Nineteen recent Skidmore graduates will board planes to China this August to begin a year of teaching English literature, composition, speech, and western culture to English majors at six universities. This is by far the largest number of recent graduates that Skidmore has sent to China since launching its "Teaching in China" program 20 years ago.
The 14 alumni sent by the College last year have finished their assignments. Over the next few weeks, we'll ask them to reflect on their experience and offer suggestions to the new team of teachers. And we'll refurbish this space for the new team of teachers who will begin their assignments soon.
Nearly 100 Skidmore graduates now have had the experience of teaching in China and the program has expanded to seven institutions. It started with Qufu Teachers University in Shandong Province, where retired Skidmore English professor Murray Levith and his wife Tina made the China connection during Murray's sabbatical in 1987-88. The College embraced his proposal to establish a formal exchange and sent a first contingent of new graduates to Qufu in 1989-90. Recent Skidmore graduates are now also teaching at China University of Petroleum and Shengli College in Dongying, a new branch of China University of Petroleum University in Qingdao, a new branch of Qufu Teachers University in Rizhao, Xin Tan College in Qufu, and Sun Yat-sen University in Zhuhai, near Guangzhou.
"China is opening up and there's so much more that these English-speaking university students are now able to do with their English instruction," said Sandy Welter, director of the Teach in China program. "They're more open-minded and they can now freely spend their money."
In January, the new team of selected students begin an orientation workshop that lasts throughout the spring term. Students learn teaching strategies and techniques for cultural assimilation. They also receive assistance with the myriad details of travel and living in a foreign country for a year, such as medical needs, insurance, and visa applications.
Skidmore teachers live with other foreign teachers and international guests in apartments on the campus where they teach. Each teacher has his or her own apartment with a living area, bedroom, western-style bathroom, and some have kitchens. Others may have a communal cooking area. The apartments are fully furnished and include heat, air conditioning, and Internet connection.
The 21 students who qualified for teaching assignments in this year's program come from a wide range of majors and career tracks. Only four know Chinese, but from a pedagogical standpoint that makes little difference because they will speak English at all times in their classrooms.
By the end of their year abroad, all of the Skidmore teachers will be able to speak enough Chinese to shop, travel, and communicate regularly with their students and colleagues, Welter says. Some students have extended their assignment in China to two or even three years so as to continue to hone their language proficiency.
Their experience of teaching in China is much different than seeing the country as a tourist or even a study abroad student, says Welter. "During their year, these young alumni are defined and viewed as professionals living and working in a university setting. When they return to the US, their cultural identity is grounded in choice and commitment, not just in the arbitrariness of birth and location."
Many Skidmore teachers come to the realization that they love teaching and move in that direction. Others decide to attend graduate school in international relations, international business, law, human rights advocacy, literacy, and Chinese history and culture.
Following are the 21 Skidmore teachers who leave for China later this month:
- Michal Adut '09 (Government and Dance) - Xintan College
- Charlee Bianchini '09 (American Studies) - Qufu Teachers University
- Marissa Cimino '09 (IA and French) - Sun Yat-Sen University
- Phoebe Conklin '09 (Psychology) - Sun Yat-Sen University
- Olivia Duong '09 (Chemistry) - Sun Yat-Sen University
- Dana Gresham '09 (Government) - Xintan College
- Amanda King '09 (English) - China University of Petroleum
- Lisa Klane '08 (Government) - Qufu Teachers University
- Greg Luhn '09 (Anthropology) - Sun Yat-Sen University
- Steven Mastanduno '09 (Philosophy and History) - Qufu Teachers University
- Matthew Michaels '09 (History and IA) - Xintan College
- Brad Nesbitt '09 (Philosophy and Environmental Studies) -Sun Yat-Sen University
- Lauren Offringa '09 (Psychology) - Xintan College
- Geoff Parsons '09 (Business and Spanish) - Sun Yat-Sen University
- Allie Preefer '09 (English) - Qufu Teachers University
- Amy Proulx '09 (American Studies and English) - Sun Yat-Sen University
- Ana Pugatch '09 (English) - Sun Yat-Sen University
- Andrea Scharf '09 (IA) - China University of Petroleum
- Ryan Smith '09 (Religious Studies) - Shengli College
- Ally Tedaldi '09 (History) - Shengli College
- Jessica Yan '09 (English) - Qufu Teachers University