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Teacher Spotlight: Caitlin Van Voorst

Caitlin China Header

Meet Caitlin from Teach Abroad China 2016-2017! She’s super excited to share her experience with teachers past, present and future. Check out what she has to say:

Where are you from?

I’m from San Diego California!

What was it like to work at your school?

I taught at a bilingual boarding school in the Northeast of China. I taught 28 classes a week of Kindergartners through fourth grade. The students were fun loving and diligent, and loved to play hangman! My favorite thing about my school was the atmosphere. Since it was a boarding school we all lived on campus, so it was fun to see my students outside of class.

Grade 2 Class 3

Why did you decide to teach abroad?

Like a lot of people, I decided to teach abroad for the adventure of it. I thought it would be a good way to travel and learn about another culture. What I didn't realize was the insight I would gain into the working world. Coming from college jobs, it was so great to feel valued in a job where you are making a difference in the kids' lives.

What was your favorite place in China?

One of my favorite places I visited during my year in China were the terracotta warriors in Xi'an. They were commissioned by the first emperor of China, and buried with him in 210 BCE. It was an amazing piece of history to see.

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What is the funniest thing a student said while you were teaching?

One time I had an older student ask why American women never wore underwear! She meant to ask why it isn't common for Americans to wear tights under their shorts and dresses.

What was the biggest challenge of teaching and living abroad?

For me, the hardest part was the language barrier. Although most days I was able to see the challenge in it, there were moments when it was very difficult.

What will you miss the most about teaching abroad?

The challenge of it! I loved lesson planning and thinking of the most interesting way to teach my lessons.

How did teaching abroad influence your career and life path?

It taught me the value in good, creative education. It also gave me valuable work experience that I could bring back to my next job.

Caitlin pic stitch

Tips For Teaching

We are in our 7th week now teaching. I am still learning so much every single day. Previously coming to China, I taught some music lessons here and there. This is was I am familiar with. I am a musician. I can say it is much easier teaching one on one to a student about how to play the guitar than teaching 30 kids English. With that being said, teaching English is so much fun. Again, I am still learning every day about new ways to approach the classroom. I want to share some of these discoveries with you!

First, you cannot always expect your teaching plan to work perfectly. You have to make yourself flexible.. Sometimes your plan can go completely opposite of the way you imagined it. You have to just go with the flow and adapt to your students. How are they feeling? Are they responding to your lesson? If not, try changing your teaching method. Some classes are different. Every student does not learn the same, so I recommend you study your student's behavior. Second, improvisation might knock at your door sometimes. Your class may end a little early and you don't know what to do. Think about your lesson and try to tie a filler exercise to practice. I have had to improvise a good bit this semester. I learned very quickly to think on my feet. Lastly, I want to stress to always have fun and smile. Your students will always feed off your energy. This will keep your classroom happy and comfortable for your students. I think it is very important because remember that you are here for them.. You are here to give them an opportunity to open more doors in their lives.

I have learned a lot teaching in China, and I hope these tips can help you when you start your careers abroad.

 

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Starting Something New

A message to everyone thinking on teaching abroad in China!

The first initial thought when I left for China was I have to start over.  I knew I would go into this without knowing anyone and living in a new country/city I don't know anything about.  This was one of the best and worst feelings.  I was nervous, scared, and excited all at the same time.  I can say the excitement over powered the nerves and fright.  CIEE really supported me through this process too.  You may have some thoughts about moving and trying something new.. I am here to tell you that teaching abroad has been so rewarding since I got here.  I have learned a lot about myself and a complete new way of life.  Everyone has been incredibly helpful and gracious.  They are always willing to help.  When I say they, I mean the staff and students especially.  I honestly can say I have no regrets since I have been here.  Teaching abroad in China was the smartest decision I have made in my life.  Now it is your turn to start something new! 

 

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Making New Friends

I've settled into my exciting life in China and it's been nothing but nonstop fun and adventure. 

Whenever I need a break from the daily escapades, I retreat to a cozy coffee shop on campus. This coffee shop is special because I made a great friend here. His name is 猫 and he enjoys napping and talking about Chinese culture. Pictured below is a selfie 猫 and me took together. 

Happy Friday! 

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First Week in Nanchang

As the transitory stay in Shanghai comes to a close it's time to journey to Nanchang. 

My first impression when I arrived at Nanchang University was a large empty campus (this would soon change). I was greeted by fellow American teachers who were kind enough to give me a campus tour, FOOD, and advice on getting settled in.  The first few days were challenging. Having a limited number of supplies, lack of cell phone service and WiFi was frustrating. With help from the others I was able to survive the weekend. 

