This past summer, while some of my friends went on vacation and others worked to make money, I got a chance to do both. From June 27 to July 23, I lived in Fuzhou, China, where I helped teach Chinese children conversational English. I went with seven other students from Rider — Jimmy Lo, Lauren Rogers, Shareef Hardin, Mandi Magnuson-Hung, Josanne Sampson, Richard Griffin and Ian Hoffer — and one student from the University of Delaware, Joseph Randall.
It was an experience I will never forget. I always wanted to go on a study-abroad trip, and this was long enough for me to experience another culture and short enough for me to be ready to come back home. Dr. Minmin Wang, adviser for the program, commented during a pre-departure meeting that in order to understand one’s own culture, a person should be immersed in another culture. That became clear to me during my time in China, and I learned a lot about myself.
My mom’s side of my family is Chinese, and being in Beijing, Fuzhou and Xia’men gave me the opportunity to explore my roots, understand the Chinese culture and see the history that makes up a piece of who I am. While some of my friends had difficulties dealing with the different foods and the hot and humid weather, these were things that I was familiar with. I really enjoyed the food in China because for me it was authentic, unlike the Chinese food that we have here in America.
I visited many tourist attractions, including the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. I had seen pictures of these places on the Internet but to actually be there was surreal. This was also the perfect time of year to visit the country and capital, as China prepares to host the 2008 Olympics.
But the best part of my experience was teaching at the summer camp in Fuzhou. We spent two weeks teaching Chinese children, ranging in age from 8-17, conversational English. We created lesson plans and used English songs and games to speak English with the kids. While it was at times challenging, it was one of the most rewarding experiences to hear the kids say at the end of the camp that they didn’t want to leave and that this was the highlight of their summer.
I had the opportunity to work with very talented English and Chinese students. We taught classes with the help of Chinese assistants who helped bridge the language barrier between the kids and us. The assistants were more than just assistants. I hadn’t expected that I would fly home to America with the thought of one day wanting to go back to China. I forged relationships there that leave me with a reason to return.
Going to another country can change a person, and doing it as a study-abroad this summer gave me the opportunity to receive credit, explore my culture and take a vacation all at once.
— Alexandra Samuel