I had always wanted to see the pandas up close and this was the perfect opportunity.
Why did you choose GoEco?
They allowed me to work alongside the pandas and were able to help with transport and accommodation.
What was your favorite part about your placement location?
Working with the pandas, and the local food.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
They taught me about the local culture and food, and so many other things!
What surprised you most about China?
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed China, by how picturesque it is, by how generous and helpful the people were, and by how good the food was!
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I had a few extra days at the end of the program to continue exploring the local area.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
Breakfast, walk to work, clean out the panda enclosures, feed the pandas, have lunch, feed the pandas, prepare the bamboo, afternoon break and activity, dinner, and then an evening activity.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
Learning mahjong and Chinese, or watching movies and documentaries.
How difficult was it to communicate with locals?
It was sometimes challenging as I had no Chinese, but sign language is always helpful.
What was your accommodation like?
It was great - located close to the panda centre and with super good food!
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to China?
Make sure you take any medications that you might need that could be difficult to purchase in china. For example, cold and flu tablets or cough lollies.
What made your experience abroad unique?
I did something I had never imagined I could do!
Would you recommend your program to others? Why?
Absolutely! It was well organised and environmentally responsible.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
This program will be physically demanding, so make sure you are ready.
Now that you're home, how has your time in China impacted your life?
I know so much more about China than I did before, and love telling others about what a remarkable country it is.
What do you feel the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is?
You really gain insight into another part of the world, even if only for a week or two. It changes your perspective and reminds you of how similar we all are.
If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?
I don't have any particular places in mind, but I love doing something that gives back to communities, people, and animals.
What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad?
Sometimes the unknown is hard, but I find once you get there and meet the people, there was no need to worry.
Suzette is a teacher and librarian for most of the year, but she loves to have an adventure or two every year. She has always loved pandas, ever since she read a great book about them when she was young. Though Suzette might have misplaced the book, her experience with real pandas in Chengdu, China more than makes up for the missing picture book.