On Wednesday I attended an information evening about Oxbridge Summer Camps Abroad, an international volunteering program where students from Oxford and Cambridge go to Beijing, Hong Kong or Japan to teach English for around one month in the summer vacation. Having recently completed my year abroad in China, this sounded like an interesting opportunity to return to this fascinating country, learn a new skill, share my knowledge and do some travelling.

The event was a one hour presentation at Fitzwilliam College (conveniently located right next door to me) followed by a Q&A session with several previous volunteers from the program. I found it very helpful to get a clearer picture of what the program involves and although I have now decided not to apply, I thought it would be good to share the key details of the program with you:

Volunteering:

  • Four – six weeks volunteering to teach English in a series of summer camps (usually each one week long) in either Beijing, Hong Kong or Japan
  • Volunteers are required to prepare and lead a series of fun, interactive classes focusing on speaking skills
  • There is NO grammar, written English etc. involved in the program
  • Afternoons are usually dedicated to drama classes etc. with a performance at the end of each week
  • Bilingual teaching assistants help in and outside of class with the language barrier, recommend local restaurants, help you with culture shock, etc.
  • In Beijing and Hong Kong, volunteers live in school/ hotel accommodation, whereas in Japan you often live with a local family

The students:

  • Students in Beijing and Hong Kong tend to be quite young, aged around 10-17, those in Japan are usually university students or older
  • Students have a wide variety of previous English study – from basically none to almost fluent
  • Funding comes from students/ schools paying to take part in the summer camps – so although you are volunteering it is likely to be teaching more privileged students rather than supporting disadvantaged students

Financials:

  • Fully funded program including accommodation, living allowance (around £12/ day), return flights allowance (£550, can be arranged around your travel plans), visas and no program fee
  • Living costs in most Asian countries are much lower than in the UK, and volunteers often have money left over from their living allowance for travelling
  • Oxbridge colleges often have additional travel grants if you want to travel before/ after the program

Applying:

  • No previous teaching experience/ language skills required, but some experience can be helpful for your application
  • Very competitive – over 500 applicants for around 40 places last year
  • Deadline for applications: 10th December
  • Interviews will be held in February
  • Training day (London) on 5th March

Although it does sound like a good program (particularly in terms of the funding), in the end I have decided that I would be more interested in teaching an older age group with more serious lessons over a longer period of time, rather than the more “fun, relaxed, encourage the kids to actually speak” style of these kinds of camps. I also would be more interested in visiting a Chinese city other than Beijing and having opportunities to study Chinese and earn a TEFL certificate during the program, something which is not possible with OSCA. That being said, if you are looking for a teaching English abroad program and love the more relaxed style of these camps definitely check out their website!

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