Since 2005, the Schoolhouse at Mutianyu (Eco-Lodge and Restaurant), located just outside Beijing, China, has grown into a comprehensive lodging and dining destination with venues around the Bohai Township. It is an award-winning destination popular for a variety of events, meetings, sightseeing, getaways, and those seeking homemade cuisine. All projects on-site use existing footprints and village structures, restoring traditional architecture into unique spaces to be enjoyed by modern travelers.
The Schoolhouse runs on a business philosophy of sustainable tourism, working to support the local community and geography while adopting green practices and sourcing local ingredients for quality dining experiences. Sponsoring educational and cultural exchange programs, the Schoolhouse seeks to help visitors understand village life. Interns from a wide variety of backgrounds are encouraged to apply, and a small stipend is included. Interns will support day-to-day hospitality activities while also taking part in activities and projects related to their background and interests such as: sustainable foods, business development and event management, accounting, sales and customer relations.
The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu Great Wall is an-award winning sustainable tourism enterprise that offers dining, lodging, and meeting solutions in unique settings just an hour from downtown Beijing. The Schoolhouse lays within the boundaries of the Mutianyu Great Wall Tourism Zone, and includes eleven homes with 30 guest rooms, operating as a for-profit business with the social mission to help sustain the local villages. The Schoolhouse offers challenging internships to students who can bring talent, hard work, skills, and willingness to learn and share to our cross-cultural team. Tailored programs include mentors from the management team providing guidance and encouragement outside daily operations.
The Schoolhouse main building was Mutianyu’s primary school until schools in the rural Bohai Township were consolidated in the early 1990s. The campus and nearby structures lay abandoned until early 2006 when partners Jim Spear & Liang Tang and Julie Upton-Wang & Peiming Wang, took up a challenge from the mayor to give something back to the village where they’d had a weekend home for many years.
The Schoolhouse uses existing buildings, hires and trains local people, supports other village businesses, sources local ingredients, and prepares food from scratch. The entire kitchen crew in all three restaurants (The Schoolhouse Canteen, the Smithy, and Xiaolumian) is comprised of villagers, mainly farm housewives who hadn’t previously worked outside of their homes. Sustainability is a lot more than a buzzword at the Schoolhouse and they have the awards to prove it. They earned 4 Green Stars from Eco Hotels of the World, were selected as the HICAP best sustainable communities development in Asia-Pacific for 2009, and were chosen as one of the top five hotels in China for 2009 and 2010 by Wild China. They also won the PATA China Responsible Tourism award for hospitality and catering in 2012. Read more on The Schoolhouse website.
Internships at the Schoolhouse are tailored to each student’s interests and background. All interns should expect to spend about 20 hours/week on operations and guest services (reservations, check-ins, hosting, event support, etc). Most interns will also work on a special internship project, such as in one of the proposed areas below. Opportunities in education (especially adult ESL) and village outreach are also encouraged, and applicants are not limited to suggestions listed here.
Interns will work on the Schoolhouse’s Sustainability Programs, including composting, recycling, gardening, and food sourcing. There are two main gardens at the Schoolhouse as well as many small garden patches and fruit trees. Homegrown vegetables and fruits are incorporated into the restaurant menus, and all organic waste is composted.
This position requires a proactive individual with gardening experience and a passion for sustainability, and someone with the initiative to take an already functioning program to the next level. Chinese is a must as the position requires working closely with local staff to grow and improve the programs. Interns will have the unique opportunity to enter into a position of responsibility where their efforts can make an immediate and tangible difference.
Interns are needed to help establish and cultivate relationships in sustainable-minded communities, organizations, and businesses in and around Beijing – as well as beyond – with the scope of pursuing partnerships and creating events that add value to the Schoolhouse and promote issues of sustainability. The intern would be given space to envision, plan and execute events that fit into plans to expand and grow the business. This position would be a wonderful introduction to the sustainable tourism industry. Highly-motivated individuals with a keen interest in strategy and business development will do well in this role, and should be prepared to go out and establish contacts in Beijing. Fluency in Mandarin is strongly preferred, as many interactions will take place in Chinese.
Interns with an accounting background are needed to help measure and monitor the triple bottom line impact the Schoolhouse has, taking into account both environmental and societal performance. Aside from measuring current performance, the intern will be responsible for providing a plan to help improve procedures – from food input to energy practices – as well as reduce costs, lessen environmental impacts, and improve overall social performance.
Interns who can help with sales initiatives and customer relations, specifically with regards to tour operators are encouraged to apply. The intern will be responsible for creating a database of existing tour operators, standardizing communications procedures with these operators, as well as expanding the database by envisioning and implementing a strategy to pursue new relationships with tour operators, both in China and abroad.
“I got what I was searching for here. I found a part of myself that is confident, intelligent, yet reserved and careful. Through the challenges of this program, I was able to touch base with my deepest core values. I also have found a deeper appreciation and respect for the values of my host culture. I know now what kind of professional I want to be and have new motivation to keep seeking the kind I strive to be. I know I care about fearlessly exploring global food systems and also even more deeply about what I can do to be part of a better, brighter future for humanity on a more core, fundamental level. What I am talking about is integrity. I can confidently say I am more in touch than ever with mine, with who I really am, and I couldn’t ask for more from this experience. I will move forward with a profound resistance to judgment and generalizations, remembering the unique precious value of each human and life form I encounter. I want to work hard to do something different and this experience bolstered my faith in my own ability to do so. Embrace challenging and disappointing circumstances and you just might find that inner gem of resilience and passion for what you do.”
- Rose, Oregon State University
“The best way to describe this company is a village business with Fortune 500 management. Jim has done a great job implementing systems and policies that find their own errors and easy to work in for a group of people with no formal education or work experience outside of agriculture. People here laugh and smile and really do try to serve the needs of the guests.
The Chinese culture is very interesting, the people are so opinionated about so many topics. The most frustrating aspect of the culture is there is no privacy or personal space. The most rewarding is once you earn their trust and they feel comfortable with you, they speak a million words per a minute and laugh when all I can say is “wo ting bu dong” (I listen but cannot understand). They give me a pat on the back for really trying to speak with them. That alone has made my experience in the village extremely worth it.”
– Thomas, Concordia University
“What stood out to me the most is how beautiful everything is here - the evergreen mountains, the outline of the “Sleeping Buddha,” the walnut and chestnut trees, and my favorite, the sunset that overlooks our neighbor’s corn farm and its adjacent mountains. I really hope I don’t tire of this. There is a restaurant that is open and connects their guests to nature in a very intimate way. Nothing is blocking our view from majestic nature, the Great Wall and delicious food.”
– Vanessa, Seattle University
Summer: January 25
Fall: April 15
Spring: November 15
- Chinese language strongly preferred
- Academic or professional background in sustainability, tourism, hospitality, organic farming, marketing, business, or Chinese studies recommended
- Comfortable with rural and busy hospitality work environment
- Proactive and self-motivated