Profile

Alice Bennison

Chengdu

What were your expectations prior to starting your role? Has the experience matched your expectations?

I expected that my role would be more formal than it was, I expected to be treated more like a teacher but I found that there was barely any structure to my schedule and it was very laid back.

What do you like most about China?

The food! The people are a close second (most of the time) as they’re also so welcoming and friendly. I never felt like I was judged by people, even when people stared at me sometimes, it felt more like they were just curious rather than trying to make me feel uncomfortable.

What has taken a bit of getting used to?

Chinese people are very spontaneous, plans change at the last minute, even if something was on the schedule it wouldn’t always happen. This felt a huge contrast compared to the British way of doing things, where once we make plans they’re generally expected to be followed through.

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Please describe your host family, their home and your accommodation?

Mum, Dad and host child. Also the ayi (cook) and driver also felt like part of the family. Their home was in the southern suburbs of Chengdu, it was very nicely furnished and modern, 6 floors and even had an elevator. I had a double room on the second floor which was simply furnished.

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How have you got to know people socially (both Chinese and other ex-pats)?

I got to meet others through the monthly activities that i2 arranged, I also made friends with Chinese students living in Chengdu which was really great.

Please describe your Chinese lessons- did your Mandarin improve during the programme?

I had Chinese lessons at Mandarin house, my Chinese 100% improved because I didn’t know any Chinese before I went to China but I expected to have more than an average of 5 hours per week, which would’ve helped me to pick up a lot more of the language.

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Did you do any sightseeing – if so, where was your favourite place?

The Panda Research and Breeding Centre and Wenshu Monastery are obvious places to visit and they are really entertaining but I also loved trying to find smaller non-touristy places in the city. Chengdu library is really nice place to sit and read or to wander round and admire the architecture.

What is your favourite Chinese food?

Luckily I adore spicy food so I was in heaven in Sichuan, obviously hot pot is amazing! Another of my favourites that wasn’t spicy was Braised Aubergine, sticky and garlic and delicious.

What have you found to be the major cultural differences? Have you made any cultural faux-pas?

Things that might seem rude in English culture are totally fine in China e.g. spitting on the street, burping/trumping in public. The public toilets were also a bit of a shock but I got used to them. I asked questions about the culture when I arrived so I don’t think I made any faux-pas but Chinese people are really friendly so maybe I just didn’t realise!

What piece of advice would you offer to prospective applicants?  

Be prepared to be flexible, honest and friendly and Chinese people will welcome you with open arms. Also try as much as you can with the language even if you feel silly, they will really appreciate it.

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