they did. I helped cook meals, clean the house, go to parties, bring Dora to school, babysit, go grocery shopping, and run errands for my new family.

Being shown around the community and meeting all my host parent’s friends helped me adjust to my new environment and it was nice to speak to people who knew English. My host mom is fluent in English while my host dad can speak enough to get by. I loved my conversation with my host dad the most.

Surprisingly, my host parents aren’t the norm in China. They call themselves “non-traditional” for a reason.
  • My host parents aren’t married. They don’t plan on getting married and they have child together.

  • They have their own opinions and live their life as they see fit. They don’t believe in following what everyone else is doing.

  • Their Buddhists. China is notorious for being a place where religion isn’t tolerated. Christian churches have been destroyed and burned in the past and today. Even though Buddhism is the second largest religion in Beijing and China, only 18% of the population in China are Buddhists, nearly 80% have no religion.

When I Became A Forever Member of the Family

It’s halfway through my stay and I’m asked by my host sister, Dora, to accompany her on Children’s Day instead of her mom. I spent an entire day with Dora, her classmates, and numerous Chinese parents and teachers. I was accepted at home and now I was being accepted in the community and in Dora’s International Elementary School.

Children’s Day was time for Dora and me to become even closer. By the end of the day, Dora was calling me and introducing me as her “second mom”. Vera, my host mom, was impressed and told me I would always be part of the family no matter where I was living.

This was the reason why I left China in tears and continue to occasionally cry after speaking with my host family on WeChat as I finish my last year of college.

My Story

My story isn’t that unique. Though the media sometimes likes to portray Chinese people and China as hateful, this is far from the truth. I was never met with hostility when I was living in China. I wasn’t laughed at when I struggled to pronounce Chinese words (I was encouraged to keep practicing and trying). I was accepted into a family that knew nothing about me and that family stays in contact with me, asking for when I plan on returning so they can get my old room ready.

There are many tales I can tell about my adventure in Beijing. This blog is where I am sharing my story. I encourage you to follow this blog and other blogs on traveling in Asia and about traveling advice, so you can too have an adventure like me. I changed after my trip. I feel stronger and more aware of the things happening around me and the world. I don’t mindlessly believe everything I hear on the TV or online because I know it isn’t all true. I was there in places the media speaks about. I know what it was like.    

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

5 Horrible Mistakes You Can Make When Driving In China

Dora :)
It’s another hot, muggy night in Beijing, China, and I’m roasting in the backseat fanning myself while Dora crawls all over me impatiently waiting for her dad to get us home. We’ve just spent four hours in Beijing’s largest mall in Haidian District, a few miles north of our home. It shouldn’t have taken us too long to get home, but as I had learned, commuting in China is a nightmare.

One-hundred-degree weather for another day left the night still feeling sticky with humidity and made the air thick. Coughing every once in a while didn’t help as it took too much energy. All my remaining strength was tapped long before I arrived at the mall. Dora, on the other hand, was as energetic as a cat high on catnip. I don’t know where she gets all her energy.

As my host mom suggested we take a short break and shop at a 7 Eleven, I gladly bought enough chocolate to last me through the apocalypse. I even bought some Coca-Cola in these fancy cans costing about three times as much as they are in the United States. Yes, I spent money on the important stuff. Chocolate was nearly nonexistent in Beijing and I needed my chocolate! Seven-dollar chocolate bar—here’s my money!

Our shopping trip ended with six bags full of “trash” food (as my host mom likes to call the food we call junk food). Once we got home, we were going to indulge in the “trash” food and watch American TV shows until the wee hours of the morning. It was a Friday, after all, and we had a long weekend planned.

Walking back with six bags full to the top with “trash” food entailed several people giving us the “look” of disapproval, but I could’ve cared less. Throwing the bags into the trunk and squishing myself into the back seat with Dora was the plan, but my host dad had other plans for me.

Yes. I was given the keys. The keys to the car! I was going to drive in Beijing. Dora had suggested it earlier that week and my host dad said he would think about it. As the keys laid heavy in my hands, I slowly got into the driver’s seat and started the car. For about five minutes, everything was going perfectly. But like most things, I was going to have to deal with obstacles in my way. Except for the obstacle in my way was the car.

While stuck in a traffic jam for the umpteenth time that day, my host family’s car decided to overheat. The car overheated so much that smoke started coming from underneath the hood and the car was yelling at me to pull over because it was too hot. I wanted to say the car could get in line. Everyone was boiling with the heat from outside.

