fall 2017 (113)

Now that it's over...

Having been home for a little bit now, I am beginning to experience many different feelings in regards to our experience in Vietnam. One of my fears was that I would revert back to my old ways when I come back to Canada, and so far I have noticed this concern's relevance. It is easy here - where we have all our needs met - to get wrapped up in things that in Vietnam seemed incredibly trivial. For example, the concept of "public image" is different. In Vietnam, I was looked up to by many. Whether this be due to mislead views of white people, or just an appreciation of foreigners, I found it incredibly shocking that we were such objects of awe in Eastern Asia. It makes me sad, because when back in Canada I interpret most attention or interactions as negative ones, most likely judging the sad state I feel I am in, or trying to tell me how I should better myself for next time. But in Vietnam, this never happened. No one made me feel bad for being myself, and no one made me feel judged - and on the rare occasions where I was judged, I welcomed it with open arms, which usually resulted in some sort of bonding between myself and those who were questioning my actions! Most moments where judgement was occurring towards us, it was delivered with a naive honesty that was based on a concern or compassion of something. Our new found friends were not racist towards our diverse group because they are bad people, but because they didn't know it is considered rude to act that way.

Now do not get me wrong, racism is awful and we should actively work to prevent it. However I realized how sensitive we have become in Canada. We are so scared of offending people in North America now, that everything we say must be filtered. I think this brings up an important notion, because if we are filtering all we say, are we able to be truly honest? Now I do not want people to confuse honesty with cruelty, rudeness. etc. Being honest can be done in a caring way that is evident of the compassion that backs it up. I think a lot of my anxieties are because of all the filtering I am aware is needed before I speak or do anything! Without these concerns in Vietnam I felt I could be more myself. I felt I could express myself genuinely because I knew these people came from a caring place. I don't always feel that back home, but I hope I can continue to feel this way here in Canada. In Vietnam, no one wanted to hurt us. I guarantee our ethnic background had something to do with this, but it also reminded me that this is an option in regards to how we lives our lives. It makes me wonder if Vietnam will grow to become more like Canada's culture as the country develops. Will Asian countries remain collectivist or drift towards the individualist nature of North America? 

I learned a lot about myself on this trip. Ultimately this experience taught me the benefit of taking risks. The missed opportunities that go by when you live in your own little bubble, letting strangers pass you by with regard only for what is on your to do list for that day. We are so wrapped up in our own lives that many of us forget that life isn't anything without having a passion for life itself, for the people, for the world. I have been helped and accommodated so much here, arguably more than I would have been back home. Experiences make life worth living. You might have to do things that feel uncomfortable to get these experiences, but it will not be something you regret. Go with the flow, and don't be hard on yourself when things don't go as planned. There isn't enough love in this world, so let's decide to embody it and enjoy the life we have.

tạm biệt - hẹn gặp lại!

(in English: Goodbye, see you again! )

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Final Reflections!

I can’t believe I’ve been home for 5 days now! It’s definitely been bittersweet, I was incredibly excited to see my family and friends, however, I can’t stop talking about my experiences in Vietnam. From teaching the adorable elementary students to creating bonds with the high school students to the authentic Vietnamese lunches and dinners we’ve had the honour of being invited to. To exploring places such as Ba Na Hills, Marble mountain, Hai Van Pass, Son Tra mountain, etc.

I absolutely miss everything about Vietnam! When we weren’t in the classrooms or working on course work, we would take advantage of the beautiful beaches or opportunity to explore the different areas around Danang! I remember scouting out different restaurants depending on what we were in the mood for that day! I’m going to miss waking up in the morning knowing that everyday would be a new adventure full of confusion and excitement! We would embrace the confusion and take in the excitement that every single day had to offer.

Throughout my stay in Vietnam I have gained a lot of experience, which I believe will help me during my practicum here in Calgary. Although nervous, I am excited to start teaching and applying everything that I learned in Vietnam to my grade 2/3 practicum class!

I am incredibly sad to have left Vietnam but I am very excited to soon return to such an incredible place full of memories and long lasting friendships!

Ps. The jetlag is unreal!

tạm biệt - hẹn gặp lại!

(Good Bye - See you again!)

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Before my adventure ends...

As our time here is coming to and end, the list of things I am grateful for has become larger than expected! I am grateful that Sunaira stayed in a homestay, because we got to experience a family cooked meal to celebrate National women's day here. It was a very interesting time, with lots of rice wine and very good Vietnamese food! We have tried so many new things here, I cannot begin to imagine how it will feel to be back at home. We literally remember thinking about how much time we have to do so many things, but here we are now hearing the end and I feel panicky, as if I can't possibly do everything I want to before we leave. It is a shocking feeling that I didn't expect. Of course I am eager to go home now, but a big part of me wants to stay here!
Today I almost drowned trying to surf. But with some tips from the locals I was successful a handful of times at least! I am constantly shocked at how accommodating and welcoming the people here are. It makes me think that if I saw someone in Canada struggling, would I be willing to throw my own day away to lend a helping hand?
We have been treated so well here. Some of the best experiences I have had here were thanks to people that we connected to by visiting local restaurants. My favourite Pho place ( pronounced 'fa' despite how most Canadians say it!) was somewhere I frequented quite often. I got to know the owner who speaks English only minimally, but enough to become someone I would call a friend. He recently invited my friends and I to his home, where we got to experience a very authentic seafood meal. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. His family treated us like we were their own, and my last day with Phuong at the restaurant was full of brimming tears. I have added him on Facebook, and hope to maintain a relationship in the future.
The last few weeks have been full of everyone saying how much they will miss us, even students we did not get to teach! It humbles you to know how highly these people see you, when we are only just pre-service teachers hoping to help. My decision here was a bold one, as I was incredibly nervous about my abilities to adapt to a different culture and be able to prosper. But the people here, the learning experiences we have gone through, will change my life for the better. I am looking forward to practicum more than I had before, as I feel more strongly about my ability to adapt and be creative. I hope that I am able to carry this back with me to Canada. I am nervous still, but it has turned from an anxiety ridden nervous, to an excited anticipation, which is an important distinction in a life where I have struggled to see the positives out of past challenges. 
I finally know how to speak a few things in Vietnamese, and am devastated that we are leaving just as I feel comfortable here. It is a strange feeling, but one that I will treasure. In the last week we have gotten to celebrate Halloween with both the high school and primary school students, and it was amazing to see the joy they got in celebrating something that isn't even a typical holiday on this side of the world. Sometimes it made me sad however, as I feel they have many relevant celebrations of their own culture, that I think Canada would benefit in from sharing. For example, we learned on November 25th (my birthday!) it is National Teacher's Day in Vietnam. We were told that typically there is no teaching done on this day, as it is devoted to the students celebrating and doing things for the teachers who guide them. This country also celebrated National women's Day, while in Canada we just have the one International Women's Day, which is hardly celebrated as much as it was here! In Canada I fear we are forgetting many values, like gratitude, appreciation, and an overall sense of love. Their lives here are busy like ours, but filled with different concerns, and thus different ways to obtain and see joyful moments. 
I am feeling such bittersweet emotions at the thought of leaving. I will miss my friends here, but I will not forget how they have influenced my life. We were lucky enough to be able to go see a beautiful Buddha statue prior to it's closing (as Donald Trump is staying at the Intercontinental and it is now currently closed down to all public and even the Vietnamese people that worked there!). It was a wonderful way to wrap up our time here in Vietnam, reminding us of the appreciation these people have for their beliefs, their land, and their people. 
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Final Reflection Part 1

