Visiting China: Meeting VIPKids and Tasting Scorpions

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Two teachers’ experiences on their first trip to China

Recently a few VIPKid teachers took it upon themselves to arrange a trip to China and experience a part of the world their students call home. They were expecting a culture shock, but instead they found friends, family, and a tour guide called Cactus. Here, Sonia and Brinley share their highlights of the trip with us. 

First impressions count for a whole lot. Like when you act your friendliest with the DMV agent who’s about to make or break your day. For Brinley, her first impression was something of a pleasant surprise. Opting for being social over 10 hours of semi-awkward silence, she decided to spark up conversation with her neighbor on the flight. But what began as light in-flight banter turned into a full introduction to China upon arrival. Her new-found friend became the ever gracious host and proceeded to introduce Brinley to his sister, who in turn showed Brinley how the subway worked, and even helped her find her hotel.

“I was touched by this kindness, as I have never had such a warm welcome into any country [before].”  – Brinley

Although prior to the trip Brinley had never even been to a VIPKid meet-up, during her stay in China she quickly developed new and meaningful relationships with the other VIPKid teachers in the group. And on one evening, they arranged a VIPKid dinner in a student’s building, which could only mean one thing: students and teachers hanging out… in real life!

“It felt like I had clicked the start button and been physically transported through the computer screen” – Brinley

It sounds almost odd, since after a 6-hour school day most teachers can’t wait to see a little less of some of their students. But for Sonia too, the experience of meeting students in person was easily the highlight of the trip.

“Meeting my students was definitely the icing on the cake. It brought me so much happiness to bring my virtual student to reality and to hug them. It was such a blessing!” – Sonia

During the trip, the teachers were able to experience some of the things that had only existed in their childhoods before. The long, snaking spine of the Great Wall winding through the mountains surrounding Beijing. The magnificence of the imperial gardens, like the Summer Palace . Or even the literal coming alive of the buildings of Mulan for Sonia as she walked through the YuYuan Gardens in Shanghai (Mushu remained a stone though, probably to the relief of most). 

The trip was also a chance to walk the talk, for Brinley at least. Since becoming a staunch advocate for the use of insects as a sustainable source of protein, she suddenly found herself face-to-face with BBQ scorpion stand in the heart of Beijing. Without even stopping to allow the moral dilemma to unfold, she snatched up a skewer of crunchy goodness and went to town on this “sustainable source of protein” – stinger and all. 

“I felt morally obligated to do it. It tasted like a crunchy corn kernel or a barbecue chip. It definitely wasn’t as bad as it looked. I gave myself a big pat on the back for that one.” – Brinley

So do we Brinley. So do we. 

In the end, the trip was an eclectic bundle of experiences that were as broad as they were special. Both Sonia and Brinley reveled in the opportunity to connect with their fellow teachers, and enjoyed every moment of their time with the students they met. Although being in China was a first for both teachers, everything from scorpions to watching senior citizens breaking out their dance moves in the parks, soon felt familiar.

“China immediately felt like a home away from home. There was never a time that I felt out of place. I had doubts about going to China because I worried about the culture shock, but I have never been so comfortable outside of my comfort zone.” – Sonia

Trip to China anyone?