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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. 




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.  





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.


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! 










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


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.


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.


Teach Abroad in China Alumni, Jennifer Rives

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.


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.


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. 


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!


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.


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.


Teach Abroad in China Alumni, Andrea Smith


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.


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!


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!



Interested in teaching abroad? Visit CIEE Teach Abroad!

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