Duncan's Personal Statement:
1. Why do you want to teach in the country you have chosen?
I have been passionate about Chinese culture my entire life. When I was young, this passion manifested as a fascination with Chinese culture and I absorbed everything I could about it, knowing that I would one day live in China. When I arrived in university, I was dismayed that my university did not have a Chinese Studies program, so I worked with the head of the International Studies program and together we brought the Asian Studies minor to UNC-Asheville.
I have since studied abroad in China twice, once in Chengdu, Sichuan for four months and again in Wulumuqi, Xinjiang for one month. Both experiences, though very different, were absolutely phenomenal and reaffirmed my desire to live and work in China.
The reason I wish to teach in China, as opposed to pursuing another job, is that I truly believe that education is the most significant way that I can influence the world for the better. China and America are becoming increasingly interconnected in the globalized world, and if I could bridge the two cultures for China's youngest generation then I would feel as though I had bettered the future.
My work this past year further demonstrates my dedication to educating in China. My capstone for my degree in Environmental Policy was a grant proposal in which I advocate for increasing funding for environmental studies programs in Chinese schools.
2. How does the CIEE Teach Abroad program meet your short-term and long-term goals?
This program meets my short-term goals in that it provides me with a job following my graduation. It also allows me to move to China and begin searching for a career that more closely aligns with my academic training in international relations and environmental policy.
It also meets my long-term goals of becoming a true global citizen who is able to act as a bridge between cultures throughout my life. Ideally, as a result of this program, I would be able to start making connections that would lead to a career where I could act between America and China in the field of environmental policy and education.
3. What are your perceptions of the country where you will be teaching? Why do you think you will be successful living and working independently there?
I believe that I will be successful living and working in China because I have done so before with great success. I made incredible, life-long friends and excelled in the classes I took while I was there. I will view this experience as a once in a lifetime adventure where I should take full advantage of every day.
4. What previous teaching, tutoring, or other related experience do you have? Why are you a good candidate to teach English? Additionally, for Teach in China you could be placed as a teacher in a classroom with young children. Do you have any previous interaction with young children? What personal qualities will aid you in creating a positive learning environment for young children?
I have teaching experience in a variety of fields across a wide range of ages. As a ballroom and Zumba instructor, I have worked successfully with ages from as young as 12 to adults in their 60s. As a tutor of math, economics, and chemistry I have successfully worked with children from 12-18, as well as with college students.
Most notable, though, has been my work with children aged 3-14 at a variety of afterschool programs and summer camps. At these programs and camps, I worked extensively with the children on academics as well as personal development.
5. If your students are not interested in learning English, how will you motivate them?
I hope to motivate my students to learn English by teaching them about how it will expand their world to include not just China, but so many other interesting parts of the world as well. By bringing in stories and games, which are quintessentially "American," I hope to encourage the students that learning English is a fun and exciting way to broaden their life experience.
6. Describe a situation you have experienced in which you have had to make cultural adaptations. What skills or qualities did you draw upon to be successful?
While in Xinjiang in the summer of 2012, I was faced with many situations that posed cultural problems. To overcome these difficulties I acknowledged that any problems were the result of cultural misunderstandings and focused on addressing those misunderstandings so that all parties would be able to resolve the issue and leave the situation with deeper cross-cultural understanding.
I thrive in situations in which I am forced to culturally adapt. To me, it is the most interesting and rewarding part of traveling abroad. By forcing myself to adapt to other cultures, I am better able to understand them and broaden my own perspectives.
7. What do you foresee being your biggest challenge while being abroad? How will you overcome this challenge?
The biggest challenge I foresee while being in China is adjusting to the fact that I will be truly living in China, not just visiting for a short period of time. When you know you will only be somewhere for a few months, you act accordingly. But with this job, I plan on living in China long-term. I will therefore be forced to act differently from how I have before.
I will overcome this challenge by making myself adjust to my new environment one day at a time, rather than attempting to take in the entire experience at once. By taking each day one at a time, I will be giving myself time to adjust to the new experience without overwhelming myself.
Alyssa's Personal Statement:
I have chosen to apply for this teaching job in China because I would like to start my life after college with an exciting adventure that will begin my journey to becoming a global citizen of the world. I want to intentionally place myself in a new environment where I can push myself to grow by experiencing another culture. I am excited to see and explore the world through a different cultural perspective and to share my home culture with others around the world. I have chosen China as the place for this first grand adventure because I want to support my partner (Duncan Barnes) and travel companion's passion for Chinese culture and language and, given China's growing and important influence on the world, I want to be at the forefront of cultural exchange and education.
This adventure will accomplish my short-term goals, by allowing me to learn how to fully appreciate the present moment and learn as much as I can out of all my experiences, positive and negative. Going to China, adapting to another culture, learning the language, and establishing relationships with Chinese people will catalyze this personal growth. I will be one step closer to achieving my long term goal of becoming a true citizen of the world by living across the globe, experiencing other cultures, seeing life through a variety of perspectives, and gaining an appreciation for the human variety that shapes our world both domestically and internationally. I have considered becoming a professor later in my life and this experience teaching in China will aid in the development of my pedagogical skills. Gaining a first-hand appreciation of China and Chinese culture will undoubtedly give me tools that will serve me well for the rest of my life - and will provide fantastic stories.
I am confident I will be successful living independently in China because my partner and travel companion has previous experience living in China and I have personal experience moving across the United States independently where I had to intentionally strive to thrive in my new environment. When I was younger I also spent a few weeks in London, Spain, and France. In Spain, I forced myself to partake in Spanish culture as much as possible and attempted to use as much Spanish as possible to communicate with locals. I also made a goal for myself, which I kept, to eat only local food rather than eating at more Americanized chain restaurants. This immersion, though brief, paid off and I made friends with the locals and made fantastic memories.
By moving to Asheville, NC for college away from my childhood home of Fort Worth, Texas, I was forced to adapt to cultural differences. This experience of adapting and eventually thriving in a different culture, though on a micro-level compared to the differences between American and Chinese cultures, has given me the confidence and tools that make me confident moving to and living in China will not be problematic. I anticipate language being the biggest set back but I am a fast learner and I have learned from previous experiences that total immersion and willingness to make mistakes as long as I'm doing my best provide the best opportunities for fast growth and a rewarding experience.
My time teaching will not be solely an English language class. I am intending on using the English language as a means of teaching about American culture. By not making the focus on language but on language as a means to teaching about American culture, I believe I will be able to engage more students to learn the English language. I would like to share classic American kids games with the students and share with them fun aspects of my childhood. I am also thrilled to answer any questions the students might have about my experiences growing up in America.
I enjoy interacting with children because I love having them share with me how they see the world around them as innocent and curious little people. I love facilitating their excitement and wonderment about life by engaging in conversations with them. I am confident in my abilities to successfully engage children because I have experience working with kids. I have been a babysitter for a single mom with four kids under the age of 8 for the past three years while in college and I have taught children's dance classes off and on since I was in high school. I pride myself on being able to interact with children at their level and I love playing games, answering questions, and hearing their stories and I actively encourage exploration and enthusiasm.
I am very excited about this opportunity and look forward to the adventure ahead!