You’ve signed up for the internship and paid your deposit. You’ve even got started with the online course and seem to be making good progress. However, at the back of your mind you biggest worry is what to pack when they won’t tell you where you’re going and you’ve limited yourself to a backpack for six months!
When we initially signed up for the internship, the actual packing and leaving part seemed a world away. So much so we didn’t really give it much thought and ploughed on with the online course oblivious to everything else that needed doing. Others were fascinated that we had no idea where in China we would actually be moving and asked how we knew what to pack. We would often shrug and just tell them we’ll take two of everything – a kind of Noah-esque technique! However, as the departure day loomed closer it would be a lie to say we weren’t a little nervous about what to take for six whole months to a country as vast as China.
Would we be needing thermal underwear and a coat suitable for arctic conditions ready for the north? Would we be down in the south fending off mosquitoes in a t-shirt and shorts? Would we need to prepare for monsoons and pack rain gear plus a sturdy umbrella? On top of this we had no idea about the dress code for placements which seemed to range from jeans and a hoodie to full business dress. Our ImmerQi contact told us to prepare for smart and that way we wouldn’t be caught out. To make the whole situation even more complicated, we had also planned to do some backpacking through SE Asia prior to arriving in China so would need beachwear and clothing suitable for hot and humid conditions.
My packing list
So here it is…my packing list which will hopefully give you some idea of what to take when you don’t know where you’ll be placed:
- Five pairs of footwear – black ballet shoes (for work & going out); red converse (general weekend wear); fur-lined boots (warm general weekend wear); hiking trainers (for days when we’re going to do a lot of walking or hiking); flip flops (essential beachwear for SE Asia).
- Four trousers – black work trousers; navy linen trousers, grey walking trousers, jeans.
- Dress with a pair of thick black tights and a pair of thick leggings (these leggings can also be worn under a pair of trousers for added warmth and layers if in arctic conditions).
- Jumpers/cardigan – a jumper and cardigan suitable for work wear. The cardigan also goes with the dress so that this outfit can be worn in colder conditions. A further thin multi-purpose jumper (suitable for work or casual wear and even good for cool nights in hotter climates) as well as a thick hoodie and thinner zip-up hoodie.
- Tops – two vest tops; two sleeveless t-shirts; five everyday t-shirts (covering shoulders and therefore suitable for temple visiting); three blouses; two additional tops (suitable for work wear or going out); thermal t-shirt for layering up and keeping warm.
- Three pairs of shorts – two pairs go below the knee (suitable for temple wear and hiking through areas where you need to cover up a little more e.g. mosquito zones); one shorter pair more suited to around the pool or beach which I was going to swap out for a skirt but never got round to buying one – maybe when the warmer weather comes!
- Underwear – my advice is pack enough for a week and then throw in some extra pants! I took an extra pair of hiking trainer liners too having realised on previous trips that the socks can often make all the difference.
- Miscellaneous – bikini, summer hat and sunglasses as well as woolly hat, scarf and gloves.
- Coats – a light jacket and a rain coat which can be worn at the same time if layering up is required. I thought of bringing a much larger coat but didn’t want to lug it around SE Asia when there was no guarantee I would be placed somewhere cold in China.
Anthony’s Packing List
For the lads coming on the internship, Anthony’s packing list should give you an equally good idea of what you should be looking to bring with you:
- Three sets of footwear – a pair of Tom’s canvas shoes, some walking shoes and more formal black lace-up shoes for use at work. We were advised whilst preparing for China to bring clothes for semi-formal at work (although this isn’t the case at our school), hence the lace-ups that, on reflection, haven’t been needed.
- Four pairs of trousers – a pair of jeans, chinos & linen trousers for use in the evenings and weekends with a pair of black trousers for use at work (again, these haven’t been needed at this particular school as they are far more casual than we expected). The chinos were chosen as they could be used for smart or casual and double up as an alternative for work even in a more formal setting.
- Jumpers – with three thin jumpers in a number of colours that can be layered, these came into their own in those severely cold first few weeks but now can be work in both work and casual forms as the need arises! Anthony also brought a zip-up hoodie and a traditional hoodie to tackle those cold winter days!
- T-shirts – with a thermal base-layer round neck, three collared t-shirts and five round neck t-shirts, these can be worn under items for warmth or on their own in all conditions.
- Shirts – needing to cater for semi-formal working conditions, Anthony brought six shirts with him that could be worn either for work or with jeans in a slightly more casual environment. One of the shirts was short-sleeved for summer wear whilst a neutral tie which was brought to match with two of the shirts in case of a more formal occasion finished the set.
- Three pairs of shorts – as we were coming from Indonesia and the warmer climes of SE Asia, these were something that couldn’t be left behind. Anthony brought a pair of swimming short and two longer canvas-style shorts that hopefully we become useful again as China enters the warmer Summer weather!
- Underwear – 10 pairs of boxers to allow for a week and a couple of days when a change may be neccessary! Also a range of black socks for work/casual times, a couple of pairs of trainer liners and a pair of walking socks for those heavy trek days!
- Miscellaneous – hat, scarf and gloves for the winter days and a pair of sun glasses for the warmer weather.
- Coats – coming from winter in the UK to winter in China, a thicker coat was a must. Not wanting to spend anything extra, Anthony brought his already-owned SuperDry coat for the colder weather and a rain coat for the wetter, warmer days.
You may think … “but what if this is still not enough or I need more of something?” Well don’t forget that China has clothes shops – so many ranging from cheap clothing haggled for at the market to designer brands in one of their numerous shopping malls. Everything you could possibly need can be bought here and probably at a lower price than you would get back home.
We will be updating this list to include a list for everything else you’ll need to take on your TEFL adventure. If you have any questions or have come across any great products you think are ‘must-takes’ when travelling then please get in touch as we’d love to hear from you.