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Caris's trip to China

Caris's trip to China
Caris (centre) flanked by students in the traditional Chinese costumes she brought back from her travels.
Wednesday 17th September 2008 by C. Freeman
Former Brooke Weston student, Caris Rubenzer spoke to Year 8 tutor groups about her experiences in China. Caris went to Xin Jiang province to teach primary children during a year-long placement with Project Trust.

During her time there she also saw the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army, as well as skiing, travelling on a bamboo raft and taking part in a Pepsi ad! She enjoyed the country so much that she is now planning to study a languages degree and work as a Chinese translator.

Caris, who left Brooke Weston in 2007, worked at Jin Ying school and she would typically teach around 40 students in a class. She also coached the teachers in English language and she in turn was taught Chinese dance, kung fu and tai chi techniques.

The primary students stay at the school as weekly boarders and have working days that start at 8am and finish at 7.30pm. Students typically have eight or nine lessons a day with some older students opting to take extra classes at midnight! They start the day with a whole school exercise routine performed outdoors and each class does eye exercises in the afternoon. If inspectors are due to visit then the staff and students get down to work cleaning and tidying the building.

She portrayed an American in a Pepsi commercial and was paid more for two day's of filming than for a month of teaching. Caris earned the equivalent of £70 a month salary and, although food was relatively cheap, travel expenses took up a lot of her budget.

She caught trains and sleeper buses to cover the long distances between sightseeing destinations. Her longest train journey lasted two days and she also spent 56 hours on a bus which was equipped with small bunks for sleeping on.

The students from 8B and 8S tutor groups saw a DVD featuring Caris's adventures and she also gave a slideshow, answered questions and brought in some Chinese mementoes for students to see.

Caris returned to the UK just before the Beijing Olympics started. She said: 'It was an amazing year and I would advise anyone to do it. You do get a bit of culture shock at first because it's so different out there. I have much more confidence now since going to China and I'll remember my students forever. We had a lot of fun.'

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