Everything was unfamiliar and foreign. Thankfully my new buds, Nick and Jenny, helped organize a trip to an international store which sold familiar products. Along the way we stopped at a local noodle restaurant (name unknown) and feasted on cold bottled water and dandan mian (pictured).  

With a few familiar snacks in my kitchen and stolen WiFi from an unknowing neighbor I felt ready to take on my first week of teaching. 

 

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The Road to Shanghai

The adventure for all the new China Teachers started in Shanghai.

I imagined the days spent here would give me the chance to relax, acclimate to a new country, and get to know other new teachers. This was not entirely true. Albeit, I did learn valuable skills that I could use while in China.  Such as crossing the street, in China it's more like playing frogger. Cars will drive uncomfortably close to you and somehow manage to avoid collision. Truly impressive and equally terrifying! 

Thankfully our group survived Shanghai due to the efforts of our fearless leader, Kelvin. He guided us on a wonderful Shanghai experience. One of the more notable sights was Shanghai Tower (2nd tallest building in the world). I highly recommend the views.  

 

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A New Pace

Spring Festival has come to an end. Recently I’ve returned to Shanghai after traveling south with my friends. During the holiday, we were fortunate enough to explore four cities, Hong Kong (HK), Guangzhou, Haikou, and Sanya. Together allowing, us to see southern China, in a brief two week stint. I enjoyed each for different reasons, but, it is here, that I wish to speak of only one. 

Hong Kong

HK is not the China I’ve come to know.  As I am sure you understand, China is big. I cannot stress that enough. Cultural differences are innately sown within the land. But, this…this was the most palpable cultural change I’ve yet to come across. It is apparent, the CCP’s long reach, failed to encapsulate the territory. Prior to HK, the most noticeable difference between the cities, was architecture and expat levels.

I use to believe Shanghai was a ‘new age Metropolis’. In many ways, I’ve realized these views were false. The ‘cyberpunk’ inspired architecture seen in pictures is about all one gets of future living. HK is the closest I’ve seen reach my previous hope. Well, no… omit ‘new age’. HK is strictly a pure, modern day metropolis.

The city is shamelessly mainlining, unadulterated, Western ideals. The moment you emerge from the subway, a profound sense of New York City hits. Most days are spent struggling to remember where you are. The aggressive and repetitive nature of western advertisements, causes one to forgot, the east remains beneath your feet.

All in all, would return.

Neon traditional Chinese characters littering the streets, and tightly packed housing, flooded with citizens, made for an interesting treat. Combined with beautiful mountains surrounding artificial lights, HK deserves your time.

I suggest you spend it.

[Erick]

Departing Tomorrow! Bye Bye USA.


Rarely in life do things go exactly as anticipated. Planning my semester in China was no exception! 

 

I have been eagerly awaiting my visa as my expected start date in Nanchang quickly approached. This was the last piece to the puzzle that allowed me to leave the USA and begin teaching in China. Fortunately, my visa was returned 3 days before the expected departure. 

 

With little time remaining I booked a flight, packed a bag (or two), and said good bye to my cat. Twelve hours from now I'll begin my journey and be saying goodbye to Atlanta. I expect to feel the excitement once the stress of a last minute pack has dissipated.

 

I'm looking forward to the unexpected and ready to get this adventure started! 

 

Cheers, 

Andrew 

 

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Hospital Attire

Winter has begun to take stage. Fall has left,  and with its passing, sickness has arrived.  It is a common sight to see classes immersed in fever sweats. Unfortunately, students rarely stay home when sick. Rather, they suffer in class and sleep in their seats when permitted. Needless to say last week I’d fallen ill.

Chinese Hospitals. Its an interesting experience if one comes from the West. I highly recommend bringing along a Chinese friend if your language skills are lacking. But, if you know basic Chinese and typical treatment processes, then hell, give it a shot. It worked for me. 

I had an infection. If you know serious infections this means antibiotics are required. I walked away from the hospital with two impressions. Costs; I promise your wallet will barely feel it. Efficiency: Tragic. I had to go to the hospital 5 times in one week. Not for being sick but to correct my doctors mistakes. Each time I went to the hospital, my doctor prescribed me the wrong medicine. (I also went each time with a Chinese friend, meaning language was not a problem) On one such occasion my doctor gave me a discontinued medicine that had nothing to do with my ailment.

Needless to say, it was a stressful week. My advice, treat yourself when you are sick. If you know exactly what ails you, tell your doctor. Research, research, research. Prior to going to the hospital, know the specific medicine you need, don’t leave until they give it to you.

This sounds insane, but after your first time, it is quite a simple game.

Best of luck in the cold season

[Erick]

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]

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