china (45)

Almost Home

Suggestions to future students

Here I am sitting in the Vancouver airport waiting to fly to Calgary and after spending 2 months in China, I do not want to come home. The experience has been even more amazing then I thought it was going to be and I have learned so much about china, teaching and myself along the way. As a result, I will talk about some of the things I learned during my trip and things that I wish I would have learned before leaving for my trip.

  1. English speakers are far and few between- After traveling to many countries in the world I realized that almost everywhere you go you can get by using English for basic conversations and day to day life. However, this was not the case in China. It was rare to find somebody who spoke English which sometimes made it hard to communicate with people. Google translate is a MUST as it helped us deal with a lot of situations where English would not help
  2. Internet usage- The “Great firewall of China” sometimes made it extremely hard to get things done. Course readings were blocked by the government which meant that unless you were connected to a VPN you could not access them. I only downloaded two VPNs which I felt was not enough as they were often impossible to connect to. I would suggest downloading 5-10 different VPN apps for when your having a hard time connecting.
  3. Amazing food- China has some of the most amazing cuisine in the world which often came at a very reasonable price. You could easily find a meal for under 3$ and the food on campus was amazing. The university is known throughout the city for having amazing food and I can assure you this is right. The only struggle was sometimes using menus that had no English translations on them. We often ordered dishes that we had no idea what they were so anybody who is a picky eater might have a hard time with some of the meals.
  4. Learning mandarin across boarders- Although this program is called Teaching across boarders, I felt like this trip was more about learning a language. The teaching opportunities in china were very small and allowed us to be in the classroom for a maximum of 3 hours a week. Before I left, I was very excited to get into the classrooms and teach local students, however, most of the time spent here was in the 4 hours of language classes a day which unless you studied outside of class would be very hard to keep up with.

The trip was amazing and I know I will take this experience with me into my future teaching practice

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Coming to an end

Hello everyone,

Since my last blog post we have been very busy with our chinese courses and teaching.  Our chinese teachers have completely stopped using English in the classrook which has contributed to my confusion in class.  This has required us to study beyond the classroom setting just to keep up with the course material and balance that between teaching and our online classes in canada.
 
In the primary school that I teach at here in Xi'an, they work out of an English workbook for all of their classes.  This is nice as it provides good guidence and lessons to use in the classroom as well a greater range of resources while worling with esl students. However, over the past few week my partner teacher has given me the freedom to choose my own topics as she felt having the students listen to a native English speaker was the most valuable for their English development.  I was able to teach diverse lessons that the students voted on such as a lesson on African animals and photography after my photography trip to africa, a lesson on world cultures which exposed them to some very diverse cultures I have had the pleasure of experiencing and a lesson all about canada where every kid got a sample of maple syrup! After moving into these lessons the students seemed much more excited as it gave them a small break from their regular English routine.
 
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Ive also been able to meet some really awesome people over the last month  which I feel has made my time here more authentic. As a former fine arts student and future art teacher I was very interested in learning about chinese art and specifically Chinese paintings. I knew this may be tough as there are no painting courses here and the few I found were in chinese which would make it very challanging to learn such a specialized and complex style. I luckily met a student doing her masters in art history who had previously completed her bachalors of fine arts in china. I nervously hinted that I was try in to find somebody to learn from and she graciously offered to teach me! After some practice paintings we fianally moved on to a full landscape and spent a few days completing it. The experience was extremely valuable as I feel like the techniques I learned can be integrated into my teaching practice and give the students an alternative approach to a subject like art which has so many possabilities. It has also proven to me once again how generous and kind hearted the people are here in china which has made it even harder to leave this beautiful country.
 
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Back Home and Still Processing

Hi Everyone,

I have been home for two days now, and it is almost culture shock in the opposite direction. Calgary is such a quiet city and way less busy; however, it is nice to sleep in your own bed.

Just reflecting on my time in China has been interesting, the people were fantastic, and I made a lot of good, hopefully life long, friends, but I am incredibly surprised by how much I enjoyed teaching English to English Language Learners. The students in the school we were in were not typical Chinses students as they all want to travel abroad for university. The China Tab students were in an international school whose focus was having students go abroad for university, the students were therefore being encouraged to participate in classrooms in a more "Western" style manner. It was very interesting and fun. So, it was similar to home, but it still had it own distinct flavour. I think the hardest challenge though was that students were still not comfortable asking questions in fear of looking silly in front of classmates. This is not as big of a problem in Canada, so I needed to find other ways to catch any questions that kids had. It turned into a lot of teamwork worksheets, where I would walk around the classroom and individually ask groups. Or fun reading activities, where I would have students read instructions and attempt the challenge: Like doing the loon call hand whistle. I was sad and am still sad that I had to leave. So much so, that I have already looked into how to complete my TEFL so that I may teach in China in the future as I really enjoyed my time while I was there.

