In the past, around 20% of AYC participants have been placed in residential areas, which included about 8 locations. In general, these are great areas to select if you're interested in really building up your language skills. You won't meet a lot of other foreigners, so you'll be forced to use your Chinese. Luckily, you'll have plenty of opportunity: your coworkers and your students' parents will invite you over for meals all the time, and they will delight in teaching you new things. There won't be much night life. Things will close around 9 or 10, and you may end up watching entire TV series on DVD, or re-reading Harry Potter. Your best transit option may wind up being a bicycle -- several of our participants' schools provided bikes for them, but bikes are cheap here.
Steeped in history, Yuncheng is purported to be the site where the mythical first emperor of China held court. Located at the place where the provinces of Shanxi, Shaanxi and Hubei meet, Yuncheng today is growing quickly thanks to interprovincial trade. For those looking to experience the real heartland of China, Yuncheng is an excellent choice.
Binhu, at a twenty-minute bus ride from the city of Hefei, doesn't look much like an American suburb, covered as it is with high-rises and six-lane highways. But participants say you can definitely feel the differences. The traffic is lighter, for one thing. The air is cleaner, and the skies are bluer. The buses and streets are less crowded. And the residential feel is even more apparent: on the sidewalks, you see children playing tag, or old people playing cards. This is not a purely commercial feel. On the other hand, if you want to get into the city, it's not difficult -- the entire region is well-connected by bus. If you're craving Western food, you can buy it at Metro, the imported goods store. You won't be the only foreign teacher here -- there are plenty of Americans and Canadians, all very welcoming. Binhu is small enough to know everyone by face, if not by name, yet large enough to explore. For an in-depth look at two AYCers' experiences in Binhu, click here!
Jiangyin is a port city, for those who love the river breeze. It’s closest to Changzhou, Nanjing, and Nantong, although everything in Jiangsu province is pretty close together. Popular hangouts include some local clubs and bars, and of course KTV. For those who speak Mandarin, be aware that while younger people have studied the language in school, older people may only know Jiangyin’s northern Wu dialect. If you only speak English, of course, the point is moot. Cuisine is not spicy and is considered quite diverse for a residential area. For more info on teaching in Jiangyin, check out our feature on AYCer Simeon Campbell's experiences here, or if you'd prefer to hear directly from an AYCer, check out Katherine Priddy's blog!
For the literary-minded among you, you may be pleased to learn that Pearl S. Buck grew up in Zhenjiang, where her missionary parents settled. Zhenjiang’s parks are not only beautiful, they also provide many outdoor activities, such as paddle-boating, barbecuing, and some easy hill climbing. If you start to miss home, never fear: there’s a KFC, a McDonald’s, and a Pizza Hut. When it comes to native cuisine, Zhenjiang famously produces China’s best vinegar, in which people dip their dumplings. The city also features Korean, Japanese, Russian, and Brazilian restaurants. You can take a ten-minute ferry ride to Yangzhou; Zhenjiang is also connected to Nanjing and Shanghai by train.
Lianyungang is between Nanjing and Qingdao. In the summer it becomes a resort town, although in the winter it is too cold for the beach to hold much appeal. The university campus is surrounded by lush fields. Here your students will latch onto you as the first foreigner they have met.
Beilun is a suburb of Ningbo, about a 45-minute taxi ride or a two-hour bus ride away. It's coastal, so lots of seafood, and not tuna fish sandwiches -- more like bullfrog, duck blood, and all manner of shellfish. But it's devoid of Western food, if you get homesick --there's KFC, Burger King, and a Western supermarket. For the outdoorsy types, there are some nice bike trails and rivers. Lots of opportunities to practice your Chinese. A great chance to make an impact on your students. For an AYCer's perspective on life and teaching in Beilun in 2014-2014, click here!
Longwan is a suburb of Wenzhou, a small coastal city. Although the city is developing, there are still bucolic patches full of farmers in their fields. Locals will notice a laowai (foreigner) and may follow you with cameras, but they are not dangerous, only curious. Once they get to know you, they will be very welcoming and invite you into their homes. The weather here is considered quite nice -- not too hot and not too cold. There are two Wal-Marts, so you will be able to find any comforts of home. In addition to the malls and the chain stores, though, there are also many mom-and-pop shops, such as butchers and bakeries. These small stores are significantly cheaper and the quality is often higher. To hear from an AYCer about life in Longwan, click here!
Pinghu lies just outside of Shanghai, beside the East China Sea and Hangzhou Bay. Its seaside location makes island-hopping a popular pastime; it also floods local markets with seafood. Other local specialty dishes include pickled eggs, watermelon, and prawns. The city is home to many famous artists and calligraphers. The weather is warmer than New York City but does feature four distinct seasons. Closest cities are Hangzhou, Suzhou, Ningbo, and of course Shanghai.
Zhoushan is an archipelago surrounded by the gentle waters of the Hangzhou Bay in the Yangtze River. In Neolithic times, the Hemudu people settled the thousand-plus islands and reefs that now make up the city; later inhabitants were fishermen and pirates. It was also occupied by the British during the Opium Wars, although the culture does not seem heavily Europeanized. Traditionally, fishing and other marine-based activities have formed the backbone of the city’s economy; the majority of the population has not attended college. Weather is mild but damp, so bring an umbrella. Ferries connect the main island to Shanghai and Ningbo, among other cities.
Clean, friendly Zhangjiagang is surrounded by the blissful waters of the Yangtze River and sprawling fields of rice paddies. The area is a mixture of urban amenities and rustic beauty, depending on where you go: the city center is crammed with shops and Western restaurants, while a short bus ride away you’ll find some nice hiking spots. You can walk most of the city, exploring local bars, clubs, parks, spas, and a highly-recommended gym with a pool. Nanjing, Wuxi, and Suzhou are accessible by bus.
Tonxiang is a famous textile town with many charming wooden bridges and canals. If you get homesick, you’ll find KFC, McDonald’s, and Walmart all within walking distance. Nearby cities include Hangzhou and Shanghai.