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Future Sounds

Music. I enjoy it.

The sentence prior is one of the greatest understatements I could write. But, as with most dealings, there is a schedule to uphold. For the interest of both parties, know that it makes me happy.

Back to the story.

Western pop anthems echo nightly throughout the districts. When Taylor Swift fails to grace your ears, top billboard bangers fill the void. As you may have guessed, I am not a fan of mainstream tunes, but, I do understand, they supply a demand. 

Originally, when I first lived in Shanghai, I failed, quite miserably, to break into the music scene. I came to believe that my love of underground music would never be met. Come round two, I realized that the responsibility rested entirely on me. 

I have been fortunate of late, very fortunate indeed. Over the last two months, I’ve befriended a group of music promotors. With coexisting passions, my new friends and I venue hopped anxiously. I am pleased to share that the music scene in Shanghai is strong. Well, that can be debated.  More accurately stated is that of growth. Indeed, a complex growth IS  happening, far more than I remember.   

Too much has happened to word.

I’ll will write more on this as updates arrive.

[Erick]

The State of Knowledge_∞_

In China, education reigns supreme. From an early age, a full course load of traditional learning is served daily. The country’s youth are molded, routinely, in an intense academic lifestyle.

Sleep deprived students is a common sight within the boundaries of Shanghai. Until the sun falls, the students are hard at work. Late into the night, with rest put on hold, these youngsters focus their brains. I appreciate dedication. I truly do. But forced dedication is an entirely different matter. It is apparent, that the children long to erase the taste of chalk from their mouths.

Do not get me wrong. I find education to be crucial in development. That said, pure academics alongside early youth development allows creativity to suffer. Play time for adolescents is just as important as having an understanding of mathematics.

There are pros and cons to every system. But, I am struggling to find the positives in the educational system of China. I asked a few Chinese adults for their thoughts on the issue. They all proceeded to laugh and respond, ‘well… we are good at math’.

Am I missing something?

I am uncertain, but for the sake of a goodnights rest, I do hope that a piece has been missed.

[Erick]

Teach Abroad in China Alumni, Jennifer Rives

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Jennifer Rives

From: Tampa, Florida
Major in college: Psychology, minor in Chinese Language
Name of School: Chongqing Vocational College of Transportation

What made you decide to teach abroad?

I knew that I wanted to teach abroad when I was 15. I discovered TESOL in high school, and I swore to myself that one day I would try it out and move to another country. However, going through college and trying to fully participate in the college experience, I ended up forgetting about that goal completely. Everyone around me was following the same pattern of graduating and then immediately going to graduate school, so I thought that I should do the same thing. As it turns out, just a few days after graduating with my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, I was formally rejected from the one graduate school to which I applied.

After reading my rejection letter, I started to feel like I had failed myself, but then I reminded myself that success is not a straight line. I thought back to all of the conversations I had with other college graduates who eventually went to graduate school. I realized that all of them had told me the same thing: if you can take a year off, do it.

With nothing stopping me, I decided to do it. And once I was resolute about taking a year off to do something I wanted, 15 year old Jennifer's dream of teaching abroad jumped into the forefront with open arms and a map in hand.

I realized that I had the chance to make my biggest dream in the world come true, and that everything in life really does happen for a reason. To this day, I am still so glad that I was rejected from graduate school, because without that rejection letter, I would have never spent 10 months in China, met the most incredible Chinese friends, traveled to the most beautiful places (including 3 other countries), and have realized that this career is something I want to pursue long-term.

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What was the most rewarding part of teaching abroad?

The most rewarding part of teaching abroad was realizing that I made a real impact in the lives of my students and friends. I also realized how much of an impact they had on me. I became close friends with a big group of students from my school, and we did just about everything together. We were able to have a relationship of true reciprocal teaching and learning; sometimes I really even felt like they were teaching me much more than I was teaching them.

One moment I will never forget is when one of my student friends, Amy, pulled my co-worker and me aside one night to talk to us about her future. Amy always loved learning English and was very interested in American culture, but she had given up on herself and her future after scoring low on the college entrance exam. She said that seeing how we were traveling the world and living passionately made her realize how much she wanted to do the same thing. She told us that she had decided to study abroad in America and had already begun the preparation process. Amy later left the school, started at a study abroad preparatory program, and is moving to the United States in January 2017 to start her undergraduate career.

By seeing the kind of work I was doing, she decided to become a Chinese teacher in America. I didn’t realize how much I could influence and inspire students until Amy pulled me aside and told me that I directly inspired her to follow her dream of studying in America.