All the students were sad that I was leaving, and I had a card made for me from each class I was teaching. Here is a picture of one of them:

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The other amazing opportunity from the China trip was being a part of the Shaanxi Normal University English Corner, a program the was about trying to break down barriers between foreigners and Chinese people, and gave everyone a chance to practice English. It was a fun group to be a part of and I really enjoyed hosting and coming up with fun topics to discuss. Here is a pic of the last event, of all the people that attended!

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This is going to be my last post as my travels in China are done with TAB. Thanks for being a part of my journey!

Ross

 

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Sad to say our time’s come to an end…

Hey everyone! Right now, I’m in Beijing in a layover before going home. I am in disbelief I was lucky enough to travel and live in Xi’an for these two months. For my last post, I wanted to express my gratitude for a few things that made this experience absolutely wonderful. 

SNNU:

Our coordinator at SNNU (Yijin) was absolutely amazing. This year, the visa process has changed and became immensely frustrating. Yijin was working so hard to make sure that we were able to leave Canada as scheduled. She also supported us within the middle school we were working at and even secured Brett a teaching position at the elementary school. She was so welcoming and invited us to her home to even make dumplings with her parents and learn calligraphy from her husband. That was a fun experience I’ll never forget! Thank you, Yijin for all your help and support!

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Teachers:

I have to thank my teachers at SNNU for being so kind, patient, and supportive of the learning process. Every teacher knew every students’ name and developed such a positive relationship with us. I loved getting to know them as well as the effort they made to learn about us as people, not just students. Their ability to build relationships with us made the class much more engaging and is a model for how I want to engage with my secondary students in my upcoming practicum. I want to thank them for being so welcoming and teaching me more about teaching! 

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SSFBC:

A huge thank you goes out to the middle school we taught at, SSFBC. The staff was so warm and caring and also modelled healthy student-teacher relationships. It seems from my experience that relationships form the basis for teaching in China, fairly similar to Canada. I also want to thank all the teachers who welcomed us into their classrooms. This has been a valuable learning experience in learning about ELL students and the feedback and insights into teaching our students were very helpful. Thank you for taking a risk and letting some Canadians come into the classroom and teach your students!

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Friends:

Thank you to all the local friends we made in China. They were so happy to help us when we wanted information, guidance, and advice and for that, I’ll always be grateful! They also taught us so much about Chinese culture and daily life. Being able to chat with other foreigner and Chinese friends about our experiences was so fun. Thank you all for each of your invitations to eat, do activities, and just hang out. I will never forget how friendly the people in Xi’an are because of you all!

That’s all for now. Next time you’ll see me, I will be home in Calgary, and I can’t wait to see my friends and family.

再见,

Sam

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Never Too Late

Hello evyerone,

Sorry for sending this out so late, I have been living like a local, studying Mandarin, and getting forgetful of everything I need to do. My time in Xi'an is coming to a close and it is a lot to process. I have met amazing people and have had an absolutley amazing time learning abroad. One of the big things that I had as a take away from this trip is from taking Mandarin language classes and teaching English as well. It made it much easier ot relate to the students, albeit thier English is lightyears ahead of my Mandarin, but it also allowed me to realize what the important aspects of language are. Especially if students want to sound like native speakers. I feel like revisiting what it is like being a student in a completely new environment has helped me get back to the roots of what I want to do as a teacher.

Teaching in a Chinese classroom has been a fantastic experience and everyone here has been amazingly supportive. We have had some difficulties with scheduling, as the University here has changed our Mandarin Comprhensive A classes around, but it has all worked out. My Mandarin is also improving, albeit slowly. Sam and I have talked and we both agree that with a bit of brushin up, we would definitly be able tot take the HSK 1, which is pretty exciting.

Here is a picture of the thank-you card that I recieved from one of my classes today! It was my last day teaching before getting ready to head back home, so it was a pretty fun day.

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Canada, I'm coming home.

Ross

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What I wish I knew

Hey everyone,

There is only a week and a half left of our TAB experience. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone! I thought for this post, I would make a list of things to think about or that I wish I knew coming into the TAB program.