As I write this, I have already finished the Teaching Across Borders program in Brisbane, and have arrived home. I fell behind with my blog, due to the busyness of finding a balance between work at St. Aidan’s, finishing final assignments, and trying to fit in as much sightseeing around Brisbane and then Sydney, before having to head back to Canada. Now that I am settled back in Calgary, I am going reflect back on my time at St. Aidan’s School and everything that Lauren and I got up to in Brisbane since I wrote last, and my next post will be a final reflection of the whole experience.

When I last wrote, we had just begun working at St. Aidan’s Anglican Girl’s School, and after spending a few more weeks at the school, I really can’t say enough good things about it. The staff were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and genuinely wanted to know about Lauren and I, where we came from, and about our teaching program at the University of Calgary. We were each given a timetable and spent Mondays, Tuesdays, and a few Wednesdays between a few different classrooms. I found that in all classes I worked in, the teachers were happy to have me there, and made an effort discuss their teaching strategies, or to discuss aspects of the Australian curriculum with me that I wouldn’t have been familiar with. The girls were so lovely, and I loved to see how eager they were to be there and to learn. Similar to the staff, the girls were very curious about Canada and what our lives were like back home, and on a few occasions, I would be asked to say certain words which often resulted in a number of giggles because of my funny “accent”. I spent some afternoons in a Year 3 class while they did Geography, and had a lot of fun talking about Canada in comparison to Australia and answering their many creative questions. In the Year 2 class I was in, they were learning about stereotypes, so I was able to briefly talk about some of the misconceptions that people have about Canada and Canadians.

Often times I was amazed by the type of work I saw the students doing, particularly in the younger grades, as it was very academically focused and what I would consider to be a lot of high quality work given their age. Not to say that this isn’t also the case in schools back home, but what was different, was that I didn’t really observe any play-based learning, inquiry, or constructivism, which are really being pushed in the Canadian system. I realize that I’ve only been to two Australian schools, so I can’t say that this is the case across the nation, and maybe this was just the case at this point of the school year, but I definitely found that while I was there, for the most part, the pedagogical strategy was comparable to traditional styles of teaching.

The main differences that I noticed about the system in Australia compared to that in Canada had to do with curriculum, testing, and assessment. In Canada, the curriculum is provincially developed, whereas in Australia, they have a national curriculum that each school in the country teaches to. Each year in Australia, students in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9 write the NAPLAN (National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy) test, which is like the PAT here. What is different though, is that the results of these tests are published and then compared against similar schools all across the country, for educators and parents to look at on a site called “My School”. I’ve learned, that this can mean schools become competitive with each other, and the focus can sometimes gear towards achieving certain results in the data, and therefore “teaching to the test”, instead of focusing on the individual learners within each classroom and their specific learning needs. This would especially be the case in independent schools, like St. Aidan’s, where tuition isn’t cheap, and parents push to see the results that they want, given that they are paying so much money. The “My School” website says itself, that its aim “is to provide information that will support and drive improvement across the nation”, and “provide parents with information to make informed decisions about their child’s education”, and while these may be good intentions, I can see how this may become counterproductive.

In relation to this, because there is a focus on results, there is also a real focus on assessment, and on what is expected of the students. In each class, I noticed that students would be given an assessment breakdown of what was expected, as well as a checklist of what would need to be completed within the task, and what the teachers were looking for when grading. Back home in Canada, while assessment is definitely a key part of teaching, I’ve found that it isn’t as explicit, and it isn’t always the main focus of all tasks. One teacher at St. Aidan’s explained to me that because of this, she finds that some students become really anxious about their schoolwork, and stress about doing well and achieving the desired results. Not to say that student’s shouldn’t want to do well, but at this age especially, it saddens me to think of the pressure that some must be putting on themselves, when school shouldn’t always be focused on the academic content, but on the learning process itself and the development of skills beyond the academic realm, or sometimes, it’s all about just having some fun!

With all of this said, the teachers at St. Aidan’s were fantastic, and I saw a lot of great work within the wonderfully resourced classrooms. The girls were hard workers, seemed to get along well, and appeared to love being at school. It was definitely interesting though to make these observations and compare what I was seeing to what I know about school in Canada, or more specifically, in Alberta. Below are some photos from the beautiful St. Aidan's!

In between our days at St. Aidan's and working on our own coursework, Lauren and I had many opportunities to explore Brisbane and play tourist. We spent an afternoon at both the Queensland Science Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery, which was fantastic! I could have spent hours wandering the exhibits and checking out the unique artwork. We also had the opportunity to visit Stradbroke Island for the day with the International Students Association from QUT. It was a little bit disappointing at first because it did not stop raining, but it ended up being a lot of fun and the whale and kangaroo sightings were an absolute the highlight. We also got to experience an Australian Wallabies vs. New Zealand All Blacks rugby game, which was an experience to say the least - especially for me who had never seen a rugby game! The atmosphere was super fun and top it off, it was apparently a great game to see, because the Wallabies won against the All Blacks for the first time in years!

I have really enjoyed my experience in Brisbane between working at the two schools and sightseeing, and I can't believe that 10 weeks has already come and gone!

Here are some photos from my final days around Brisbane (otherwise known as Brissie or BrisVegas as I've come to learn)!

The Old Brisbane Treasury Building

King George Square 

The Queensland Art Gallery

Stradbroke Island

Australian Wallabies vs. New Zealand All Blacks

Exploring Brisbane City 

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Garbage in Germany

A riveting topic for many, I'm sure. However, the observations and conclusions made in this simple topic are interesting enough for me to share. This topic directly relates to how well we take care of our surrounding environment and what kind of Earth we are leaving for the future - which I think is relevant for everyone around the world. 

