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    Hey guys!

    So I'm leaving this September (or late August), and I'll be going to Karamay
    I'm going through Project Trust, and I'll be teaching conversational English!
    I'm a little early with this thread but I'm just so excited (and I figured some preparation takes time!)

    I was wondering whether you guys have any advice on:

    -How I can prepare (some books I could read etc..)
    -What things I should definitely bring with me
    -How I can learn as much Mandarin as I can (fast )
    -What clothes I should bring (any pictures? I understand they have to look proffessional, but I'm still lost)

    And whether you'd like to share your own experiences! I'd love it if you could tell me how life in China (and maybe more specifically in XinJiang) is, what topics I should avoid.. Maybe some advice on manners, some general stuff about the culture...?

    (Project Trust is incredibly helpful already, but I'd love it to have the best experience possible so I'm trying to learn as much as I can )

    Thank you so much!

    PS: This is my first ever thread! Exciting!

    Ah no way! They're starting the Karamay project?

    I'm out in Xinjiang with Project just now. I'm in Fukang, near Urumqi. I've just completed my post report for here, but I think Karamay's going to be a bit different to what things are like here.

    PT's reading list for China served me pretty well. I managed to read Three Swans and Behind the Wall (I think they were the ones), and although both dragged on a bit, they were massively useful. If you get a chance to watch it the BBC documentary on British Tiger Mums should give you a good idea of how seriously the Chinese take their education.

    Mandarin's a tricky language to learn, and unfortunately it took me a long time to get going with it. The method I've got just now seems to be going quite well – I included that information in my post report, so I'll c&p it for you:

    Jony’s top tips for Chinese language learning are as follows - I’d start of with the Michel Thomas Chinese course. This is available for something like £30 on Amazon or £0 if you download it from alternate sources (not that I’m advocating this, but it’s available free on the Pirate Bay, which will become your close friend out in China). Once you’ve got even a few CDs into this, you know enough to recognise that the garbled, guttural sounds people are spewing at you are actually words. After this, you need to learn the characters. Plenty of people will say the characters aren’t important because you can use PinYin, the Romanised Chinese, but plenty of people are idiots. The characters are the words, and the PinYin is just the sounds. Chinese is made up of 400 sounds with 4 tones. Learning Chinese without the characters may sound easier, but it is in fact considerably harder. It sounds crazy, but in my experience it’s generally preferable. A great book I used to learn how to write the characters is ‘250 Chinese Characters for Everyday Use’. I got about 50 characters in, before I realised that I could write almost any character you give to me. There is logic to the characters, and as soon as you can see that logic, you can write anything. After this, I’d recommend Shaums for vocabulary and grammar. There should be a few textbooks lying around the project for you to use if you want to (you’re welcome). The school provides three periods of Chinese lessons per week. At first it might be a struggle, but hang in there, it’s certainly worth it.
    Clothing-wise, you should be able to wear what you want. I've taught in suits to a t-shirt and jeans (but now I'm teaching in a suit, it feels more professional). The girls out here tend to teach in trousers, though. One of the girls in Kuitun taught in dresses quite a bit, but I guess skirts aren't the best idea. You may be reluctant to bring 'nice clothes' as the girls out just now are, but don't worry – either way people will look at you funny.

    Word to the wise though, I have friends that know someone who taught in Karamay. The climate's going to take getting used to. I know even out in Fukang over the winter I began to go stir-crazy, and ended up a little depressed. I think we all did. Think seriously about what you can do to avoid this – your project seems to be quite far away from the others. Kuitun from Fukang and Bagang is about a 4-5 hour journey in summer, up to 7 in winter, and I think Karamay is even further away!

    If you want to pick my brain for anything else, feel free! I've been here 9 months, so I've got a rough idea of how XJ and China work.

    You lucky girl, two China, Xinjiang volunteers replying SO QUICKLY!

    I am in Kuitun right now with PT.
    I'm just going to tell you how Jony was wrong with what he said.

    You don't haaaaaave to read anything... I didn't read anything before I came and I think I know the country just as well as other volunteers.. But if you love to read anything then you might as well read some of the China books PT told you about. All I did before I came was watch a cooking program where the chefs went around China. Serious stuff that.

    Bring some blutack and photos for your walls. Bring documents and copies of documents. Bring deodorant if you can... I haven't been able to find much here and it's all roll on so if you're a spray girl, bring bottles of the stuff! Seriously, bring sweets and chocolate. I mean if I could rethink packing then I'd bring less clothes that I just don't wear and more things that I'd want.
    Clothing-wise - you can wear whatever you want outside.. I live in vests and shorts. But be aware that most people don't tend to show their shoulders. You are allowed but you will be stared at which could feel uncomfortable. Don't bring anything too smart for teaching either. I go to teach in rolled up jeans or jogging bottoms and a vest (with a cardigan)... Most of the school's uniform is tracksuits so formality isn't really a huge deal.
    THAT'S another thing to bring though. Lots of cardigans! In the summer it gets VERY hot and there are times when you won't be allowed to show shoulders (at my school, I have to cover up). So thin cardigans are a life saver. I lost one of mine and only have one left and it's covered in holes. So bring a few cheap thin ones!
    Don't pack lots of huge heavy clothes for winter either. You'll find that you'll be layering up when it gets really cold, so bring lots of leggings and tights and long sleeve shirts for that. You can buy a big coat here so don't bother bringing a huge coat as that will just be a pain to carry around. The same goes for winter boots.

    Language-wise - If you want to learn the language enough, you'll find it pretty easy when you're out here. All of the people who like languages have gotten on very well so far. As Jony said, your school will give you a couple of Chinese lessons each week and that is very helpful. Also I agree with what he said, I'd advise to learn the characters if you plan on really learning Chinese properly. They are so interesting and so much of it makes sense! There are loads of different words that sound like 'da' for example but the characters are slightly different. But each one has something in common so if you see a new character with the thing in common, then you can sometimes guess that it would sound like 'da'. I have had a lot of fun learning the characters and Chinese as a whole.. I think the whole language is so interesting and just makes sense. Also it's very rewarding when after a few months, you start to really understand a lot of what people are saying.
    Before I came, I downloaded 'Chinese pod' which was helpful to start with. It covered the basics nicely. But now I'm here and look back on it, there isn't really anything that will help you hugely before you come. The best way to learn Chinese is to be immersed in the language, and you'll have that soon enough!

    As for manners and things - ha.
    I was expecting China to be really organised and strict in a way but the Chinese, generally speaking, are some of the rudest people I've ever met.
    A few things though, don't sit on the ground. When you go to someone's house, take off your shoes. When you need to give something to someone important, give it with both hands. That's all I can think of...

    If you have any more specific questions, I'd be happy to answer anything.
    Jony would probably be ecstatic too. He's a very happy go lucky kind of guy.

    Oh, just to add to all of this, I've got some friends (they're the family of foreigners in Fukang – they're so lovely that they're like a family to all of us out in Xinjiang) that have a friend who did TEFL work out in Karamay recently. They're going to pass her number to me – I think she's still in China, so if you have any Karamay-specific questions you want answers to, let me know and I'll ask her for you!
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