After unsuccessfully trying to cool down the car, my host dad called us a taxi. We tried many different things with the car, but something was seriously wrong. As I messaged my dad over in the United States, I quickly sent him a text asking what to do if a car overheated. Thousands of miles away, my dad gave me some advice while asking me, “What I am supposed to do?”

Another expensive taxi drove up to us and brought my host mom, host sister, and I home while my host dad stayed behind to figure out what was happening to the car. Regardless, the car had to be towed, but was fixed later the next day and ready for some more traffic jams.
Beijing, China

In the five minutes that I was driving in Beijing, I learned 5 important rules and mistakes I wish I would’ve known about before I got behind the wheel. I learned some of these rules over the month I was there as I was in a car almost every day. Here’s what you should know if you plan on driving in Beijing.

1: Don’t Speed

Cruising down the Fourth Ring Road in central Beijing was beautiful, but the slowest ride I’ve ever taken in my life. There are cameras everywhere in China. On certain roads, there are cameras that will take a picture of your license plate if you speed and in about a week you will get a friendly reminder not to speed and that you own a hefty fine.

There aren’t many opportunities to speed while in downtown Beijing. The traffic is horrible. No matter the time of day, there will be traffic jams. I rarely saw my host dad go over 30 mph and I only got up to 25 mph. Yet, the one time we got outside of the city, my host dad went far over the recommended speed limit.

2: Follow the Road Signs

It’s normal for people to follow the road signs in the United States. When there is a sign saying you can not turn, most people will not turn, but this is a different story in China. Road signs are optional. Many times, just outside my balcony window, I would see people illegally turning in intersections and down streets not made for two-way traffic.

You can follow the signs if you wish. But I found myself following along with everyone else on the road, so I didn’t cause an accident. Driving in Beijing or anywhere in China is far different from the United States.

3: Stay in Your Lane

Many of the ring roads, that surround Beijing (there are a total of seven), have four or more lanes on each side. You may find yourself in a difficult position like I was if a four-lane road suddenly becomes a five-lane road. This isn’t unusual as some people will find ways to squeeze five cars into four lanes. If this happens to you, follow along with everyone else. You most likely won’t be hit by another car as this is another rule I learned.

4: Pedestrians Go Last?

Suddenly, the four-lane road becomes five and you're squished between two minivans and a truck in the front and the back of you. The stop and go lights turn green signaling that you may go, but you see some people on the side of the road starting to cross in the lane you are in. You stop, but then a choir of car horns starts behind you. You’ve just made a mistake.

Many cars will not stop for pedestrians. Pedestrians dance around the roads narrowly missing getting hit on every step. This doesn’t mean you have to almost hit someone because other people are, but you may want to keep moving along as quickly as possible or your ears will be ringing for the next week.

5: You may not be Legal

You’re walking down the street and you see one of the many bike share businesses on a street corner. It’s tempting because you could rent a bike or scooter and get to the subway in five minutes or walk and add at least thirty minutes of unnecessary travel time. You opt for the scooter and pay the fee (a mere 5 RMB, less than $1 USD) and go on your merry way.

There’s one problem though. You may be doing something illegal. Foreigners without a Chinese driver’s license cannot drive in China. This includes scooter and motorcycles. It doesn’t matter if a bike share employee or owner says it fine. If you're caught, you're going to be in trouble.

At the same time, so many foreigners drive scooters while in China, that much of the law enforcement ignores it and nothing bad happens. But this is a risk you’ll take if you decide to drive.

Take Away

I wasn’t legally allowed to drive in China, but what I was doing wasn’t unusual. I know how to drive. I’ve had my driver’s license for close to eight years. But driving in Beijing was like nothing I’ve ever experienced back home. I used to complain about traffic jams in the Fox Cities and having to wait ten minutes on the highway or when I was only going 60 mph instead of 70 mph on the interstate. I was lucky if I was going 20 mph most times when I was in Beijing. Learn from my mistakes and enjoy your time in the beautiful country of China. Be smart, if you don't want to risk it, take a taxi or other public transportation around the city. 

What was the most surprising out of the five rules and mistakes for you from the list above? Leave your answers below and make sure to share this post with friends and family. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

What the Heck Is An International Friend?

What is an international friend? I could give you the universal definition or a definition other people use, but then the meaning won’t be the same.

International friends are exactly like what the word is saying—a “friend” who is from another country. Yet, I am going to go a step further and explain what an international friend truly is.

I made so many friends while I was in China. Now I have a phone book full of email addresses, WeChat accounts, phone numbers, and mailing addresses. I stay in contact with nearly all my friends through the app called WeChat.