Garbage, Recycling, Bio-Garbage

Germans are efficient and pro-active with their garbage, more than we are here in Canada. People categorize their garbage to up to six categories! Recycling (plastic and such), compost, paper, glass, metal, and just garbage (anything that doesn't fit into any of the categories). When I visited the south, the family I lived with told me that one could face a fine for up to 120 Euros (177 CAD) if they place garbage in the wrong category more than twice. This varies area to area. There is also a special recycling category for items such as mattresses, wood, and other odd items. Germans take their waste seriously and are reflective of where everything should go - making sure that what is left behind is not damaging to the surrounding environment. 

When I stayed with my friends during the Autumn holidays, I kept asking them in which bin the garbage goes. Usually, the conversation would be composed of me asking where each piece of garbage went and why. Sometimes, my friends would say, "that one goes into the special garbage, let me take that outside".  Such conversations showed to me that Germans are more knowledgable of what materials things are made from and how they should be taken care of. 

Even though we, in Calgary, have recently introduced compost bins, not everyone is using them, and not everyone wants to use them. We do have - almost - consistent recycling in our schools and homes, but Germans are still ahead of that compared to us. In schools, they have three categories of garbage that students actually use willingly and properly! Recycling, paper, and garbage. Some areas of the school had compost too. 

I've noted that Germans are a whole lot more aware of the waste they produce that is a consequence of consumption. This reflects directly into how much they consume - or how little - and, if they do consume, they maximize the potential of that consumed item in order to reduce potential waste. After speaking with a few Germans, many expressed that they enjoy having Sundays as "no-consuming" days, because everything is closed. They were concerned with how we are going to keep up with keeping our environment clean while overproducing items for consumptions. They would like as clean as possible environment, but predict that we won't be able to keep up with waste-management if we continue to consume they way we do as a society.

In conclusion, I observed Germans being pro-active with waste reduction and prevention. From my experience in Canada, it would seem that Germans are a bit more reflective and aware of their consumption and waste - and we can definitely learn from them. 

To end this post, I would like to place a video of a song by a famous rapper in Germany. His name is Alligatoah, and he raps about certain social issues to bring attention to them through a popular medium. Now, I know not everyone understands German, therefore the English lyrics are here. The video is also a great watch for it shows the trail we leave as individuals - something to think about. 

One thing I can say for sure, after Germany I am much more aware about what I consume and what waste comes from that consumption.

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Let's Review

Hello from Calgary, 

I am back from Hamburg, and as comforting the snow may be... I would like to go back to Germany! Yes, really, my time there has transformed and moved me enough that I would like to stay. However, it is time to focus on the aspirations I had at the beginning and how they were met - or not! 

The aspirations were: language development, school leadership research, further education research.

Language Development:

My language has definitely improved. I speak with greater confidence than before, and do not find it as stressful or exhausting to speak, listen, and follow in German. Depending on the topic, I do still search for words sometimes; however, I am more fluent than before. I was able to observe a few lessons led in German, and students got to hear me speak it when I was helping them - we had great moments of teaching. As in, they would teach me certain words that I didn't know, and I helped them with the assignments. The students enjoyed being able to teach me and were more open to feedback and help from my side. 

School Leadership Research:

This is still in progress. I am awaiting a response from the vice-principal to my questions about student leadership within the school and community. Although, I did learn about how leadership is understood for teachers in the school that I was at. For them, it meant Professional Development and increasing their education and experience to reach new government recognition in terms of the pay scale. At my schools, teachers are required to complete a minimum of forty hours a year of Professional Development. 

In terms of incorporating leadership in my lessons there, I was able to do so a few times. I had students focus on the language they use to describe their life and become reflective of it - in German and English. Describing your life through active words and actively changing and reflecting on the language that you use is one of the first steps to leading and controlling your life into a positive direction. The students quite enjoyed that - at the end of my time there many of them said that saying "I will do this" instead of "I will try this" has made a big difference in their everyday life and their outlook on it. A few students said that they feel more in control of what they do and what happens around them. 

Further Education Research:

As for further research into possibly going to Law School in Germany - interesting, to say the least. To make a long story short, instead of Law School I would like to focus on furthering my education in a second teachable subject. I have learned, that in Germany, teachers are required to have two teachable subjects in their portfolio (so to say). Perhaps, I may write an exam to get a certificate for my Russian and that can be my other subject. I am still contemplating what exactly I would like to do for this second subject. 

Overall, I look forward to finding out more information on leadership for students and taking what I learned in my German classes into my Canadian practicum. 

P.S. I couldn't resist the baked goods. I had some every day. 

 

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Final Post: Home from Perth, Australia!

Hello Ning blog readers,

I am writing from Canada! It is crazy to think that only a few days ago I was across the world. The jet lag has been more intense than I was anticipating, but I am slowly adjusting. It is difficult to articulate exactly what this experience has meant for me, but I can say with confidence that I’m glad I decided to take this once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s amazing to think how much I did in the span of three months, both in regards to teaching and traveling.

My final two weeks in Australia were amazing. I traveled to a small town south of Perth to visit an exclusively Indigenous school, and it was an eye-opening experience. Most of the students do not live in the town, but get bussed in for days or weeks at a time. Many of them come from a difficult home life and enter the formal education system with little or no preparation. Though there were behavioural issues with some of the students, the majority of them were well-behaved and thrilled to have a visitor in the class. Many of them have physical delays so they start their morning with a half hour physical routine that includes stretching, balance, strength and meditation. The teacher said that the difference she’s seen over a couple of months from using that program have been phenomenal. I definitely intend to incorporate physical breaks into my classroom time, because that type of activity is just as important as traditional school work.

My final week in Australia was spent at a small independent school in a small surf town three hours south of Perth (Margaret River). They have classes for pre-school to grade 7, and there are less than 100 students attending. I found this school fascinating because of their focus on “virtues”- things like compassion, assertiveness, diligence, and truthfulness (there is a list of over 50 virtues; I will attach a picture). They focus on one of these per week. They also do not use a typical reward/punishment system, instead using a “natural consequences” system. E.g., if you draw on the wall, the natural consequence is that you have to clean it up. The school is also surrounded by nature, as it is ten minutes outside of the town. They have class-tended flowers and vegetables growing throughout the school grounds, and they have a designated nature trail where they do plant and insect studies. I can’t exaggerate how much I enjoyed my time at this school. I have filed away many of the practices I saw here for future use in my classroom.

Overall, my experience abroad in Perth was amazing. I got to observe and teach in many different schools, each with their own unique approach to education. I learned something at every stop I made, and have made sure to record every piece that I want to take forward with me in my career. Although I had an incredible experience, I am relieved to be back home with my family and friends. The time difference between Canada and Australia was large, so it feels good to be in the same place and time zone as everyone again (even though there’s approximately a 40 degree drop in temperature between Perth and Calgary). I am excited to start my practicum with grade 2, and am looking forward to the holidays as well.

