Cover Story

China calling

Updated: 2011-07-08 10:47

By David Bartram (China Daily European Weekly)

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China calling

China calling
Guy Renner spent three months of his gap year in China and believes his experience will serve him well in the future. [Photos Provided to China Daily] 

Across the continent, tens of thousands of students are opting to take a gap year between school and university as a chance to explore the world. One such student was Guy Renner, a 19-year-old from the north of England who eschewed more popular student destinations such as Thailand to spend three months in China.

"I didn't so much find China as China found me," says Renner, who will be studying politics at Newcastle University from September. "My old school in England has a link-up with a middle school near Shijiazhuang and they were looking for students to spend three months of their gap year teaching English."

As well as earning his keep and gaining some valuable employment experience, Renner had time to travel around the rest of China with his friends.

"We weren't with a tour operator which was great as it gave us more freedom. If we wanted to stay in a bar for another drink there was nobody telling us we had to leave.

"Traveling independently meant we could choose where we went. I went to places all over China, including Chengdu, Xi'an, Shanghai and Beijing, and I didn't find it too hard to get around either."

With an increasing number of hostels offering low-cost accommodation across China, the country is becoming a far more 'budget-friendly' destination. The communities that grow up around hostels also provide a network of support for first-time visitors to China who choose travel without a tour operator.

"I made a lot of friends while I was in China. I'd love to return one day and I know if I do I have plenty of people to stay with now," says Renner. But aside from friendships, he also hopes that his time spent in China will serve him well in the future.

"My friends were going all over the place for their gap years - one was traveling around Cambodia, another in South Africa. But I definitely felt my experience was useful, especially with the job market as it is at the moment. I'd like to work for the Foreign Office one day, so spending time in China will be helpful."

Showcasing the range of tourist opportunities available across China is central to the CNTA's strategy of growing the industry. In the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-1015) outlined in March, an emphasis was placed upon the need for China to diversify its economy away from resource heavy manufacturing towards other sectors. Tourism is seen as a key part of this strategy, with Vice-Premier Wang Qishan saying that the country will strive to develop tourism into a strategic pillar industry.


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