Funding: If you’re hesitant about coming to TAB because of financial reasons, there are many different places to seek financial support! As mentioned on the TAB website, places like Student Activity Fund and the International Study Travel Grant are great places to start. Doing a bit of searching will really help you too, especially for country-specific travels as well as by faculty. For example, students going to China have the CNOOC International Canadian Global Leaders in China Award available to them and students in the science faculty can apply for IDEAS fund. While the applications can seem like a lot of work, the end results are usually worth it! I highly suggest you apply for everything and anything that may apply to you.

Costs: Everything in China is SO cheap, well, aside from the luxury malls. Good food is everywhere, and it is all very cheap – a meal at the student canteen is 10 yuan on average which is $2 CAD! Off campus, you can find meals and snacks just a bit more expensive, starting at 15 yuan to 30 yuan. There are fancier restaurants that very excellent food that runs about the same price as home as well if you are interested in a fancy dinner one night! As for getting around, bus fare is 2 yuan, a subway ticket will cost up to 5 yuan and taxis will vary, similar to Canada depending on the distance and time. However, the campus of Shaanxi Normal University that we stay on (Yanta campus) is very central, so you can walk to many popular places in 20-30 minutes. As for the method of payment, WeChat Pay is extremely popular, but it may be too difficult to get because you will not have a Chinese bank account. We have been getting by just fine with cash, but some places will only accept WeChat Pay so if you encounter those, you may need to get creative.

Living accommodations: For China, you’ll be living in a hotel on campus called Qi Xia Yuan hotel. It doesn’t have its own address, unfortunately, so keep this in mind if you are thinking about sending or receiving packages from here (I struggled for 2 weeks trying to get my ballot mailed to me for the federal election!). They are fairly nice, but your room may be lacking things like towels, hand soap, shampoo, hangers, etc. I would say it is a good 50/50 split between a dorm and a hotel. However, many of the items you will need will be steps away from the hotel at the supermarket. It is very convenient and cheap! The hotel rooms have one private bathroom, one desk, one closet, one chest of drawers, a couple of chairs, and two twin beds. You may be paired with another international student staying here, but it is a chance to make a new friend. Also, there are no clothing driers, so keep this in mind when deciding what clothes to bring.

Day to day life: My day usually consists of Mandarin classes in the morning, lunch, a bit of downtime, teaching (a couple of times a week for 1-2h each), and some more downtime in the afternoon and evening. Usually there is some sort of assignment and/or homework to do for classes at home or our Chinese classes, but overall, it has definitely been manageable! I was stressed about being able to balance sightseeing, homework, university classes, and travelling, but it has been mostly smooth sailing. We have a lot of time to meet up with local friends, plan the English Corner, and sightsee around Xi’an, so it has been wonderful.

Those are some of the things I remember thinking about during my preparations. If you are thinking about coming to Xi’an for TAB, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions. I have had an amazing time here and I hope you will too!
Sam

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The national holiday in Xian

Hello Everyone!

We are now over halfway through our teaching abroad journey and it has been an amazing experience so far. We have been fortunate enough to be here for the national holiday which has given us a little bit of a break from our daily mandarin and teaching. We initially planned to travel to Chengdu for the holidays but were warned by nearly everybody that we talked to that this week is a terrible week to travel as most of the country has the week off and nearly every temple, park and attraction is overrun by local tourists enjoying the holiday. For somebody who is not fond of crowds I was happy to have some time to relax and check out some things in our city. This week was the 70th anniversary of the republic of china and the people here are very proud of it. Chinese flags lined every street and flags are flown from vehicles to celebrate the achievements and culture of china. This is a weeklong holiday, however, as our teacher said “The government doesn’t like giving people days off, so they create more working days to make up for it in the prior and following weeks. This means that classes run on the weekends for students from primary school to university to make up for the time off. This concept seemed very strange to us, but the people here did not seem to mind!

During the week off we were able to work ahead in some of our classes which will give us some more time in the future for sightseeing and experiencing the local culture. One of the most exciting things that we did during the holiday was a dumpling making lesson with the family of our university contact. She warmly invited us into her home to meet her parents, husband and 10-month-old baby. Since being in china I have been amazed at how welcoming the people are and are willing to go out of their way to make your experience in china extra special. Although her parents could not speak any English, we were still able to communicate with the small amount of mandarin we have learned which lead to many laughs and countless smiles! After making and eating hundreds of dumplings her husband graciously gave us all a Chinese calligraphy lesson as he loves practicing and learning about the ancient and still very popular art of calligraphy.

