Alumni Spotlight: Elsa Gas Wikström

Why did you choose this program?

I found my first host family for New Zealand from a website called Aupairworld and thought I could give it another try to find a host family in China. I got contacted from one family and we planned a Skype meeting.

During our meeting, I was introduced to the contact person, Sarah. I was surprised to find out that the family had hired Sarah, where she would find an Edu-Pal that would be the best fit for the family. I thought they handled everything very professional and helped me through the journey.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

They were always very caring. From the beginning, when I wasn't sure with my position in the family or the best way for me to get along with each and one of them, the team of Edu-Pal China helped and supported me through those minor difficulties. I really enjoyed the times when the Edu-Pals and Sarah sat down and discuss what had occurred that week. It could vary from time to time, sometimes being that the host child told us something adorable, to how we could improve our English teaching skills.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

EPC actually has everything prepared for you now. They'll give a checklist before you go to China, which includes the things you should bring or keep in mind. They will help you get VPN, WeChat account (set up a WeChat Pay), transportation card and map, SIM card and etc. I think what you should prepare is that be ready to see a different but amazing world!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The whole Wednesday and Thursday morning was my time off. Then the rest of the school week began by starting at 07:30. It could depend on the day, but sometimes I helped my host child to eat his breakfast, or I would eat my breakfast alone.

At 08:00, we would drive to kindergarten which took about 30 minutes getting there. On the way back home, the family's personal driver could drop me of by the agency's office, where we had class. This only happened during Tuesdays. During Mondays and Fridays, I had free time from 09:00 to 16:30 (11:00 to 16:30 if I had Chinese lessons that day).

At 16:30, I would take the subway to the kindergarten and pick up my host child and take him home. Once at home, we would play for a little while and then start doing the English homework on the iPad. Around 18:30-19:00, the dinner was served and cooked by the family's private chef (the best food I've ever tried in my life, I miss it so much). After dinner, we would play a little bit more until it was time for the child to exercise (the kindergarten planned different exercises for the kids to do so that they would gain strength.) Around 21:00 was when I could go to my room and spend time being alone.

Once every two weeks, the agency planned different activities (mostly on Wednesday) such as sightseeing or a typical Chinese cultural experience (Chinese Calligraphy, Chinese musical instruments and etc.).

And we also had Christmas tea party during my stay which was great!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was so surprised to be with a family that barely spoke any English. But under a short amount of time, I came to the realization that we actually didn't need to verbally understand each other. We understood each other with smilies and hand gestures, which taught me that I don't always need to communicate with language, that there are other forms of understanding.

How has your time abroad impacted your life?

I do stuff now that I usually didn’t do before. Some few examples of this is that I enjoy drinking warm water, I offer other people the last bit of food before taking it myself, I begin to pour the drink to other people's cups before mine own and I am a lot more humble towards people now than compared to before I went to China.