Teach­ing English in China a good Plan B

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By CHEN JIA in San Fran­cisco chen­jia@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

If you asked Cody Batchelor, an English teacher in China, a year ago what he planned to do af­ter grad­u­at­ing col­lege, he would have said his first choice was law school.

But the Amer­i­can has never re­gret­ted choos­ing his plan B at the time of spend­ing a year abroad, ex­pand­ing his hori­zons, and pur­su­ing his life­long goal of be­com­ing flu­ent in a for­eign lan­guage.

“Amer­i­can stu­dents think that by bol­ster­ing their back­ground with Chi­nese lan­guage ex­pe­ri­ences or work ex­pe­ri­ence in China, they will give them­selves an edge in com­pet­i­tive job mar­kets back home — or even in­ter­na­tion­ally,” he told China Daily. “I used this rea­son­ing to jus­tify tak­ing Man­darin cour­ses at my univer­sity.”

Also, Amer­i­can stu­dents of­ten use study abroad pro­grams as an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pose them­selves to dif­fer­ent cul­tures or gain ex­pe­ri­ence on the in­ter­na­tional stage, he said.

At a job fair at his univer­sity, Batchelor learned about a pro­gram called Ame­son Year in China (AYC) and made it his back-up be­fore tak­ing the Law School Ad­mis­sions Test.

As the ap­pli­ca­tion, vet­ting, and qual­i­fy­ing process moved along, Batchelor fi­nally de­cided on a full-fledged com­mit­ment to teach­ing English in China.

“I fig­ured this would be the ideal time to travel and ex­plore,” he said. “I’m young yet ma­ture, un­bur­dened by obli­ga­tions yet se­ri­ous about sup­port­ing my­self fi­nan­cially.

“The AYC pro­gram promised to re­im­burse travel and visa costs, as well as pro­vide hous­ing. So I fig­ured, if any­thing, I could make a solid in­come to sup­port my trav­els around the coun­try or even to other coun­tries, and make monthly stu­dent loan pay­ments along the way,” he said.

“To kill yet another bird with this stone, I could im­prove my Chi­nese lan­guage skills when I was im­mersed in the cul­tural con­texts that drive the prac­tice, use and de­vel­op­ment of the lan­guage,” he added.

He was one of 164 AYC par­tic­i­pants from 119 uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges last year, and the or­ga­niz­ers es­ti­mate that num­ber will rise to 500 this year.

The old­est AYC teacher in the group was born in 1969, the youngest in 1993. A to­tal of 116 were born in 1990.

Par­tic­i­pants’ aca­demic ma­jors and con­cen­tra­tions cover a range of fields, from com­mu­ni­ca­tions, eco­nom­ics and sci­ence to ed­u­ca­tion, crim­i­nal jus­tice and English lit­er­a­ture.

“China and the United States hope that peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes can play a larger role in their bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship, and Ame­son’s AYC pro­gram is de­signed to fa­cil­i­tate such an ef­fort,” said Zhu Xiaodi, who runs AYC’s of­fice in Wash­ing­ton.

“In our view, the best so­lu­tion is to pro­mote hav­ing more Amer­i­cans to go to live and work and study in China so that they will have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the real and true China, both its pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive sides,” Zhu said.

“We have al­ready re­ceived more than 10 US Con­gress­men’s en­dorse­ment let­ters for the pro­gram,” Zhu added.

For the 2013-14 year, AYC has main­tained con­tact with hun­dreds of schools all over China, in­clud­ing pri­mary schools, mid­dle schools and high schools, and has suc­cess­fully es­tab­lished part­ner­ships with roughly 100 schools from more than 12 prov­inces and 27 cities.

Be­sides Shang­hai, Shen­zhen and other met­ro­pol­i­tan cities, a great num­ber of par­tic­i­pants have been placed in sec­ond-tier cities and even ru­ral ar­eas.

Based on re­cent sur­vey data, more than 100,000 stu­dents are be­ing taught by AYC in­struc­tors.

“Par­tic­i­pants have ben­e­fited from the AYC pro­gram as well. AYC is a great pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence for all par­tic­i­pants pre­par­ing for po­ten­tial ca­reer de­vel­op­ment in teach­ing English,” said David Lu of AYC’s Shang­hai of­fice.

Along the way, they have also deep­ened their un­der­stand­ing of Chi­nese cul­ture, his­tory and so­ci­ety by par­tic­i­pat­ing in a va­ri­ety of cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional ac­tiv­i­ties, he said.

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