I will miss Australia, and can’t wait to go back someday. The value of studying and teaching abroad cannot be overstated, and I encourage anyone considering it to go for it. It is an experience that you will remember forever, and you will learn so much about yourself and gain so much knowledge that will help you in your future career. For me, it is on to the next chapter, but I know this will not be my last teaching exchange. Now that I have the confidence to travel on my own and put myself in new situations, I can look forward to a future full of more opportunities like TAB.

That’s all for now. Thanks to anyone who has been keeping up with my blog! I look forward to reading everyone’s posts from this year and from future years! As promised, a few pictures from the small independent school in Margaret River: 

Class-tended gardens:

Nature trail: 

List of virtues: 

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Obrigada for eveything Brazil

 Now that the TAB experience is over, I'm looking ahead to my practicum. I am so excited to take what I have learned and experienced in Brazil and share my new perspective and realizations in my teaching. I have been making connections between my experiences in Brazil and what I have learned in Interdisciplinary and Indigenous classes and I am excited to put it all into practice with my partner teacher in my kindergarten classes. Stories, indigenous perspectives, building relationships and being able to relate to ELL students are just some of my main takeaways from my combined online courses/TAB experience. Brazil has more than one story or narrative and I was able to experience many different parts of Brazil – the flashy tourist beaches of Rio, everyday life in Goiania, homeless villages in Sao Paulo and many parts in between. Brazil has a very negative stigma attached to it because people tell one story, instead I am coming home with many stories of Brazil – some bad, but more so good. I met amazing people, traveled to different towns/cities, and learned some of the history. I learned about how the education system is working for the students and in the ways that it doesn’t. There is always room for improvement, even in Canada.

I came home with exactly what I set out to get – a new and different perspective to teaching and life in general.

As much as I miss Brazil, it is good to be home. Even with the snow and cold.

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Hamburg Germany TAB experience in a nutshell



I’m slowly adjusting to Calgary life, I just finished switching out my summer stuff with winter clothes. It feels strange sitting in my room reflecting back on what is now a memory. The TAB opportunity definitely provided me an incredible experience which supported my growth professionally and personally. My time in school allowed me to build relationships, understand difficulties ELL students face, and what I need to include in my future lesson designs in order to reach them as well.

The students were very sweet and although I couldn’t speak German, I felt well connected with them. I don’t know how that happened…Maybe it was because I wasn’t distracted by what they said, instead focused on body language and on what they did. I had the same experience with my roommate who couldn’t speak English. We connected well even though we couldn’t verbally understand each other. This just goes to show that I shouldn’t limit my interactions due to language barriers. It can be frustrating but it isn’t the only factor when it comes to connecting and building relationships. Plus, majority of our communication is made up of non-verbal body language. That brings me to my second highlight of this experience. The length of this program allowed me to get to know my roommates and the people I met along the way. It also gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in a different country and experience daily life in a different way. I enjoy travelling and have backpacked Europe and South East Asia but after this experience I’m considering living in one place for a longer period of time. Teaching aboard is also an option I’m considering after this experience. 

Danke für alles!
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Back home

I have been back in Calgary for two days now and have spent some time reflecting on my time in Vietnam and the things that have left the biggest impressions on me.  

In these first few days I realized once again how different life is between Canada and Vietnam. One of the first things I noticed once I was back home was the amount of structure and order our lives have in Canada. Everything - the traffic, the streets and houses, even they way people dress - is so incredibly orderly. It almost seems overdone to me now. I noticed I am suddenly more concerned with how I look when I leave the house. I am more self-conscious because I somehow feel it matters more and that people here will judge me. At the same time, this seems paradoxical since what struck me the most about Canada so far is how 'impersonal' my surroundings feel now. Nobody here cares when I walk down the street, whereas in Vietnam I always drew attention and everyone was excited to talk to me. Some people even insisted on taking pictures with me. Even among the locals, there seemed to be more of a connection between the people in Vietnam. The feeling is hard to explain. While I appreciate the privacy and anonymity I have here in Canada, it does feel odd. As a whole, it seems everyone here is operating inside a personal bubble, inside their own private world, even when outside in public. I too feel like I am disconnected and removed from the people around me. I almost feel a bit lonely. It is fascinating to me how different the experiences can be from one place to the next.

My practicum placement here in Canada will start in only a few days and I am curious to see how it will compare to my time in the classrooms in Vietnam. I wonder what new differences I will notice once I am back in a Canadian school. The classroom is where I think my time in Vietnam has affected me the most. Teaching in Vietnam, and living there in general, has been an unpredictable roller coaster and I have constantly been thrown into unexpected situations. This has helped me learn to relax, to not be as stressed as I used to be, and to simply go with the flow. I really hope that I can hang on to this newfound confidence and calm in the future. I have also been forced to work without many of the basic resources that we tend to take for granted here in Canada such as books, space to work in groups, or any sort of technology. I am now much more aware and appreciative of the resources we have here and I hope that I will be more mindful of how I use them to improve my teaching going forward. Most importantly, as mentioned in previous posts, Vietnam has helped me to truly understand the importance of building genuine relationships with my students.

As I think back on my time in Vietnam, I am incredibly thankful that I got to be a part of the Teaching Across Borders Program. This experience has had a significant impact on who I am as a teacher and has helped me grow as a person as well. Vietnam has been amazing!!

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Home Sweet Home

Finally back in Calgary...

Still kind of adjusting to the time difference... and the snow. I have woken up at 4:00am every day since I got back to Calgary, for those of you who don't know me, you won't know that I am NOT a morning person so this is extremely odd for me and I am not sure I like it. However, it will make getting ready for practicum a whole lot easier next week since I wake up wide awake at 4:00am! I am definitely not a fan of the snow, nor was I ready for it... Hamburg rains a lot, and it got to me sometimes, I got a bit down when the weather was bad for a long time and I didn't think I would actually miss the rain, but the rain was definitely much more manageable than snow already. Obviously this is something I will just have to get used to, since I chose to live in Alberta on my own accord! 

As I think back to the last 12 weeks I spent abroad I honestly cannot believe it is already over. Besides missing an entire season in Calgary, nothing has changed! I don't know exactly what I was expecting to change, but I definitely thought I'd come home to a new Calgary for some reason. But I didn't its home sweet home! My dog was super excited to see me, I think she thought my Fiance had gotten rid of me for good, she kept looking at him and the look on his face was "oh my goodness I can't believe you brought her back" as she would run back and forth between the two of us not sure if she was more excited to see me or thankful he allowed me to come home.