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How were you challenged while teaching abroad? What did it teach you?

I was challenged in just about every way you can imagine while teaching abroad. I was teaching in a small town in Chongqing, and I had a much different experience than my CIEE colleagues teaching in Chongqing city. My living situation was okay at best and I had to learn the local Chongqing language because few people would speak Mandarin to me. My other colleagues and I were the only foreigners living in the town, and on top of that, it was my first time teaching so I fumbled around the classroom for a while until I figured out my footing.

Even though the challenges seemed far too many and far too great at the time, I overcame each and every one of them. The only way to overcome challenges while teaching abroad is to adapt to the way things are done in the local culture in which you are teaching. Once you get in the groove of doing things the way local people do them, you'll find that daily life becomes a lot easier.

I found it very helpful to look for the positives in every situation and to always do my best to laugh at the crazy and hard times. I tried to see each new obstacle as a chance to learn something new. You'd be surprised just how well positivity and adaptability go together!

What was one of your favorite memories of teaching in China?

I have so many wonderful memories from my time teaching in China! I loved meeting my amazing group of student friends who kept me sane, helped me out so selflessly, made me laugh and smile all the time, and taught me more about Chinese language and culture than I could have ever learned from a college course (or five!). I also traveled Guilin, Harbin’s Snow & Ice World for the Ice Festival, or even just the nights I spent out in Chongqing city. I never got tired of how beautiful it was or how good it felt to be in a big city with my friends by my side.

How did teaching abroad influence where you are today? 

Teaching abroad made me realize that I want to pursue a career in TESOL. I am currently preparing to teach abroad a second time with CIEE in Thailand. After I finish my year of teaching in Thailand, I plan to go to graduate school to get my Master's degree in TESOL and I hope to teach at an international school in either South Korea, Singapore, or Taiwan. I would eventually like to move up and take on other educational roles so that I can continue to make an impact in the lives of students and help them achieve their long-term personal and professional goals. 

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How did CIEE make your experience teaching abroad better?

I would definitely recommend CIEE Teach Abroad! When you're first starting out in the teach abroad world, it can be very intimidating finding a good school, getting a visa, finding housing, and knowing what to pack for success. When people want to teach abroad, they don't often realize how much work goes into getting them from their point of origin to the institution abroad.

The CIEE Teach in China team made that process so easy for me. I would call Ally Sobol at least once or twice a week with a long list of questions, and she would always be ready to answer them. I really appreciated CIEE's help with the visa application process, and they laid everything out so well and helped simplify the process. I also felt a sense of security knowing that CIEE knows each school that they place teachers in and keeps up communication with those schools.

CIEE enabled me to feel confident and ready boarding my plane to China and made me feel like I was part of a community of global educators and citizens. All of these are reasons why I am using CIEE a second time to teach in Thailand in October 2016!

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Interested in teaching abroad in China? Vist CIEE Teach Abroad!

Canvas: Is there room?

At times, the city can be mesmerizing.

For me, Shanghai has achieved tangible time travel. It is the closest humans have ever come to bridging the gaps. There is a consistent push and pull felt amongst its people. While the young are disconnected from its history, the land itself has its roots layered in the past. Extensive changes have quickly ushered in an imbalance that is palpable.

It is here, in this exact notion, that I find myself captivated.

Shanghai is currently fighting a war on ideals. Morals, and cultural normalities are the blocks in transition. The players in the arena are comprised of the young and the old. Different generations fight for supremacy. The young wish to move, while the old hold on to a China that is no more.

Why?

If generational shifts are a global phenomenon, then why is it found to be more pronounced here?

All in all, Western influence is the culprit. China’s tumultuous 5,000 year history is bathed in tradition. It is not until recent that the nation has begun to reorder its closed door mentality. In a handful of decades, the asian powerhouse accomplished what takes centuries, for most. 

Pandora’s box has been opened, and at the end of the day, the lid cannot be shut. The nation’s young will make sure it stays that way forever. I am not wondering whether or not the land will continue on its path of media assimilation. Rather, I am curious to see if past traditions will come along for the ride.

It just seems, that the car is too damn full.

[Erick]

Teach Abroad in China Alumni, Andrea Smith

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Andrea Smith

From: Chicago, Illinois
Major in college: Elementary Education, Concentration in Math
Name of School: Red Star Kindergarten, Eldo Primary School, and various reading centers around Chengdu, China.