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Another memorable experience I’ve had while here is having to opportunity to learn more about the local beer culture. Having a twin brother who owns a brewery in Calgary has given me opportunities here that I would have never imagined. We stumbled upon a craft beer festival one night and I was able to make a very good friend after conversations about craft breweries. Having some time off from classes gave me the opportunity to hang out with him more and he ended up inviting me to his brewery to help brew beer. I was able to spend two full days working with him and his team making some delicious IPAs which is an experience I will surely never forget! He was also able to connect with my brother and is coming to Calgary for two weeks to brew and learn more about the craft beer industry in Canada!

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My goal for the following weeks is to continue to develop my mandarin as well as experience more of Xi’an. We started our education experience here teaching in the mornings and going to language classes in the afternoon which has been slightly tiering as we don’t get off class until 6:30. This has made it hard to see some of the things we have wanted to within the city as the sun goes down as soon as we are done classes. However, our classes have been switched to the mornings which will give us a lot more time to experience the rich history and culture of the city while still continuing to teach and develop our mandarin and working with local students. Its hard to believe we only have three more weeks abroad before we come home!

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Halfway done...

Hey everyone! I wanted to share an update of all the wonderful things that have happened since my last post.

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This week is China’s national holiday, which is basically a whole week of holiday. This year is China’s 70th birthday, so the celebrations are extra big. When I was in Beijing back in August, I saw them preparing something big for the holiday, but unfortunately, I never saw what it was! We were originally thinking of travelling to Chengdu (where the panda breeding site is!), but life got in the way of planning, plus every Chinese person we have met highly recommended we don’t travel during this time, so we listened to their advice. Due to the holiday, business days gets shuffled around a bit so we had Mandarin class on a Sunday last week, and next weekend, we will also have class on a Saturday – this is quite an odd concept for me to wrap my head around, but I am eager to keep learning Mandarin even if it is a weekend! So far this week we have been taking it easy and working on classes or visiting friends that we’ve made here. I am still astounded by the friendliness of the locals here! Everyone is so helpful and welcoming – I couldn’t ask for a better experience.

Now for an update on teaching! We’re still working on the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in my reading classes. I have been finding it hard to get an understanding of their comfort level with reading since my classes are on the quieter side and are less willing to share with me. I’m working on developing a relationship with the students, but there are so many students to know in so little time. Something else I’m really excited about is teaching biology within the school. A teacher has graciously offered to share her class with me halfway through our time here and I’m loving it. I miss talking about science, so I am extremely grateful to my teacher (Katie) and the staff at SSFBC for being so flexible and welcoming our involvement at the school. So far, we have talked about DNA and proteins. Since my class is entirely ELL (completely the opposite of my experience in Field II), it is much harder to gauge if the students understand what you are saying. Some students are very vocal and will voice their understandings, but these are usually the students who have the best English and background knowledge of biology. Trying to see where the quieter students are at is a much harder task. Some strategies I’ve used so far is printing off slides for them (that contain English and Mandarin), using collaborative review tools, and constantly repeating the main message of each slide. My Mandarin is also helping me make analogies with the students to help them grasp biology concepts too! I think where I want to go next is less me presenting and more of the students doing activities. I’ll have to do a bit more planning to accommodate this vision!

Other fun things that have happened:

  • Ross and I are taking dance lessons at a dance studio! While none of the teachers speak English, being able to watch them and listening to their intonation is really helpful – this is something I can take away from this experience with helping ELL students.
  • We joined a group of SNNU students who plan an event called English Corner! This event gathers together locals and foreigners to discuss topics in English.

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再见!Until next time,

Sam

 

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The Weekend before Golden Week

Hi Everyone,

Things have been going great so far in Xi'an. Like I said before we have meet super amazing people and have been doing a lot of really amazing things! One of the super cool things that we did as help host an english corner with other students at the univeristy! Here is a photo of me hosting and helping some people with our discussion questions. Our topic of discussion was Recycling, as Xi'an just implememtned a huge city wide recycling program. We asked individuals what they thought of it and showed many informational videos on it.

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We also went to the Terracotta warriors and met the farmer who stumbled upon them. He was very impressed that I knew how to write my chinese name (which I've had since birth, but no one realizes that I am half-Chinese when first meeting me here).