Now that I've been home for a few days I have had some time to reflect on my time abroad. I learned a lot in a variety of ways, I learned how to work more with ELL students, I learned from some amazing teachers how to engage students in great lessons, I learned a lot about being independent and living and traveling on my own, I learned a tiny bit of German and so many other amazing things. This opportunity taught me a lot about being in the classroom, and I have a lot of new valuable skills I wouldn't have gained any other way. I am really looking forward to using these new skills on the classroom next week and in the future.

To finish off my time abroad I went to Scotland, this was amazing! Edinburgh has a rich history and I learned a lot about the cities past, the royal family, different battled against England and much more. The time in Edinburgh was yet another reminder of how much one can learn while abroad and solidified to me the importance of learning and traveling. As a teacher I think it is so important to be a life long learner and what better way to learn about the history of a nation or a new culture than fully immersing yourself into one?

Everyone keeps asking me to tell them about my time away, or what my favourite part was and honestly, it is so hard to even begin telling them! I don't know where to start... the beginning of my time abroad feels like so long ago, but also feels like it was only yesterday. Instead of telling you my favourite parts I will share with you some of my favourite photos of my most impactful moments.

Thanks for following me through my adventures! I hope you enjoyed tagging along for my journey :)

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Final Thoughts

I arrived back in Calgary on Sunday, so I have now been home for 3 days. Although I didn't experience any really intense reverse-culture shock coming from Germany, it has still definitely taken a bit of time to get used to being back in Calgary. For one thing the snow and negative temperatures were definitely a shock to my system, although admittedly I am glad to be back in a city that experiences way more sunny days than grey cloudy days. One thing I didn't expect to find challenging about moving to Hamburg was the weather, however I quickly learned that I much prefer to live somewhere with more sunshine than rain (even if that means it's -20 degrees!). It was really nice being able to experience fall for a bit longer than I am used to in Hamburg though and I was sure to spend my last few days appreciating the pretty fall colours before coming home to the snow. I am slowing getting used to the fact that people in grocery stores and coffee shops (and everywhere else) in Calgary aren't going to speak to me in German and that I won't need to try and respond to them in the very little German that I know. Language learning was something that I found difficult during my time abroad since we had no structured formal German language lessons that really pushed us to learn the language. Teaching lessons for the students' English classes at the elementary school also meant that most of my interactions with the students and teachers were in English. I was thankful that most places I went in Hamburg (and other cities in Germany) had at least one person who spoke English so I never felt too trapped in not understanding the language very well. However, I also feel that because of this I wasn't necessarily pushed to learn the German language to the extent that I had hoped. Being so busy with university coursework, spending time in the classrooms, and exploring Germany unfortunately left little time for me to really focus on learning the language. This has made me realize that the next time I travel abroad I definitely want to push myself more to develop better language skills in the language of the country I am in. Surprisingly another big adjustment has been getting used to driving everywhere again, since I was only getting around by public transportation (buses, trains, and trams) for the past 10 weeks. It feels oddly strange to be able to get into my car and drive to exactly where I need to be and not worry about having the correct transit ticket for the length of my journey! I have also been struggling to stay up past 6 pm, so hopefully the jet lag wears off soon...

Over the past few days I have been reflecting on my time spent in Hamburg and all that I learned from my TAB experience. While it is difficult to put into words everything that I have taken away from this experience, I know that it has truly been an invaluable one. Having the opportunity to get additional hands-on experience in the classroom in a different country than Canada was an eye-opening experience that helped me feel more prepared to handle any uncomfortable situation I may find myself in in future classrooms. As I mentioned in a previous post, I truly think one of the most valuable lessons I took away from my time in the classrooms was how it feels to be an individual in a classroom who does not understand the language that the majority of teaching is being done in. Even though I was teaching mostly English classes I also sat in on some classes taught in German. In addition, the majority of teacher-student and teacher-teacher communication was done in German. I believe that being in this type of environment really helped me better understand how many ELL students feel in our classrooms at home and how I can help them feel more comfortable, just as the staff and students did for me. While I was a bit intimidated at first about being put into a classroom in a foreign country where the main language spoken was not English, I surprised myself at how easily and willingly I took on the challenge and made the most of my time there. I am coming away from this experience more confident in my abilities as a teacher and in what I have to offer to my students. I am also coming away more aware of the ways in which I can constantly learn from my students and better my teaching. Working alongside a few very supportive English teachers at my school in Hamburg helped me develop some improved teaching strategies for working with ELL students that I know I will be able to take forward with me into my last two practicums and my teaching career. I am very thankful for how friendly, welcoming, and supportive the staff at my school were throughout my time there. They truly made my experience so much better. My last day at the school was filled with goodbyes from the students of the grade 2 and grade 3 classes that I had the pleasure of teaching. Both classes made me a big card with their names, drawings, and little notes on it and presented it to me while sharing things they enjoyed about our time together, along with well wishes for the future. It meant so much to me to see that I had made an impact on the students even in the short time I had been there, and it was so great to hear about their favourite things I had done with them (making a lemon battery was at the top of the list for many students!). Although I was sad to leave them, the bittersweet goodbyes reminded me of the importance of building relationships with your students and the impact that teachers can have on their students.

My TAB experience was also a huge personal growth opportunity for me. It was my first time living away from home and my first time sharing an apartment with a roommate. On top of all that, I was in a foreign country! This experience really helped show me that I am capable of being a much more independent person than I originally thought. Living abroad, traveling, and exploring a new city taught me that I am more open to adventure and new experiences than I once thought I was. I am happy to say that I came home feeling proud of the fact that I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and made memories that will last me the rest of my life. I wouldn't change my experience for anything!

Thank you TAB, the Werklund School of Education, and the University of Calgary for the truly once in a lifetime opportunity! I know this experience and all that I have learned from it will be something I look back on frequently throughout my career. I will miss Hamburg but feel comforted by the fact that I have such fond memories to look back on from my time spent there.

View from St. Michaelis church tower

Grade 2 class

Goodbye card from the students

Enjoying the city lights of Hamburg one last time

Home Sweet Home!

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Canada, home sweet home!

