Taking a gap year in China

When you decide to take a gap year, it’s best to go somewhere you’ve never been before. A gap year gives you the chance to explore the world but also yourself. It’s the time to find out who you are or who you’re meant to be. At the moment, these are exciting times in China and it’s an ideal country for your stay. While it is emerging as an economic superpower, it remains as a country rich in history and its old traditions. Foreigners from all over the world come to China to learn the language, volunteer, work and travel in this gorgeous country.

What can you do on your Gap Year?

Volunteer work

Many volunteer programs take place in the rural areas of China where you can get involved in agricultural work, rebuilding or lending a helping hand to smaller hospitals and orphanages. The programs are usually inexpensive, and the length can vary making it more flexible for you. Volunteering for your gap year especially in China is a great hands-on experience where you can gain skills and interact with the locals.

Learn Mandarin

As Mandarin is China’s official language, learning Mandarin in China seems like the most logical step to take. Not only will you be able to immerse yourself into a culture, speak the language with the people but you will travel around the country too.

You will find learning the language much easier in China than it would be in your home country as you would constantly be speaking it with the locals. You might even find yourself thinking in Mandarin before the year ends. There are plenty of private institutions and university programs offered in China where you can learn the language.


At the moment, China is packed with backpackers passing by and checking out what this country has to offer in their cities. Large or small, you will be amazed in the rich and vibrant history, you will find yourself gravitating towards Beijing’s concrete jungle and Mongolia’s vast open landscapes.

Gap year students often say, traveling in China is where you find yourself. You’ll not only gain independence in going around the country by yourself, but you’ll find an inner confidence when it comes to interacting with new people whether it’s the locals or other international people.

Teaching English

An attractive job amongst international students and gap year students is to part-teach English to local Chinese. As China is becoming more open to the outside world, and more Chinese are wanting to go abroad for travel and study, they are willing to pay for extra English tuition. Teaching English is a great way for students to earn extra money to live a more comfortable life in China.

It’s not necessary to be a certified English teacher as most Chinese would prefer to work on their conversational skills. There is the option to teach privately or in a school.


The whole world is knocking at China’s door and waiting for the opportunity to step inside to work. If you’re interested in working in one of the world’s biggest global economy, then China is a great foot in the door. Interning in China gives you the chance to immerse yourself in their work culture and will certainly give you an edge in the job market.

If you’re looking for more business minded internship, the best places to look are in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The outer cities cater more towards the interest of environmental and scientific internships.

Cost of Living

What’s great about China is while the prices are rising, the cost of living remains low, although it depends on which city you go. Some foreigners say to live in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, it can cost around 500USD a month, but smaller cities like Hangzhou and Chengdu are around 300USD. As Beijing and Shanghai are considered international cities, you will have access to your usual comforts at home and still live within your means. For the smaller cities, there tends to be more of a culture shock as they cater more to the locals than the foreigners.

For those who are on a tight budget, it’s quite common for foreigners especially gap year students to find a part-time job in teaching to make some extra money.

Chinese traditions

In China, important parts of their culture are their traditions. As they have one of the oldest cultures in the world, you will discover that everything has a tradition of its own that sometimes even the Chinese find it difficult to keep up with. If you come to China for your gap year, you will discover why they take off their shoes before entering a house and the correct way to place your chopsticks when you’re finished eating. It’s important to be respectful of their ways, although it can be quite tough to have a complete grasp on it all. Don’t worry, the Chinese are forgiving people and would rather help foreigners understand their reasons behind the tradition than to look down on them.

Health & Safety

While there are no crucial vaccinations for you to take, it’s a good idea to make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date. If you decide to go to rural areas like Anhui, Henan, Hainan and Yunnan; don’t forget to take a Malaria shot. Malaria is still an endemic, so it’s best to take precautions before travelling.

One of the first things you should know before you go to China, it is not safe to drink the tap water unless it’s boiled. Even in larger cities like Beijing, the plumbing is not the same as Europe and can result in bacterial contamination. You don’t want to spend a portion of your trip with a queasy stomach so drink bottled water when you’re thirsty.

If you do decide to come to China for your gap year, you can ease your family’s mind that China has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. In fact, their crime levels are three times less than America and violent confrontations are 83 times more often to happen in the US than in China. That takes the worry off the minds.

A gap year only happens once in your life; it’s time to find yourself and discover what your future might hold for you. If you’re looking to experience something new, come to China and experience what the country holds for you whether it’s volunteering, studying or working. China has something for everyone.

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