OSCA Beijing 2014

The first week of the Beijing camp is prep week, a week for everyone to get settled in and get to know each other. As people arrived over the week we overcame jetlag and explored the local area together, which included late night rollerblading in a park, outdoor karaoke and spontaneous dancing with the locals! We also got the chance to go shopping in several of the giant malls, try loads of amazing new foods, have a night out in the clubbing district Sanlitun, and we even went out to KTV, karaoke rooms. During the first week, we also went over everything we needed to have ready for the camps, which included rehearsing the OSCA song and our opening ceremony play of Cinderella, which involved everyone dressing in drag to entertain the kids. We also got to meet our TAs and spend time getting to know them as we set up our classrooms.

 

Camps

We ran four different camps at three schools across Beijing, teaching English to children aged between 11 and 16. There was a camp director, who was in charge of the organisation of the camp, six teachers and seven TA’s who helped ensure that the lessons ran smoothly. Working with the TAs was great, they were all really fun and helped us out loads. Lessons were planned along a specific theme each, which allowed us to make up and adapt many games that we played when we were younger to suit the lessons, as well as do arts and crafts.

In the longer camps, we had drama lessons after lunch which were difficult at first, particularly when trying to get the whole class to decide on a suitable theme for our class play, but were really enjoyable once they each got into their roles and really made an effort with their home-made costumes. One student even brought in a video camera so that she could record the whole thing and tell us where we were going wrong! It was great to see your own class working together as a group to produce something that was really... original! After drama and camp diaries each teacher would lead a different class for ECAs, activities ranging from egg drop and bottle rockets to Dragons Den and British birthday parties, which the kids always loved. Some of my favourite memories are from the Afternoon Activities, the final event of the day, which each teacher takes a turn to run. These are whole school activities, which included a sports day, fashion show and disco dancing which were hilarious – 120 Chinese children enthusiastically doing the YMCA is a sight not to be missed!

 

Free time

In the evenings and on our days off we had plenty of time to explore the ins and outs of the city. Beijing has so many different attractions, from the Forbidden City and giant pandas to haggling for handbags, trying Michelin-starred dim sum and even a day trip climbing the Great Wall and tobogganing down the side! It was surprising how in such a bustling, people-filled city you could find quiet temples, lakes and the most beautiful parks. The school took us out for a few meals and the TAs were great at showing us new places to explore and restaurants to try!

One evening the school treated us to an acrobatics show which was one of the most incredible (and frightening) things I’ve ever seen, with women ballet dancing standing on a man’s head and people climbing up and down stairs whilst doing a handstand, plus some even more thrilling acts that I won’t spoil for you! We had cooking classes and calligraphy lessons, went on rickshaw rides and discovered some amazing bars and restaurants with all the staff in period dress bowing as they walked past!

 
One of my favourite days was when we got the chance to visit the Temple of Confucius, burn incense at the Lama Temple, wander round the backstreets of hidden Hutongs and watch the sun go down over the bustling streets whilst drinking cocktails.
 

Teaching in Beijing was such an incredible experience, not only for developing my CV but also because of the people I met, the friends I made and the sights I saw. Still keeping in contact with some of the children who I taught makes me realise how not only did OSCA give me the best experience of teaching possible but also how much they enjoyed the camps and benefitted from them too.