What made you decide to teach abroad?

I taught abroad after college in Los Andes, Chile through the program TeachingChile and I completely fell in love with the idea of traveling and teaching at the same time.

What was the most rewarding part of teaching abroad?

My students were by far the most rewarding part of my trip. Watching them grow more and more each time I was with them was thrilling and inspiring. It was also rewarding to learn about a new culture, become part of the community, and see how I fit in somewhere completely foreign. You learn so much by living in a new country than you do by simply being a tourist there.

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How were you challenged while teaching abroad? What did it teach you?

Teaching in so many different places was sometimes challenging because I wasn’t always sure what I was getting into. Being thrown into various situations taught me how to work on my toes and have teaching plans for all ages. It also taught me that you can accomplish so much if you are spontaneous and go into things with a positive attitude.

What was one of your favorite memories of teaching in China?

My favorite memories all lie within traveling. China has endless job opportunities which makes it a great place to live and it’s close so many other countries. I was able to visit Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Thailand. And there are still so many other countries I would like to see in Asia like Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan and Korea!

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How did teaching abroad influence where you are today? 

Before I knew about teaching abroad, my plan was to get a teaching job in Chicago. My friend introduced me to the idea of teaching abroad, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Next, I’m going to teach in Spain with CIEE to volunteer as an English teacher! 

I recommend teaching abroad to anyone who has the opportunity to do it.

How did CIEE make your experience teaching abroad better?

I recommend CIEE to people teaching abroad for the first time or those who want the comfort of having constant support. CIEE takes the hassle and stress off!

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Interested in teaching abroad? Visit CIEE Teach Abroad!

A Restless City

Accessibility is a common trait found in an urban environment. If so inclined, everything rests at your fingertips. Shanghai, is no different. Whatever interests may arouse you, rest assured, a niche for it lies in wait.

The heart of Shanghai bleeds opportunity. Pure, clean, and undiluted. Early on, the night lights may hold your gaze, but until you meet the belly of the beast, you’ve yet to settle in. Here, in the confines of the landscape, ambition becomes your only friend. Use it.

One hobby that I partake in is skateboarding. A goal of mine was to find a community of riders upon arrival. Before coming, I discovered the sport was not particularly cared for. Though, to be fair, reception has begun to rise recently. Be that as it may, not many skateboarders can be found. With a population of 20 million people, only a 1,000 claim to follow the sport. Roughly speaking, in a crowd of 20,000, only 1 skateboarder exists.

My prospects for continuing the activity was not a hand I’d safely bet on. But, as with most hobbies in Shanghai, if you look for it, you will find it. After a week of research, a board was bought, and a club was joined.

As mentioned previously, your opportunities are endless.

All that’s required is effort. 

Just move.

[Erick]

Time In

Greetings.

Many days have followed since my last. As of now, I’ve been in Shanghai for a month. In some ways, it’s difficult to write on what has occurred. Even still, I am uncertain I’ve the energy to word my thoughts.

At its core, I am quite tired.

The first month hits the unprepared like a wave. Do not get me wrong. This does not mean that I’ve yet to enjoy the moments that pass, rather, I am just exhausted. The company I work for handed over a robust schedule. Most teachers will be clocking in eight hour days. You may be thinking, “Erick, get it together, this is an international standard”. In that regard, you are correct. Unfortunately, these days are filled with teaching at multiple schools. Traveling back and forth throughout the day is tiring to say the least. Not to mention, my colleagues have just one day off a week. These schedules, coupled alongside a new environment appear, difficult. Well….no. Terrifying, yes, terrifying is a better fit.

Yet, once accustomed, you realize the worth.

I find this to be an important factor. The first month will be tiresome. But, do know, the days here have so far been great. Although draining, rest assured, it is one hell of a time.    

[Erick]

Beginnings

It seems, that for those of you who are reading, a new horizon is on the fold. If accepted you will welcome in changes, that for some, may usher in anxiety. For this reason alone, I would like to share with you my personal experiences that will succeed in due time. The following posts will hopefully offer up advice on how to prepare for your own departure at a later date. Please note that I am in no means a widespread traveler, or for that matter, an expert on Chinese culture. Rather, I am someone who simply wishes to pass on the proceeding days that await me.