It's good to be home,

As I write this it is 5:30 am and minus 15 degrees in Calgary. I arrived home from Vietnam 3 days ago, thankful to have just barely flown out before a Typhoon hit the area. It’s bittersweet to be home. First of all, it’s freezing! I’ve barely worn socks in the past 5 months let alone winter wear. Secondly, I almost had a heart attack grocery shopping in this country again, I can see why people go to South East Asia and never leave. But overall, I am relieved and happy to be home. My first stop on the way home from the airport was Tim Horton's. I sent a picture of my coffee and a picture of the roads covered in snow to my new friends in Vietnam (two Canadian staples: timmies and snowy road conditions). I've been periodically checking updates on the typhoon that hit Vietnam shorty after I left. I was saddened to learn that it caused flooding in Hoi An, a magical town only 40 minutes from where we were staying. Hoi An is a touristy area that left a lasting impression on us. We returned multiple times to enjoy the shops, lanterns and relaxing atmosphere. It is disheartening to think of the damage caused by the flood.

            Being home still doesn’t feel completely real so I haven’t really begun to deeply reflect on the entire experience. I am still trying to catch my bearings in this winter situation. In Vietnam we joked about all the things that would feel weird about being back in Canada, such as the open spaces, the silence and using crosswalks. I haven’t really noticed that anything about Canadian culture feels weird though. It feels as though I never left (apart from the weather and the atrocious price of food). But I suppose that is because Canada is home, it will always feel just right.

As happy as I am to be back in Calgary, I am sad about leaving Vietnam. We met so many wonderful people who helped us along our journey. It’s funny how just as we are getting used to the culture we have to leave. I am so grateful for this trip. I think it's still too soon to fully grasp exactly how valuable this experience has been but I know It will be something that I look back on often.

 Since returning home, I have been thinking a lot about practicum and to be honest I am a little nervous. I had finally gotten used to teaching in Vietnamese schools and now it’s time to teach in Calgary again. The schools we taught at in DaNang were very standardized and simple. Teaching entailed a lot of lecturing and textbook reading, something I find very different from teaching in Calgary. It will also be very different and refreshing to have access to technology in the classroom again. Something that I really missed in Vietnam. 

I can't wait to see how this experience has affected my confidence and creativity as a teacher. I'm hoping I get the chance to share some of my photos and stories with my grade 2/3 practicum class, because it's really all I want to talk about right now. 

cảm ơn và tạm biệt!! 

(Thank you and Goodbye) 

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Finally home.

I'm not sure how to begin speaking about my reflections on China now that I'm home... First, I definitely miss the familiar faces from the SNNU campus. The shopkeepers, canteen workers, and students became my friends, and I would speak to them everyday in Xi'an... Walking back on campus today was weird. I don't feel that same familiarity or friendliness from my fellow UofC community. I realized how essential the friendships were to my experience in China. I didn't think I'd be shedding tears during goodbyes... But alas, I was bawling just a few days ago.

I begin student-teaching grade 7 social studies and English next week, and I am certain that my experience teaching in China has prepped me for it. In China, I taught classes of 50 grade 8 ELL students, and I was teaching physics. While I am trying not to be too confident going into practicum, I know that it cannot be as challenging as the teaching in China was. I definitely hammered down ELL and classroom management skills in Xi'an.

I realized what I am grateful for. I briefly visited the Field of Crosses on Memorial the other night, and thought about how lucky we are to be living in Canada. Where everyone, regardless of their race, culture, religion, ideology, sexual and gender orientation; are welcome to live and lead dignified lives. I reflect on my experience in China and how censored information and speech were. I could not imagine the stress of living with the burden of being unable to speak your mind in your own country... Frankly, it's not the familiarity I'm most thankful for now at home... It's the freedom and the opportunity.

Overall, my experience was invaluable. I still need time to reflect on exactly what I have learned from my time there... But already, I know that the experience has made me a better (student) teacher and a more informed citizen. I'm grateful for everyone who made this experience possible- from the Werklund faculty, my family and friends, and the organizers in China. I am so, so lucky.

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Final Reflections

I arrived home a couple days ago, and it is really difficult adjusting back to my old life. Not only because the weather is 35 degrees colder, but it just seems so strange being home. I am so thankful that we have this week to rest up before we start our practicum, I think this is much needed to time to prepare and adjust. It feels so strange to only speak English in my everyday life, I miss trying to speak broken Chinese to store clerks, servers, and random people alike. I have decided that I want to put the effort in to continue learning Chinese. We finished our HSK 1 while we were in China and I want to keep progressing on my own. It is still hard for me to believe I am home, and my TAB experience is over.

 

Looking back on my experience, I have nothing but amazing things to say. It’s so funny to think that 3 months ago I was very nervous to move to China, and had no idea what to expect. I must say all, China exceeded my expectations in every way. The people were absolutely amazing, they were always so helpful and welcoming, it made me realize how we should be more welcoming to foreigners in Canada. The country itself is so beautiful and rich in history, I am so happy I was able to immerse myself in their culture for a few months.

 

Teaching in China was a great learning experience. I think that being thrown into a classroom with 50 grade 7 students who can barely speak English, really helped my classroom management skills. It also helped learn different strategies for teaching ELL students difficult content. Having the opportunity to also teach at the high school level was another great experience. I also really enjoyed tutoring many of my friends in English, it helped me realize that I really do have a passion for teaching.

 

This was such a wonderful learning experience professionally and personally. I would strongly recommend other students get involved with TAB because it is such a unique opportunity. I know it seems like a lot of work to uproot yourself from your comfortable lifestyle and move away for 2.5 months…. but it is an amazing experience you will never forget. 

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Reflection

It strange that everything seems so normal, like nothing has changed, except for the weather. The reverse culture shock is setting in and it’s almost like the experience was a dream. It’s bizarre and I already miss so many aspects of Brazilian life and culture. Now that I am back in Canada, I wanted to reflect on my aspirations I wrote about before leaving for Brazil.

My main aspirations for this journey:

1. Practice Portuguese everyday in order to become more fluent and comfortable with speaking and communicating.

While this was a very practical goal at the time, I believe that language learning is a more rigorous process that I was not prepared for. I felt very stuck in the main phrases I was comfortable with and really struggled to pick up daily conversations. I did use Portuguese everyday, very basic Portuguese while ordering food, talking with the Uber drivers and communicating during my everyday routine, but I wish I put more effort in daily to ensure that I improved by the end of the 10 weeks. I was very dependant on others and it’s tough when you know that your friends speak English, so you feel like you don’t have to speak Portuguese all the time. I was almost embarrassed to say that I had been in Brazil for 2 months, while our other international friends where at a much higher fluency then I was. I understand it’s not about comparing, but I believe that for another international journey I will take more initiative to learn before and during the journey. For an educator’s perspective, I can really understand the difficulty with ELL students and how they learn English. The emotions and stress when communicating in a new language is extremely difficult and I have so much respect for our students learning a new language. I see how the main goal can be clouded with complications and will ensure that I can use my language learning problems to touch base with my students who many be experiencing the same struggles. It is such a great experience to be in the shoes of our future students while learning a new language.