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Finally, I can't remember if I mentioned it in my last post but we are teaching reading, specifically the book The Boy in The Striped Pajamas. On one of my worksheeets I gave the optino of drawing a duck and look at the masterpiece one of my students drew. The translation of the chinese means rushing, so it is a rushing duck! The teaching is going well and thier english is quite good, I have now moved away from reading in class and have done other activites with them, as they are now expected to read at home. We did some tongue twisters in class, and those went... extremely well... for me. They had some difficulties but it was defintily fun! So far the experience has been amazing and it has really opened my eyes as to how to facilitate learning in a classroom where people are not native speakers of the language you teach in. Using a lot of simple words, speaking slowly, explaining as much as you can, and employing stronger students to help explain things in thier own native languages to others are all strategies I have used to help make reading and learning much easier. It has definitly made me reconsider my concentration and I wonder whether or not I would like to teach eEnglish as a second language instead of chemistry. We will see what the future holds. I digress, nothing I do will top the rushing duck that was drawn for me though.

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Until next time,

Ross

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Learning and Teaching in China

Ni Hao Everybody!

We have now been in china for 3 weeks and it has been quite the experience. Since coming here I have been very surprised by the very small amount people who speak any English which has been a big motivator to put in even more effort in learning mandarin. I quickly learned all the numbers, how to ask how much something costs, types of meat for reading and ordering in restaurants as well as how to say Canada in Chinese, Jia Na Da (I always thought country names were the same wherever you go). We have been spending 4 hours a day, Monday-Friday in mandarin classes which has also been a challenge. We started with learning basic pronunciation using the English alphabet and learning how to distinguish and pronounce the 4 mandarin tones. This first part seemed to come very naturally to the Canadian students who were already familiar with the phonetic sounds that the alphabet letters make, however things quickly changed after the introduction of Chinese characters. Reading and writing the characters has been a challenge in itself which requires lots of review outside of class time so you don’t fall behind in the class. This experience has given me a much greater understanding and appreciation of what its like trying to learn a foreign language as so many people do when immigrating to North America.

This brings me to my next experience in Xian, Teaching English. We were all placed in a high performing high school for our teaching component of the TAB program which is designed for students looking to study in North America and Europe. As a result, the classrooms are meant to simulate a North American learning environment and many students have very good English already. As an elementary specialist I was lucky enough to have our contacts in Xian arrange a second practicum for me at an elementary school which I feel has been a much more eye opening experience. One of the biggest differences from schools in Canada is the fact that every class has over 60 students! The two classes I’ve been placed in have 62 and 64 students compared to 24 in my second practicum in Canada which is honestly still crazy for me to think about. However, the students are usually very well behaved and have a high desire and drive to expand their knowledge while learning English. My first lessons required a lot more classroom management then I was used to as the classes are so big in addition to the kids being more excited from having a foreign teacher (Hopefully this will change once they get used to me being in the classroom).

I am very excited for the next 5 weeks of teaching and getting to know the students better while constantly developing my mandarin skills. I will leave you with a picture of my crazy class! See if you can find me!

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你好!

A lot has happened in the last two weeks. This week we started our Mandarin classes. All our teachers have been so patient, kind, and funny! They make speaking in class very comfortable and are really helpful when correcting us (the four tones are so hard to consistently get right at the beginning!). All of us have been enjoying them so far, and I cannot wait to learn more. Sept 13 is the moon festival and our class received free moon cake! As Brett loves to say, 好吃!

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Another big thing that has begun this week is our internship with SSFBC school. Last week, we came in and observed some classes. I was lucky enough to observe a math and science class this week. To help students understand, the teachers would use both English and Mandarin. I saw this done in different ways. For example, one teacher had her slides in all English and would supplement by speaking in Mandarin, and another teacher would speak in English then translate to Mandarin. The teachers generally took on the same teaching strategies we use at home such as review problems from the last class, a mini-lesson, then time to practice what they learned.

SSFBC is tailored for students who want to attend university abroad in English-speaking countries, so they have English usually integrated into most of their classes, as well as dedicated English listening/speaking and reading classes. At the moment, I have been assigned to two classes as their reading teacher. I was nervous since I have never taught students how to read before, plus I have not had a lot of experience with ELL students, but I thought, “It’s fine, you’ll have a partner teacher and they’ll show you the ropes”. However, when the day came, I was shown to the classroom and was basically told to take it away! I was surprised and I definitely did not have anything prepared for class. It was a shaky experience and initially, I was criticizing myself for all the things I did or did not do, but after some time to reflect, I have realized that I really appreciated this experience in understanding myself as a teacher. This was the first time I’ve truly had to “wing it” in the classroom and I did a solid job! Sometimes, I must accept that not all attempts at teaching will go well, and that is okay! Just something to continue to work on. Needless to say, I had a lot of ideas after reflecting and talking with Ross and Brett. I’m happy to report that my second attempt with the other class went much smoother! I can’t wait until I see them next week!

再见!