Since many social media websites like Facebook and Google Hangouts are blocked in China, I only had one way to communicate with my friends and family back home and with my host parents. WeChat is an app that has everything. I can call, text, video chat, voice chat, pay my bills, book a taxi, check the bus times, purchase food, and so much more.

My first friend I made in China was someone who noticed that I lived near them on WeChat. WeChat determines how close a person is to another when under the Discovery tab. I learned that I wasn’t alone in the gated community and I quickly made more friends who were friends of friends.

Friendship Starts With Knowing The Right Person

Not all friendships start this way, but when I was in China this was one of the only ways I increased the number of people I knew and potential friends I made.

It helped that I was living with a host family that is well known and is liked in and around the community. My host dad is an architect and my host mom is an editor for Elle magazine in Beijing. These are high paying jobs and well-respected jobs in China. Since I was living with my host family, I made friends of my host parents without evening trying. Yet I feel I was liked a lot more than usual because I was the odd-one-out—the only Caucasian.

Meeting Like-Minded People

I was lucky enough to meet several other private tutors living in Beijing. I felt part of a growing community of professionals who left their homes for another to try to help Chinese students with English.

Dora’s Spanish teacher, Ana, is an exception. Ana came to the house every Tuesday and taught Dora Spanish for about two hours and then stayed for supper with the family. In the short time, I was there, I was able to learn many things about Ana that resembled much of what I am like and why I was in Beijing.

Because of this, Ana and I became friends quickly. She was the one who convinced me to get out and explore Beijing. I didn’t leave my country to travel to China and sit inside an apartment for a month. Ana helped me become more comfortable in my surroundings and explained how she got around without knowing Chinese.

Making Friends With Children

Children's Day
This was the part of my trip I loved the most. I was able to volunteer at my host sister’s International Elementary School. Dora also picked me to be the one she brought to school for Children’s Day (she picked me instead of her mom).

Quickly, I became the favorite adult in the school and every child would greet me in the morning and say goodbye at the end of the day. Though their English-speaking skills were a bit sketchy at times, I was able to understand what was being said without much trouble and the kids took it in stride and laughed anytime I butchered my pronunciation of Chinese words. We worked together to learn.

My Host Family

When I was preparing for my trip to go to Beijing, China, I didn’t have a clue on what to expect from a host family as I didn’t even know who my host family was until about two months before I arrived.
Host mom and host dad with friends

The short video conference through WeChat did little to help me figure out what to expect. I had nothing to worry about though as my host parents were the nicest people I’ve ever met. It helped that my host parents had been hosting for years and didn’t have many expectations for the people they hosted. They wanted, whoever came through the door, to be as authentic as possible and not change who they were when they arrived.

My host parents loved learning about my life here in the United States and what my family was like. They wanted to know stereotypes I had or had heard of and what I was interested in. The first thing I was asked was what I liked to eat and after I said “chicken”, chicken became the staple of most meals or was found on the side.

Host Sibling(s)

Dora :)
I spent most of my time with my host sister, Dora. Before I had met Dora, I had little to no experience working with five-year-old children nor did I have any interest in working with children that young. My experience was with late elementary and middle school and older students. My entire purpose was to work only in academics, but my trip changed me.

Much of my “Tutoring” was playing games with Dora and taking long walks around the neighborhood. I learned more about Dora on these walks than I did when she was working on school work. I was an English tutor and was only allowed to tutor conversational English. Yet I found myself assisting Dora with mathematics in the last week of my trip. I felt like I was back home. Apparently, no matter where I go, children always need some form of assistance in mathematics.

Outside of academics, Dora and I became the best of friends. Before I even walked through the door on my first day in Beijing, Dora called me her “sister” and sometimes told others I was her “best friend” or “second mother”. Even though we are thousands of miles apart, Dora and I continue to be the best of friends and sharing our stories through WeChat.

Language Exchange Buddies

On my trip, I asked for a language guide because my biggest struggle was understanding how to communicate with other Chinese people without knowing the language. Overnight, I was paired with a college student whose English name is Ethan. Ethan became my language buddy and helped me several times throughout my stay at restaurants, tourist attractions, and on the street.
It was a learning experience for both of us as Ethan’s English skills weren’t perfect and my pronunciation of Chinese was horrible. We worked together to make the most out of each moment and laughed off any confusion that arose.

Ethan and I stay in contact as he’s now a college student in the United States. He just arrived about a week ago and is now going to college in Washington D.C. His degree is in accounting. This made our conversations easy when we first met as my father is an accountant and own an accounting office in the Fox Valley.