2. Compare and contrast the Brazilian and Canadian school systems, while examining their history.

There are stark differences between the Brazilian and Canadian school systems, while many of the teachers on the front lines are fighting hard for equality and student rights, what is being said in the government is not always accomplished. While we didn’t focus too much on the historical aspects of the Brazilian school system, there were many political aspects that contribute to the downfall in many areas of the education system. The private and public school systems sadly are not equal and if you have money, you are set up to be more successful in life. That is the sad reality, but we have met so many inspiring teachers and students who believe that with the corrupt system, education and learning are the most important aspects in life and they have hopes for change and a better future.

3.Learning from challenges and mistakes in a new culture/environment and how they relate to becoming an educator.

This TAB experience has been life changing on both a personal and professional front. I am thankful for the many opportunities I have as a Canadian and realize the importance we have on our students, communities and society. Although this journey did not involve too much teaching, there is an aspect beyond teaching that I think is critical and very important to realize for my professional practice. Being relatable to my students is one way that I can build strong, impactful relationships. To have the same feelings, emotions, and experiences as our students will help my teaching practice and connect and create a greater classroom environment.  I have learned so much about communication and the difficulties that my student may have in the classroom beyond the curriculum.  I believe that every personal experience we have, will impact how we are as educators, like many say, we can’t come home from a day of teaching and forget about it, we are constantly thinking, reflecting and adapting how we are as educators. Our personal experiences affect how we relate and grow with our students. Being immersed in a new culture has taught me to be open and adaptable with circumstances that are not always in my control, while thinking creative ways and taking challenges head on, not to dwelling on the negative. Brazil was challenging, but also an extremely rewarding experience. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a learner and teacher. I want to thank PUC for setting up school visits, letting us be apart of their English classes and for having amazing tutors/organizers to help us experience Brazil from a different lens. I love Brazil and I cannot wait to go back!



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Back in YYC...

Hello Readers!

I am safely back in YYC and freezing (haha!). It was interesting returning because I felt like my time in Germany was over so quickly that it was only a dream. Obviously, many people have asked me about my trip and if it was worth it, etc. I have found that actually discussing my learnings and the experiences I had in my school actually helped me realize how valuable the experience was. I have realized that I learned even more about myself and about teaching than I had originally articulated or thought. It's very evident now that I am also a slightly different person than I was when I left. I feel more confident about my abilities and my strengths and more eager to learn more. I am so excited to start my Practicum now as I feel I have been thoroughly prepared, both mentally and emotionally. 

As I reflect back on my experiences in Hamburg, I feel as though my time with the people and the students has made me a better person and this will be the most lasting impact from this journey. I have become more open-minded, more self-aware, and more appreciative of the people around me. I learned a lot from the German people, including how to be plainly honest without being rude, and how to accept each person as they are, regardless of their appearance. I miss a lot of parts about Germany already---the green landscape, walking everywhere, the cheese croissants for breakfast (of course!) and it will be hard to return to the same routine that I had here before I left. The one thing I have enjoyed about being home is seeing everyone again and having them tell me how much they missed me. I've never been the type of person to think that people aside from my close family will miss me if I leave so it's nice to return to such encouragement. It makes you appreciate the people that surround you that much more when they express how much your presence makes a difference in their life. 

I am excited to utilize some of the new teaching strategies I've observed in Hamburg in my upcoming Practicum. I'm most curious to see the difference between how Canadian students perceive Germany and if they are curious about my experience there. My students in Germany were extremely excited and curious to know anything and everything about Calgary and how school is here, so I am curious to see if Canadian students are the same or not. I really hope I can do my German students justice in describing their country and their culture as their main wish in their goodbye notes to me was: "Don't forget about us and come back soon!" A part of me does want to go back because I've never felt so accepted or appreciated by a group of students in such a small amount of time. I wonder if I'll ever experience that same level of connection with my students in my upcoming Practicums...

One thing is for sure though, Germany is a beautiful country and the people inside it are impossible to forget!

Thanks for reading my posts and stay warm this winter! (I'm already bundled up twice the regular amount trying to adjust to the 25 degree temperature change!)

Tschüß!

Karlynn Peltier 

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Once university officially started for Hamburg, Markus our liaison invited us out for coffee and a historical tour around the University of Hamburg. In the following week we received invitations to university seminars and brunch with members from the faculty.The monthly brunch designates time for students completing their Phd and members from the department to take a small break from their individual research. The brunch provided an opportunity for me to exchange learning experiences and meet other students in the field. I wasn’t able to make it to all of the things our liaison had arranged, but Jessica and I were lucky enough to visit Professor Bonnet’s seminar on Teaching English in Multilingual Classrooms. 

The course was about English learning and language acquisition in a multilingual diverse classroom. Interestingly, the seminar was facilitated by four members of the faculty. For each session they alternated between two facilitators to engage with the class. Although only one spoke at a time, the others contributed their perspectives and knowledge throughout the session. I thought it was valuable and good to see collaboration and discussion among people delivering the course. The seminar started with defining and differentiating multilingualism and plurilingualism. That was followed by an activity that required us to think about whether or not languages we speak are a part of our personality and identity. We each got two minutes to think to ourselves and then we were asked to share with someone new. 

Lastly we were asked to summarize what we learned from our buddies and share that information with two other students. Our classroom was very rich in diversity, the people in my group spoke more than two languages! In my group we had students from Poland, Spain, and Nigeria. It was pretty exciting to meet individuals from different parts of the world. To end the activity we went around the room and had each group share their discussion with the rest of the class. One student shared her current experience of learning Vietnamese. She explained how she had to address her boyfriend’s grandma appropriately and use specific terminology for each members of his family. This experience enabled her to appreciate and understand respect for elders and others by learning the language. Her experience made me realize how obedience and respect for elders is deeply embedded in the Chinese language as well. In the Chinese language it is important to address people accordingly, this includes consideration of the individual’s age, gender, generation, relation by blood, and paternal or maternal sides of the family. I completely agree that respect is important in social interactions within a community. However, from personal experience it is also important to remember to speak up as well. Overall it was fascinating to see how language goes hand in hand with culture, personality, and identity. I’m glad we visited this class and wished there was more time to go to the other ones.

My last few days in Hamburg included Dim Sum with our TAB members and dinner with one of the student I met from the brunch. The Dim Sum was pretty good, I can't read Chinese nor can I read German, I was thankful that there were visuals in the menu and that my broken Cantonese was comprehensible! For dinner our group was also quite diverse, one girl was from Greece, another from Mexico, my buddy was from the Netherlands and her friend was born and raised in Germany with Turkish roots. We exchanged personal experiences of life in Germany, learning experiences, the crap economy, embarrassing stories, and what we plan to do with our lives. I was moved by the passion and determination this one girl had on being an educator in low socioeconomic areas. As cheesy as it sounds, it is about making a difference even it means changing one or two lives at a time. The Mexican dishes were great but the night just went by too fast!