Sam

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Learning more in Xi'an

Hi everyone,

Things have been pretty awesom in Xi'an so far. We just started teaching at the Middle School (I have been assigned to a grade 10 class) and I am teaching reading. The book that I was assigned was The Boy in The Striped Pajamas, a book about the holocaust from a 9 year old's perspective. The reading level is variable between students and the classes. On our first day we were only able to get though 3 pages.

The class itself was super awesome, the kids took a bit of coaxing, but they would answer questions and ask questions as well! So, off to a good start.

On a seperate note, we are learning Mandarin, and it has been a lot of fun so far. We also have a friend of ours teaching us basic calligraphy. I have attatched a photo of what I have so far learned and practiced! Hopefully the photo comes out the right way!

Until next time,

Ross

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The way to Xi'an

Hello everybody,

Brett here, I am finally in Xi’an after traveling through central Asia since mid-July. The last month and a half has been very busy leading up to our teaching abroad. Over the last 6 weeks I have made my way through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and Tibet and covered nearly 5000km overland. Through my travels I’ve met various local minorities, explored countless ancient caravan sites,  experienced a Tibetan sky burial and spent over two weeks sleeping in my tent (Often at over 5000M). I wanted to do this to experience ancient cultures that contributed to the culture in Xi’an where we will be teaching. For anybody who doesn’t know, Xi’an is one of the oldest cities in china and historically marked the start (or the end, depending on which way you start) of the silk road. This has resulted in a very diverse city which still has many Muslim Chinese people living within. After getting into china I was very pleased with the transportation infrastructure and I quickly realized how far behind we are with ours in Canada. Although my mandarin was very poor before getting here I quickly was forced to learn basic phrases to help me get around the cities. “ticket booth” “Where is…..” and “I need to go…” have been the most useful since my time here. However, reading Chinese characters has been one of my biggest challenges and hesitations when thinking about teaching and studying here.

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I am looking forward to learning more about the thousands of years of history that Xi’an has to offer and seeing how the ancient relationships between china and the rest of the countries on the silk road has shaped the current local life here. People here are very proud of their history and after spending a few days in Xian I have realized that everybody wants to tell you about it. I am also very excited to be in intensive mandarin classes which has been arranged by the university that we are staying at. I imagine that after 4 hours of language lessons 5 days a week will get us speaking, reading and hopefully writing on a basic fluent level. I think that in a multi-cultural city like Calgary the intensive language lessons will give us opportunities to teach and interact with students that may have not been possible before.

We have our first meeting with the school we will be teaching in today and are sitting in on classes tomorrow afternoon to get a better idea of how the daily schedule and routine in the schools works. We are getting placed in the international department of the school which is for students who aspire to study post-secondary school in North America. I believe the students will value our presence as north American speakers highly while we are teaching in the classroom and I am looking forward to interacting with them and helping them further develop their English language skills.

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Starting off strong

Hi Everyone,

China is awesome! I spent the first week down in Guangzhou hanging with family where I got to see a lot of family history and other things. Food was amazing, and everything else was fantastic too. The bridge pictured above is an old port that my family used to own (not so old now and definitely no longer a port though).

I've been in Xi'an for a couple of days now with the rest of the team and it has been awesome! Once again, good food, lots of walking and a lot of history. I can't wait to see what the history up in Xi'an is like.

I am also extremely excited to teach in a Chinese school. I will be meeting with the school and the teachers later today! Things will definitely go well.

Until next time,

Ross

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Aspirations for Xi'an

Hey everyone, this is Sam reporting from Xi’an in my new home (aka the Intentional Students Hotel) at Shaanxi Normal University (SNNU). I have been travelling all around China for the last two weeks, so I’m glad to finally be able to settle in one spot for a couple months. My travels took me to Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, and finally, Xi’an. This is only my second time out of North America, and this time I didn’t have a native language speaker to help me along the way. To prepare for TAB, I learned and practiced basic Mandarin using the typical language learning apps (Rosetta Stone – free with a Calgary Public Library card – and DuoLingo). By the time I got here, I had simple phrases down like buyao (don’t want), # ge ren (number of people in your party at a restaurant), and zhe ge (this one). Surprisingly, knowing these simple phrases has helped me get pretty far in my travels. I have also been relying heavily on translation apps as well. However, it really doesn’t help when locals speak rapid-fire Mandarin because you look (and are) Chinese! This is why I can’t wait for the language component of our SNNU placement. I’m really excited to come back hopefully being able to put together full sentences in Mandarin! I’m also quite interested in experiencing the world through a language learner perspective. I grew up speaking English in a predominantly English-speaking country, so I have never been in the language minority. In China, my role will be reversed, and I will be tasked trying to navigate life through a place not necessarily built for English speakers. I think TAB will be enlightening in connecting with ELL students back in Canada. I’ve already got a taste of what it feels like and I’m looking forward to immersing myself even more once TAB officially begins. I am nervous to be in a foreign language environment, but I’m also looking forward to the challenge!