Kaylee, another World Explorer who was over in Beijing when I was, and I are planning on traveling to Washington D.C. to meet with Ethan around the holidays, probably around Christmas time. I can never thank Ethan enough for taking his time to help me when I was in his country. I feel like I should do the same.

Pen Pals

After returning home, I felt a bit lost. I was back in the country surrounded by corn fields instead of high-rises and mountains of concrete. I quickly found a website that was free to connect with people from around the world. I became acquaintances with a Chinese college student who was willing to help me with my pronunciation if I would help him with his English.

My pen pal’s English name is Steven and he’s been a great help. I do have to warn people though about becoming pen pals with Chinese men. Some, not all, are looking for more than a language buddy or pen pal; some are looking for romance. If this isn’t for you, you may want to stay away or to prepare yourself for these situations. Personally, I find them cute and my chances of meeting some of these people are nearly non-existent.

Steven has become a bit more than a pen pal and more of a friend in the last month. It’s nice to know that I have someone who knows the Chinese language and is willing to practice with me, even as horrible as I am at pronunciation.

Take Away

There are many ways to make new friendships and make international friends. I have made life-long friendships with people my host family are friends with, my host family and (especially) my host sister, pen pals, language buddies, and with other academic tutors living in China. There is no requirement that states that someone needs to leave their country to make international friends. How will you make international friends? 

Monday, September 3, 2018

No Time? No Money? No Problem! How You Can Travel To China With a Zero-Dollar Budget or Any Budget

You’ve finally made your decision that you will be traveling to China! Congratulations! Now, you need to be aware of the four different options you have. These options come with four separate and sometimes drastically different price tags. Everything depends on how much you wish to spend and if you’re willing to do something for a smaller price tag, what you wish to get out of your trip to China, and how long you wish to stay.

This article is based off a Buzzfeed series called “Worth It” where two guys go to three separate food places or hotels to see what the difference is between the cheapest and most expensive option. This is how this article is going to work.

Instead of three options, I’ve come up with four based on price, location, time spent in China, and what you wish to do when in China. The four options include a (possible) “free” trip, going through a non-profit, group tours (small and large), and going solo.

Option 1: The (Possible) “Free” Trip

This is the option I was the most interested in when I decided that I wanted to travel to China. Many of my friends and family have asked me if I had thought about this option, and I said, “Yes, I have thought about this.” Yet, I didn’t pursue this option for my first trip because I wanted to get used to the country first before committing myself to six or more months.

The possibility for a “free” trip is intriguing and the options are pretty much endless if you are willing to commit to a longer stay and working while traveling. This option is for people who are willing to teach English as a second language in China.

U.S. Embassy Information

If you decide on this option there are a fair share of teaching opportunities including teaching in kindergartens, boarding schools, summer and winter camps, private language institutions, university departments, and advanced degree programs. Also, you can teach business English, career teaching, and become a private teacher and tutor. These options require certain levels of education and experience. To learn more, visit the U.S. Embassy website on job opportunities in China.

Teaching Options

The kindergarten jobs are the most common type of English teaching job in China. Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are the most common locations for jobs and are great places to start for first-time travelers and teachers. These jobs may not include housing.

The boarding school jobs are also very common in China. This job usually includes an apartment and reimbursement of airfare costs. Some of the perks for this kind of job is that you may get a 1-month vacation for the spring festival, 2-months for the summer vacation, and 2-weeks of paid vacation.

The summer and winter camp jobs are for you if you wish to stay in China for a shorter period. Summer and winter camp jobs are usually 1-week to about a month.

The other teaching options have certain requirements of applicants and some of the jobs may require a certain education background (Bachelor's Degree or higher).

Credit Card Awards

There is an option where you can travel to China for free if you have certain credit cards and have spent a certain amount of money and have the required number of points to receive free rewards like airfare, hotel, food, and transportation. The only problem with this option is that you need to spend before you get “free” rewards.  


I have two resources for you if you decide on this option for a possible “free” trip.

The American TESOL Institute offers a 3-week TESOL Certificate Program in Shenzhen (near Hong Kong) that guarantees a 6 to 12-month ESL job, a salary up to $1,000 (USD), free accommodations, insurance, and flight fare reimbursement. To learn more about this opportunity visit

Dave’s ESL CafĂ© is another great resource for finding teaching jobs in China. Companies and individuals update their job offers on the website. The website also offers educational teaching tools and activities. To learn more about these opportunities visit

Option 2: Going Through A Non-Profit

World Explorer Program
This is the second cheapest option. Going through a non-profit may be for you if you are new to traveling or new to China. I picked this option for my first international trip by myself. I was able to connect with the locals and had such an amazing time that I have already planned my return trip. I have two options for you if you decide this option is right for you.