In addition to Markus’s tour of the University, our liaison also arranged a day trip to visit Lübeck his home town. By day you are in the present and by night the cobblestone streets takes you back in time. I enjoyed the Brick Gothic architecture and the background stories that came along with it. The few things that stuck out the most for me from this trip is even though the area is protected by UNESCO an organization that protects world heritage sites. Modern design shopping centers and hotels were being constructed in the old city anyway. Another thing that I found shocking is the amount of flooding this place gets. Markus told us that he had to take off his shoes and roll up his pants to walk through water in order to visit his friend one time. And that residents have to slide panels into these grooves to prevent water from getting into the house. One of the worst floods from the Baltic sea occurred in 1872 the water level was almost the same as my height!

In the afternoon we headed over to Heiligen-Geist-Hospital which use to house seniors who had no families and individuals who need to be cared for. For lunch we went around to the back of the building and walked into a place which use to be an underground potato cellar, the main ingredient they use is potatoes and goodness it was delicious! I worked on my plate but I wasn’t making any progress there was so much food! When Jessica cleaned her plate Markus said that the sun will come out tomorrow. Haha he explained that it was something his mother would say to encourage them to clean their plates. Afterwards Markus shared how Germans celebrate the Christmas holidays. I absolutely need to come back to experience Christmas! Christmas use to magical when I was younger and we use to put up the tree. With everyone being so caught up with their lives we use the holidays to just relax and by relax I mean no Christmas dinner and large parties.

This trip was memorable and Markus makes a great tour guide, he would lower his voice to match the context of his stories so we could have the full experience. I appreciate everything the people here have done to make this experience that much more. I have been waiting for symptoms of homesickness but I got nothing. I think this simply means I would like to stay a bit longer!

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Being Back

I’m writing this at 4 am because I am super jetlagged and can’t fall back asleep haha. I got back on Nov 4th and right now it’s the morning the 7th so I’ve been back for about 3 days. As I unpacked my suitcase I began to reminisce about all the places I had been while I was in China. I saw my Beijing souvie and laughed because now I’ll forever be reminded of the time I got poisoned at the Great Wall. I saw the ticket from the Forbidden City and remembered how excited I was that the little bit of Kanji I can read translated over as Hanzi, and I could read a little bit in Chinese, and then immediately panicking when I realized it was counting down how many people were allowed in, and that number was dropping FAST. I saw my Yangshuo souvie and remembered the time we rode e-bikes through the mountains, which is straight up one of the best experiences of my entire life. I saw my Guilin souvie and remembered when Reggie and Sherin had the biggest spider I’ve ever seen chilling above their toilet. I saw how worn out my HSK1 book was compared to my HSK 2 book and I got excited to wear that one out too. I didn’t realize how many resources I had been given by my partner teacher in Xi’an until I started taking them all out of my bag and man there is a lot.

Being back is kind of strange. Xi’an was the first time I had lived on my own and relearning how to live with other people is taking some getting used to. There’s now all these responsibilities I didn’t have to worry about in Xi’an like working and preparing for field 3. The day I left Xi’an it was ~25 degrees and the day I got back to Calgary it was -15 and unsurprisingly I got sick from the sudden 40 degree drop in temperature. I thought I would be sad about how cold it is here but I got really happy once I started seeing snow from the airplane. I keep saying things to people in Mandarin and then reminding myself I don't need to do that anymore haha.

I’m glad to be back. I definitely took for granted how easy it is to find things in Canada. I once tried to find a book in Xi’an, and when I asked my friend about a bookstore she said to order it online because there weren’t very many bookstores in Xi’an. I can get food from any country in the world by walking maybe 10 minutes from house but in China foreign food was fairly hard to come by, with the exception of fast food like KFC or Mcdonalds. Also, cold water. China didn’t have cold water and I’m glad there is no shortage of that here. It’s a heck of a lot easier to use the internet now that I don’t have to wait for the VPN to reconnect every 5 minutes haha.

China was an amazing experience and I’m super grateful I had the opportunity to go. I definitely want to keep learning Mandarin. My classmates will be writing the HSK 4 exam next spring and I would like to keep learning at their pace and write it as well. Hopefully I’m not too bombarded by field that I cant take an hour of my day aside to learn a few new words. I was not expecting to like China as much as I did but I've come back feeling homesick. I miss China. I want to go back to Xi’an one day and also explore different parts of the country, like Chengdu and Shanghai.  

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Saying Goodbye

I wrote this on my last day of classes (Nov 3) but because the VPN wouldn’t connect I wasn’t able to upload it then.

Today is my last day in Xi’an. Well technically tomorrow is but I leave early so I got all my goodbyes done today. One of our Chinese teachers was sick so I did not get to say goodbye to her which sucks, especially because she was a really influential teacher for me. I got to say goodbye to the other teacher and my classmates though which I’m glad about. They’re so cute they recorded a video saying goodbye and each took turns saying something in Mandarin to us. It was kind of funny because I was in the room watching it happen. Later Reggie, Sherin, and I recorded a response.

I didn’t have class today because labs were cancelled so I had said my goodbyes to the students and staff earlier in the week. Instead, there was a closing ceremony today which I thought was really nice of Aegean to arrange. The principal from the school I was teaching at, our Chinese teacher, and a few of the international department staff were there. It was small but it was a nice gesture that brought a lot of closure to the end of the trip.

I was grabbing some last minute souvies for my family from the Muslim market and I found a little thing with my Chinese name on it which I’m really happy about. It’s silly but I think I’m going to miss being called Ning Li haha. After that I went to dinner with Sherin, Reggie, his girlfriend, and the boys from our class. It was a really nice way to end off the trip. We all walked back to the campus together and it was really nice to walk the street of Xi’an one last time. I got to see Zhonglou and Dayanta one last time too and it’s silly but those buildings became something I identified with as much as I would a maple leaf or the Saddledome, so it was almost cathartic to say goodbye to them too haha. The only people I didn’t get to say goodbye to were my Chinese teacher and the lady who owned the restaurant I went to a lot because I loved her potato and rice dish.

Goodbyes are really sad but I got a lot of closure today. I kept thinking about how I really don’t want to come back to Canada, and how I’d much rather stay in Xi’an and keep studying Mandarin, but unfortunately I don’t think the university would let me do field 3 in China.  After today though, I feel like I’m ready to go home. 

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