For the rest of 2016 and the spring of the budding new year I will be teaching English in Shanghai. Throughout this span of time I will post both frequently and consecutively. Logistics aside, I have yet to construct an overall map of what my writings shall entail. However I do know that these pieces will attempt to cover a wide range of topics. In the end my primary concern is to share with you what it is like to live and teach in China. If at any point in this journey you would like me to write on a subject that interests you, by all means please let me know.

And with that, enjoy the days ahead.

[Erick] 

Culture Shock

I have been in Chengdu, China for a little over a month now. Of course, when you enter a new country,  you know things are going to be different... a lot different. Although there's no better way of finding out those differences than entering the country itself and figuring it out, it's nice to be aware of them before coming to alleviate some of the "shock". I want to share with you the culture shock I have been experiencing my first month in China. 

 

  1. Squat Toilets - The first one of these bad boys I encountered was at the airport in Chengdu. I knew it was coming, but oh how soon it came! It's practically just a hole in the floor. Something to get used to, that's for sure. Also, there's no toilet paper or soap so always have some hand sanitizer and kleenex handy. And I mean ALWAYS. The smell of these bathrooms is quite excruciating and don't be surprised to see older ladies doing their business with the door wide open. It's quite normal. 
  2. Smoking - I absolutely hate cigarettes and this is the hardest thing for me to get accustomed to. I try to walk around people that are smoking in front of me which usually isn't too hard given I'm from Chicago and am an extremely fast walker compared to Chinese people. However, I am a little stuck when the guy next to me lights one up in the elevator. Remember when you were a kid and you would go to a restaurant and the host would ask "smoking or not smoking?"...and how that was banned a long time ago?! Well, here, it's completely legal. Smoking. Everywhere. Inside. Outside. EVERYWHERE. 
  3. Spitting - My dad was right!! He warned me about this. You will commonly here people hacking up phlegm and spitting on the ground. No shame at all. At first, I was very disgusted by this, but after being here, I honestly can tell why they need to do this all the time. The pollution can really get to you and I'm sure it's better to get that stuff out rather than keeping in. Although, not smoking probably would help this situation a lot. 
  4. Traffic - Chengdu isn't the most populated city in China (around 4 million people) but holy crap, that's a lot of people! There is rush hour just about every hour and people lay on their horns the entire time they drive. You really just have to mute the honking in your mind to remain sane. There's no other way. 
  5. Food - The food is so spicy, but so delicious! So this isn't really a culture shock for me, but the pig brains in a bowl and pig's feet hanging up...that's another story. I only ate chicken and fish at home, but I made the decision to end that for my duration in China. Food is a huge part of Chinese culture and the way they prepare these dishes (no matter how strange the body part), it's really delicious. Just don't think about it too much or have your Chinese friend tell you what you ate after you already ate it. 
  6. Stares - I am blonde with blue eyes. So my daily life consists of Chinese people staring at me and asking to take pictures with me. So much to the point sometimes, it's hard for me to get through what I need to get through. I went to the cherry blossoms a couple weeks ago and about 20 people stopped me and asked if they could take a picture with me. And when I say ask, they wrap their arms around me and a photo is taken so quickly, I didn't even know what happened. It doesn't bother me though, they are truly curious about foreigners and are happy you are there, especially if you're a teacher.

My best advise to future teachers/travelers that are coming to China is to just come into it with open arms. These are the norms are and it's best not let them get to you. 

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My First Day Teaching

What a successful day it has been!

Throughout the night, I kept waking up just about every hour. My body is still trying to get used to the time zone in China. 14 hours later than Chicago. With a mix of jet lag and being excited/nervous, I sprung out of my bed at about 4am. Oops. But hey, nothing wrong with getting an early start on a big day, right? Right.

My roommate Joy shows me the way to my kindergarten school. I couldn't contain my excitement the whole 45 minute bus ride sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. (Joy probably thought I was a little crazy, but that's okay). I enter the school and am greeted by the friendliest teachers and the CUTEST students I have ever seen. 

I had 4 classes today, all kindergarten classes and all in a row. I could barely catch my breath between classes; there was just so much excitement and energy. I felt like a little super star in the classrooms with teachers on the side taking pictures and students high fiving me. Each class was filled with games and songs. I taught them a hello song, we played "Teacher Says", practiced animals, played hot potato, practiced "My name is...", "How old are you?", and so much more. It's crazy the amount you can do within a 30 minute time period. 

I am very happy with how today went and can't wait for more with these munchkins!

My advice for future teachers: Stickers + songs + games = SUCCESS

 

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Sticker Time = Best Time
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London Bridge is Falling Down

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