CHI – Cultural Homestay International

CHI is a non-profit that offers travel to over 20 destinations in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Participants can choose to become a World Explorer (like me), go through the Au Pair program, study abroad program, or internship and work abroad program. I’m going to focus on the World Explorer program for this example.

World Explorer Program

Prices for trips through CHI range from $699 to over $2,000 (USD) for a month. The China opportunity costs $699 for a month. Participants can stay in China for 3 months. You may be placed in Beijing, Shanghai, or Shenzhen (will most likely be placed in Beijing).

Housing, food, airport pick-up, and constant support while in the country is included. There are opportunities to learn Chinese, connect with other international tutors, additional tutoring opportunities, and volunteering as an English teacher in a classroom. The China opportunity offers a stipend that increases every month you stay.

1st Month: $140
2nd Month: $196
3rd Month: $280

Additional opportunities include International Internships in Information Technology, Digital Media, Graphic Design, and Hospitality. To learn more about this opportunity visit


Bunac has opportunities that are like CHI. TEFL opportunities include 120-hour online TEFL course and certificate ($375 value), airport pick-up and transfer, one-week orientation, cultural activities, sightseeing trips, accommodations, weekday meals, and 4-month teaching guaranteed, transfer to local school, a monthly allowance of $320 and $400 completion bonus, access to online resources, and 24/7 support.

The cost for this opportunity is around $2,000 (USD). There are additional costs that include insurance, flights, police check, visa, and immunizations (not always required but suggested). This opportunity is for you if you wish to stay in China for longer than a few weeks.

Option 3: Group Tours (Small or Large)

Touring is the most popular way to travel around China. Many people choose this option because nearly everything is taken care of by the tour company. Group tours will show you the tourist attractions (the Great Wall, Forbidden City, etc.). Some of the highlights of group tours include the cruise (if included in tour), meeting the locals, Kung Fu Show, and the Musical and Dance Performance. These highlights are from an 8-day Small Group Tour through

Group tours can cost between $899 to $2,000+ per person depending on the time of year. Some popular group tours are in Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian (the Terracotta Warriors). Group tours usually include airport pick-up, airport and hotel transfer, hotels, meals, English-speaking guides, and entrance fees.

Additional costs include airfare, visa and passport, and police screening (not always required).

Option 4: Going Solo

The most expensive option is going solo (usually). I’m going to give you some ideas of what things are going to cost without going through a group tour or non-profit. Everything depends on how long you wish to stay and where you wish to go.  

You can stay in one of China’s mega-cities for under $50 (USD) a day. This price can be even lower in rural areas. This depends on where you stay, where you eat, and what you do each day.

Airfare is going to be around $1,000 (roundtrip). I was able to snag a cheaper price on Travelocity for $724 (roundtrip). This price can be higher if you decide to not travel economy class. Some first-class seats cost nearly $5,000 (roundtrip). Purchase your plane tickets at least 6-weeks in advance.

Hotels are going to cost around $87 to $300+ a night. These prices are from the Prime Hotel Beijing and the Beijing Landmark Hotel.

Hostels are going to cost around $28 to $200+ a night. This option is for you if you wish to backpack through China. Hostels are popular for backpackers. These prices are from the Leo Hostel and the Peking Yard Hostel. To book a hostel visit

Homestays are going to be the cheapest option. Homestays are going to cost around $40 to $200+ for a week. Many Chinese families are welcoming to foreigners and wish to have their children exposed to native English speakers. To book a homestay visit

Food is going to cost around $5 to $100+ a day. This depends on where you go to eat. Grocery stores and street markets are going to be the cheapest places to eat while restaurants are going to be the most expensive.

Additional costs will be entrance fees, your visa and passport, and insurance. These costs vary as entrance fees change depending on the season and insurance is not the same price for each provider. I went through World Nomads for my travel and medical insurance. To learn more visit

Take Home Notes

Here are the four options for traveling to China. Everything depends on what you wish to accomplish while in China. You can travel to China for free if you’re willing to work while traveling. You can stay in China for a short period of time and still experience the culture by working in summer and winter camps. You can go through a non-profit if you wish to stay in China for longer and not spend as much as you would if you went solo.

Happy traveling! The Road Less Traveled On.