I just wanted to end my first post with a bit of thanks for the groups that are supporting my aspirations! I want to thank the International Study Travel Grant, the Student Activity Fund, and IDEAS Fund for their support. I am thankful for having opportunities to further my education abroad and for having such wonderful organizations to support my growth into a future teacher!

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Back in Canada

Apologies for my late last post everyone!

It's finally over and I've settled back into my daily routines in Canada. In some ways, the whole experience feels like it was some surreal dream. Everything about the trip was so different and unfamiliar that it feels unbelieveable that just a couple short weeks ago, I lived in China. I suppose that's what travel is meant to do; it shocks you.

Although being back in Canada is comforting and easy, a part of me cannot help but feel like there is something more that I could be doing now that I am back. When I was on TAB, I felt like I needed to make the most of every day since I only had two months in the country. Every weekend, I felt like I needed to travel or see something, or if not travel, then I needed to very intentionally rest or complete assignments so that I could go travel another day. It was an exciting way to live because I knew that I was getting the most out of every moment that I had in China. Now that I am back however, I have lost some of that urgency to explore and discover since I have all the time in the world. Calgary will always be here for me; it can wait. Now that I am verbalizing these thoughts in my blog, it's a bit sad to think that I am not making the most of the time that I have. I know that this "urgency" is all in my head but it's hard to break out of my comfortable, easy routines here. 

I guess in a way, this is my wake up call! Even in Calgary, I can be an explorer. I may not necessarily go looking for adventure every free moment I have (since I do have Field III to attend to after all). That said, I need to recapture some of the spirit of travel and discovery that I had when I was in TAB and inject that back into my life. I've heard that being a tourist in your own city is actually one of the most exciting things you can do! 

 

Yours,

David Kang

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China Here I Come!

My experience in China was full of many highs and lows, easts and wests and successes and failures. For my final blog post, I figured I would highlight 10 points I wish I had considered more thoroughly before I left!

  1. Flights – Plan for the unexpected – crossing the ocean always involves a certain level of logistical challenges, and delays are common. Be sure to pack what you need in your carry on luggage to spend a night in an airport!
  2. Presence - Don’t expect people to know who you are and why you’re there – use the letter you are provided and use it often. Especially at the university, there are many moving pieces and officials appreciate the documentation.
  3. Language - Don’t think English is universal – study Chinese before you go and be ready to slow down the way you talk and use your hands often. Most of the people you meet in Xi’an will speak very little English, so be adaptable in your explanations.
  4. Traffic – It is VERY different – The rules in China can seem very chaotic at first and pedestrians do not have the right of way. However, everyone gets where they’re going. Make sure you always keep your headphones out and look in every direction before crossing any road, big or small.
  5. Food – Bread, butter, cheese, as well as many other western products and even ovens are not commonplace in China. Instead, get used to enjoying many surprise dishes involving noodles or rice as their starch! This is particularly important if you have any dietary concerns.
  6. Laundry – It may seem simple but if you’re used to a washer and dryer combo, you’ll be surprised. Aside from professional laundry services, all wash is primarily done by hand or by coin wash machines. Hang drying clothes is the norm, which means you should always allow yourself 2-3 days to finish your laundry.
  7. Class – The language classes are intensive. If you want to learn basic Mandarin, the 4 hours every morning will set you up for success!
  8. Travel – If you want to move around China, be sure you that you set up a Chinese bank account when you arrive. Many transportation websites and tourism companies do not accept credit cards from outside of the Chinese Mainland.
  9. Communication – Download WeChat and become familiar with it before you leave, as it is the most common form of communication, social media and payment in China. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a must, and you NEED to set it up prior to leaving or you will be left without unrestricted internet access.
  10. Support – The most important point I want to make is ALWAYS reach out for support. You are not alone on your journey and your fellow TABer’s, the program director, the university, your liaison and your family and friends are all there for you!
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Domestic Travel in China

Throughout my time in China, I have been consistently surprised about how many visitors to national historic sites, museums and other notable locations are domestic tourists. The local people clearly value and take pride in experiencing their history. As a social studies specialist, I find this domestic tourism particularly interesting. At first, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by the large crowds, while at the same time being overly content about the interest each visitor had while exploring the sites. Pleasantly, despite being warned to expect high volumes of people, every place I visited was delightful and efficient. The Chinese tourism industry has apparently evolved to serve an ever-growing population.

