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Rebecca's big adventure
The city of Tianshui in Gansu
The Chinese city of Tianshui in Gansu
Last updated: 18 May 2004 1605 BST
line Gloucestershire teenager Rebecca Crowther is flying out to China this summer for what promises to be the adventure of a lifetime...
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The official website of Project Trust

Map of Gansu province
Find out where Rebecca will be heading to in China

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Audio Listen to our interview with Rebecca

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China is the world's most populous country, with a continuous culture stretching back nearly 4,000 years.

There are around 1.3 billion Chinese and the official languages are Mandarin and Chinese

Major religions in China are Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Taoism.

Gansu is in the north west of China and isn't far from Mongolia.

The Jiuquan Space Launch Centre, part of China's space programme, is located in the Gansu Province.

The birth place of Fuxi, the Chinese 'first man' - the equivalent of Adam in the Adam and Eve story - is in Tianshui and there is a large and well preserved temple in the city to Fuxi.

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Rebecca Crowther

Rebecca is a pupil at the High School for Girls in Gloucester and, in August, she'll leave her Hucclecote home to travel across the world to China.

She'll be taking a gap year from her studies to work with pupils at the Tianshui Vocational and Technical School, which is in one of the poorer parts of China. She said:

"I've known for ages that I wanted to take a year out. I did some research and I found out that Project Trust offer this year out.

It was a opportunity to learn the Chinese language and become immersed in the culture.

I think it's a really amazing opportunity to do something really, really different with my life, and to spend a really rewarding year out."

Project Trust in China

Rebecca will be heading out to China to teach spoken English to secondary school children as a volunteer for Project Trust.

Project Trust is a registered charity, whose aim is to provide school-leavers with an educational experience through living and working with people in communities very different to those in which they have grown up. On choosing this particular project, she had this to say:

"I think it's a really good opportunity to get involved in a local community and, because I'm going to be teaching people who are between 16 and 19 years of age, hopefully I'll be able to make some new friends and live as a Chinese person would."

Training on the Isle of Coll

To become a volunteer, Rebecca had to attend a selection course over five days at Project Trust's base on the Isle of Coll in Scotland. It proved to be quite an interesting experience as she revealed:

"I travelled up there last Summer. All the way, all seven hours or whatever it was, on the train. It was quite a long journey!

The Isle of Coll is in the Inner Hebrides, it's a beautiful place and it has a population of about 140. All the locals welcomed us - there were about 50 of us volunteers - and we had a week of digging, vegetable planting, and just helping out in the community.

We also did presentations about life on Coll to show that we can gain an appreciation for the community, which is something they feel is important for when we're out in China.

Basically, it was all about practising the skills we'll need out there in China."

She'll be returning to Coll in July for additional training in teaching English as a foreign language, which will be a challenging job considering she will only have a very basic grasp of Mandarin when she arrives in China.

A year in China

Great Wall of China

Rebecca will be spending a full twelve months in China, during which time she hopes to become fully immersed in one of the world's most ancient cultures.

She'll be working in Tianshui Vocational and Technical School, which is in the Gansu province.

Gansu can be found in the north west of China near the Mongolian border. Most of the population there make a living through farming the terraced hills that cover much of the province.

It's sandwiched between the Gobi desert and the Tibetan plateau and this location means the province sees some extreme climate conditions. Rebecca can expect very hot days in the summer months (over 30°C) and very cold ones (below -20°C) in winter.

Tianshui, where Rebecca will be working, is the second largest city in Gansu and lies in the south of the province on the Wei River. The city also has a great deal of historical significance, it's one of the ancient centres of Chinese civilisation and has always been considered an important cultural location.

Teaching in China


While in China, Rebecca will be teaching English at the Tianshui Vocational and Technical School.

The school's pupils are not as academically able as others and therefore trains pupils for a variety of vocational jobs such as artists and electricians. She explained:

"I know that the children I'll be teaching, their parents are farmers and it's quite a rural area and the reason that they're going to school t to learn English is so that they can get better jobs.

Obviously with the one child policy - parents are urged to have just one child instead of a large family - parents invest so much more into that one child.

There's also a lot of interesting history in the area too and I'm hoping to learn about that. I'm also planning to go to the night markets which I think will be a really interesting thing to do."

Some of the graduates from the school will go into the tourist industry as guides or hotel workers, so a command of the English language will be vital for them. Between the history of the area and teaching, it looks like Rebecca will be quite busy out there.

An awfully big adventure

It's such a big adventure to undertake, it makes you wonder whether Rebecca ever gets anxious about the prospect of living on her own in China. She revealed:

"I think I'd be a fool if I wasn't a little bit scared but I'm more excited than scared at the moment."

Even though Rebecca will be out in China on her own, she'll still have plenty of support to rely on. She said:

"There is support out there for me. There will be other English teachers in the school who are Chinese. I'll have a mentor there who will speak English and they'll be my first port of call if I have any problems.

Basically I will be on my own, I'll be teaching but it's going to be quite an independent thing. However, there will be a support network out there for me.

Project Trust will obviously take care of you and I'll be in contact with them throughout the year."

Language challenge

A Chinese bridge

All in all, it's going to be an extremely exciting adventure for the 18 year old and she's really looking forward to the challenge, not least having to learn a new language in Mandarin. She said:

"I wouldn't like to say the words just yet but I know hello and thank you. I think the fact that it will be so completely different will force me to adapt more and become involved in everything.

Because I've got this job in teaching English, it will keep me going and give me some structure and routine to my week so I won't be completely helpless.

I will have to prepare for lessons and be there on time and really make an effort."

Rebecca will be returning to her studies, having applied for deferred entry into medicine. But first she's got an amazing year of discovery in China ahead of her.

Audio Listen to our interview with Rebecca

You'll need Realplayer to listen to the interview:
Click here to download it for free

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