Moments in my college life

Beijing Normal University, near the library

I spent most of my college days reading literature, teaching English as a second language in various occasions and building bridges to cross-cultural communication (usually between international students and local, Chinese BNU students).

I had chance building bridges between international students and local students

I love for language, thus joined the English Association one month after starting college. I was in charge of organizing weekly English Corner activities, which include designing activities, discussion topics, disseminating materials and setting up stages. We invited both international students coming from all over the world (Japan, Canada, Russia, Columbia, England and U.S.A. etc), who were studying at BNU at that time, as well as Chinese students. Chinese students were motivated to practice English and make new friends, and international students were also happy to feel connected and included. Every Sunday night 8-10 p.m. we gather at Muduo to share about different culture according to the prompts prepared, (but usually conversation just flowed), even in freezing winter wind or summer heat.

I enjoy teaching kids English

In my senior year, I interned at one of the best high school in China, Beijing 101 high school as a English teacher. Teaching students in 101 high school was far too different from teaching kids in Meitan, Guizhou where I did volunteer teaching. When I was in Guizhou, every kids have high respect for you as a knowledgeable teacher. But here in 101, since every kid comes enjoy much better family situation and more privileged educational resources, they don’t necessarily obey what teachers said. English is by no means unfamiliar to them, they can be deemed as being brought up in an international culture. It can be hard to get them to listen to you, especially as a young intern teacher who would only stay there temporarily.

So my first class was actually very noisy, what make matters worse, that was the day when students’ mid-term grades came out, so many students were checking their phones for their grades instead of listening to me.

It can be frustrating, but it is also a lesson that new teachers need to learn -how to build your authority. (I don’t like to talk about the word “building authority”, because from my experience interacting with many world-famous scholars later on, sometimes the more knowledgeable they are, the more humble and approachable they seem to be.)

Yet it can also be important. So, building authority does not mean appear to know everything, and definitely not obfuscating right and wrong, e.g. in time when students challenge you. I think building teachers’ authority may be better expressed as building professionalism. Professionalism expresses that you have high standard for yourself, which implicitly tell them that you have high expectation for them. We should admit our own limitation, though we should minimize that limitation.

As an intern teacher, besides teaching English, we also help organized and planned their STEAM outreach – agriculture learning, when students go to the farm and experienced “learning by doing”. For example, they observe how cows were milked, how tofu was made, how grains were harvested, etc.

I got to help some kids in need

Being member of the White Dove Volunteer Association, I provided English literacy assistance to students in Dandelion School in the winter of my freshman year. It is the first school in Beijing especially for children of migrant workers.

Although this school is in Beijing, it is located at the very edge of Beijing. We need to take several different buses and it takes 2 hour to get there. This is a school for children coming from low-income community. The students here usually come from family of migrant workers – who though work in Beijing, have no steady registered residency of Beijing. It’s almost impossible for students from these families to have any extra money to afford tutors, but many of them have very weak foundation in English, and limited teacher-resource, thus we volunteered to help out those who need further assistance to keep up with their study.

They don’t have enough classrooms for tutoring, so we sat around tables in their gymnasium. Usually I teach 6-7 kids at a same time, so I liked to engaged them to learn collaboratively. For example, since I believe in the importance of oral English and learning language as a tool to communicate, I sometimes assigned each of them to read 1-2 sentences of a passage one after another, to keep them focused and on pace, without feeling overly self-conscious about making mistakes. I also often set up small, friendly language game or competition within the group to engage them, but usually give all students some small gifts I brought (e.g. snacks).

AngelHome is another place where I volunteered with other members of Shiying Welfare Society in the BNU. AngelHome is a Children charity organization where that for children born with physical disability (e.g. Down’s syndrome ). Their biological parents were either unable or unwilling to look after them anymore. So these children are orphans who depended on the charity of the society and volunteers to live, get medical surgery or become adopted. I haven’t see children with disability before volunteering there, and was first at a loss seeing a room full of children, who are more delicate and vulnerable than normal ones, because they each may has a different kind of disability. Some can move normally, some cannot even sit or stand properly. They are too young to realize their situations, but luckily they are brought here and are taken care of. It’s hard to imagine the many others who do not have this privilege even. Any contribution counts, if possible, donation volunteer or adoption are welcome through the link above, to help more children. Many children were able to grow as healthy kids after medical surgery.

I read literature and participated in activities

Another big part constituting my college life is literature reading. From British to American to Japanese literature, from Enlightment to Beat’s generation, from <Beowulf> to <The Chrysanthemum and the Sword>, to <My Country and my People>, from Shakespeare to Shelley and Wordsworth. Reading literature makes me peaceful, and I never regretted majoring in English Language and Literature in my college, even though it has its limitation. I initially chose it because of the love for language, and it never let me down. Maybe choosing a different major would endow me with more skills in a particular domain, but I never regretted this time spent reading and thinking critically. They made me more clear on who I am and what I want, and nurtured my soul to be stronger in the long run.

Beijing and my university gives me the stage to practice myself through many competition and events, including Future Educators -Teaching Competition, Dubbing Competition, Star of Outlook English Talent competition, National English Writing Competition. What make me especially memorable is the last one, among more than 1000 submitted essays, I was selected as one of the two students, representing BNU to compete in province level, and won a second prize.

It’s hard to summarize a college life. But I am grateful that my college endowed me with chance to engage in volunteer work, contribute my effort to make the society a bit better by helping the kids and students in need, and empowered me with the knowledge and ability to think critically, which goes a long way in my growth.

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