Preparing to Leave for China

Coconut Creek Travel Blog

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Hello friends!

As my departure date draws near, I wanted to update you on what I’ve been up to and why exactly I’m going to China for the next few weeks.

I’m doing this program called TECC (Technology & Education: Connecting Cultures), which is a completely student-run collaboration between Stanford and multiple Beijing Universities. The program aims to integrate technology into curricula at schools in underdeveloped, rural parts of China. China, as we all know, has been on the fast-track towards becoming the next global economic superpower. However, the hubs of technological progress are in stark contrast with the vast majority of China. This program helps to address that disparity in the area that probably matters the most: education.

Furthermore, TECC seeks to help teachers of English at these schools with their curricula. Our English lessons will be divided among reading, listening, writing, and speaking. I will mostly be in charge of the speaking aspect. Most of the teachers have actually only had 1-2 years of English training themselves, so they are at a point when they could really use innovative ideas to bring into the classroom. I’m actually glad that the program is geared towards English teachers rather than students. You can’t really teach effective English to a group of kids in only two weeks. However, in that time, a group of university students can presumably share and present innovative and useful ideas to aid in English-curriculum design. We are ultimately collaborating with and enabling the teachers to teach English in their local contexts, rather than offering hand-outs from one culture to another. I think this former type of volunteering is much more effective and less demeaning than the latter, especially nowadays when “global service” has become much more common and popular.

During these past few weeks, I’ve been in contact with the Beijing coordinator for my site (Xiuxian, but her English name is Sherry), which is Yellow Sheep River Middle School in the Gansu province. A couple problems have come up as they tend to do in organizing large tasks as this, but I think our team will surpass and overcome them. For one, out of my two other teammates from Stanford (our team is also the smallest Stanford team), I couldn’t get in touch with either until a few weeks ago, when I discovered that one of them is actually not going. And in theory, we were supposed to have been working on the curriculum together as a team for the past month. None of us has still been able to reach the other one, moreover, so I still don’t know if he’s even going. A concern of mine is that I will be the only non-Chinese-speaker there�"and if he isn’t going, the only non-native-Chinese altogether�"but Sherry helped relieve my tensions with this in a very welcoming and hospitable way. I’ll view it as a great learning opportunity for me! (I’ve been practicing tones! :-)

Our site actually has students coming in from Hong Kong and Taiwan in addition to Beijing and the US. It turned out, however, that another site’s teachers increased by 42, so they asked to have the Taiwanese students from our site go there instead. This posed a problem because out of the 16 students going to Gansu, 8 of them were from Taiwan. And it seems to me that our site has the greatest challenges because it’s in the most economically disadvantaged area that TECC participates in. Sherry has, however, been hard at work, and so hopefully this is resolved in some way that’s most beneficial for all.

As these last few days sweep by, I am still in the process of finishing my part of the curriculum and tying up the many loose ends that still need to be taken care of before I leave. I have a 20-hour flight to look forward to, plus a 23-hour train ride from Beijing to Gansu. It’s all good, however, because I have two days of Beijing sight-seeing before the train ride.

I hope to continue the updates in some format or another throughout my time there. Please keep me updated in all of your exciting summer happenings and hope to talk to you all soon!


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