Infrastructure in China is equally as efficient. High-speed trains, twelve-lane highways, and an extensive network of bus routes connect the massive country. However, despite the accessibility of each site, I found it was the people that made the experience memorable. Our guide for our cultural tours was a volunteer. He was a university student studying marketing, and he wanted to take us to various destinations to showcase the best of the region. He had visited many of these locations before and gave up his free time during a busy academic period to show us his country. It was his companionship that genuinely made the museums memorable!

Additionally, I could not possibly explain how much kindness my fellow travellers have shown. David has always been a there with an open ear, willing to share a snack, a story, a laugh and advice. Candace has been the best lobby (and new) friend I could have ever wished for, collaborating with me day in and out on academic and travel plans, in addition to chatting about culture shock.

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What's in a name?

November 4, 2018 

I’m sitting in the airport waiting for a flight to go home now. This past week has been fairly emotional and so busy. I spent the last week making a trip to Hua Shan, visiting the Xi’an Expo Park, cramming in our last assignments, going to Chinese classes, talking about Halloween with my classes, going to a Halloween celebration at our partner school and eating so so much hot pot, chuar chuar and other Xi’an foods I won’t get at home.

The goodbyes have been difficult because I know how hard it is to keep touch when halfway around the world. Everyone has been so lovely in showering us with cards, little momentos and touching remarks, however, there is one that I will be sure to keep with me for a long time.

As part of this experience, one of the tasks that we had was to run a weekly spelling bee – we had to read academic words for spelling teams in each class to try to spell correctly. On the last day, one of the students provided me with a thank you note and it said – “on the first day, I was super confused by your Canadian accent, but then on the second day, I noticed that you remembered my name and then I was so relaxed that I could understand your Canadian accent perfectly!”

I’ll admit that with my 75 students that I only saw for 45 minutes each week, I did not remember everyone’s names, and those that I did remember, I often second guessed. However, this one note showed me that it was worth the effort to spend a little time putting out name tags and asking again and again what the students’ names were.

I was touched that this student wrote me this note, and I didn’t even realize that my Canadian accent would be confusing. There was so much to love about being in Xi’an and I loved how every moment in the school gave me new insights and hope.

 

- Candace

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Now that we are getting closer to the end of our trips here on TAB, I’ve been starting to reminisce about home and get excited to come back to Canada. I love it here in China and I think that I still have so much more to learn in my last two weeks, but after 6 weeks it’s hard to not miss some of the comforts of home. Here are the three things I miss more than anything else:

  1. My own room and bed
  2. Reliable internet without a VPN
  3. BEING A LITERATE MEMBER OF SOCIETY

That last one is not something that I thought I would ever imagine being something I miss, but my oh my, it’s a big one. When I left for China, I completely took for granted the ability to speak the dominant language of a country. Since the day that I’ve been here, it has been a constant (but rewarding and exciting) struggle to communicate and read the most basic things. I cannot wait to get back and be able to read a restaurant menu without pulling out a translator app. It’s especially tricky because I am not a visible minority here so everyone assumes that I can speak Chinese so they rarely slow down their speech for me. It’s always fun to see the looks on their faces when I have to explain in broken Chinese that I am a foreigner, and that I didn’t understand anything they just said!

A pretty standard menu in China. Sometimes they have pictures, but this one was mean.

If there is one thing that I think I can take away from China to mold my understanding of pedagogy, it that I feel I have a stronger foundation for empathizing with ELL students with very low literacy levels. I think that we are extremely lucky here in China because we have the unique situation of being both a language student and a language teacher at the same time. This has given us a wholistic understanding of the additional-language acquisition experience from both ends of the relationship.

In our first days in our Chinese classes, I remember feeling lost and overwhelmed with the monumental task of building literacy in a wildly different language from my own. It’s been a slow slog, but I’m slowly building my arsenal of Chinese characters and phrases that I can say, and it’s done wonders for my confidence here.

Our Chinese language class material... I can read that now!

On the other side of the coin, I’ve been very lucky to teach classes with hugely different levels of English literacy because I can try all sorts of ELL teaching strategies. If nothing else, I’ve become exceptionally good at explaining complex concepts through simplified language! I don’t know to what extent I will be able to apply the lessons that I’ve learned here to my teaching back in Canada, but I’m very happy I’ve been able to gain this insight into what language learners face every day!

 

Yours

David

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