Today we have all departed from the Southwest University of Science and Technology in Mianyang to the Chengdu International Airport. Many of us are extending their travels, while Marissa and I are headed back to San Francisco. As we are waiting for our flight, I cannot help but reflect on all of the experiences we have had in these past few weeks. This has been a incredible journey from start to finish, and each of us has grown in indescribable ways. The connections that we have made and solidified with each other throughout this trip have fostered teamwork, trust, perseverance, and support, and have created friendships that will continue far after our journey has ended.
Furthermore, throughout our weeks of teaching social and emotional learning curriculum to preschool- and primary school-aged children, we can really see the difference our curriculum is making in these children’s lives. At the end of our program, the children were much more willing to engage with us and practice some of the social and emotional learning skills they have learned in our program. It is incredible to see how much they have learned in such a short period of time. Social and emotional learning is an integral part of children’s development, and it warms my heart knowing that we have helped the children build a foundation that will impact the rest of their lives.
Aside from teaching, all of us have had the privilege of being immersed in Chinese culture. We have traveled throughout both Mianyang and Chengdu through bullet trains, subways, and busses, visiting incredible sites such as the Giant Buddha in Leshan, the Wide and Narrow Alleys, the New Century Global Center, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, the Luohan Temple, and the Yuewang Tower among other places. We also had so much fun exploring the street markets of Mianyang and eating fantastic Sichuan cuisine.
I am incredibly grateful for having had the opportunity to embark on this journey, and I am even more grateful for experiencing this trip with our amazing cohort. As a team we have overcome obstacles, experienced the wonders of Mianyang and Chengdu, and made a difference in children’s lives. I could not imagine a better way to spend my time in China, and I will remember this experience for the rest of my life.
- Julie C.
Our last day here could be summed up as bittersweet. Some of us will be doing extended travel while only two of us will be traveling back to the United States.
We were invited to attend the closing ceremony. The overall theme of the evening communicated that this wasn’t a goodbye but a see you later. There were many speeches given about the future of this program and how impactful it has been for some students and faculty. Two of our students were asked to represent us and describe their experience. Angie’s speech really resonated with me! I think she perfectly summed up how most if not all of us feel for the amount of hospitality we have received! It went something a little like this...
“Having the opportunity to travel here to Mianyang and interact with this community at SWUST has been a life changing experience. Working with the preschool children has allowed me to grow in my abilities as both a teacher and as a student. Both through observing the children, and in being observed in my teaching, I have become more self aware in my actions and able to better interact with those around me. Through experiencing the differences between this culture and my own, I have learned to better accept and embrace different perspectives. When I return home I will work to continue to challenge my perspectives of the world. And seek out opportunities that allow me to experience new cultures in the future. On behalf of my cohort from San Francisco State University, I would like to thank the teachers, faculty, and students of SWUST for giving us this wonderful opportunity to teach your children and experience your culture over these past three weeks.”
From there we received individual certificates in honor of the completion of the program. This isn’t a goodbye dear friends in China, but see you later!
Teaching with Allie has been absolutely nothing short of rewarding. We have learned how to remain in sync with one another, how to comfortably think on the spot, and how to successfully tailor our lesson plans to each age group. Most importantly, we remember to have the most fun as we possibly can, no matter how fast things could change in a particular classroom.
I am so happy that I got the chance to teach with her and I could not be any more proud of how far she has come in regards of teaching. Watching her grow more confident within the classroom setting has been beautiful. She is fun, creative, and always brings a positive energy into each class. Aside from watching her grow, I am proud to say that Allie has also taught me to be a better teacher, leader, and all-around person over this last month. For that, I thank you, Allie.
You should be very proud of yourself and how far you have come! Excellent job, my young Padawan!
- Kelsey P.
A trip isn't a trip unless I get sick. Last year in China I felt like dying as I caught the flu and was bed ridden for a couple of days. This year I caught some sort of bug and was toilet ridden for a couple of days, just kidding. But seriously, I hadn't experienced as much nausea as I have these past couple of days. I was a trooper though and with the support from my friends was able to actually have a good time despite being sick. A couple of my friends went to buy a bunch of snacks for us to share and we had a fun night playing Younou, which is just Uno * I won most of the times* It just goes to show that even if you aren't feeling like your full self, you can still have an amazing time with those who are supportive and want to have a good time. I have learned on this trip the importance of support and leaning on one another when things get difficult. Whether it be while teaching your lesson plan, or when you are sick. Those around you can really help you have a great time.
I am excited for what is to come and once I get better I am ready to explore and immerse myself once again in this beautiful country. I'd like to thank those who helped me and brought me snacks or medicine and of all the friends I made on this trip. Y'all are all my homies and I am happy to have met every one of you.
This Sunday marked the end of our last weekend in Mianyang! A handful of us went to the Fule National Park in the morning and had a wonderful time. We were initially concerned because it was raining a bit when we arrived. But because of the rain, not many people were out. We felt like we had the whole park to ourselves! Once we got to the top of the mountain, we met with Professor Wang and his son who showed us beautiful lotus ponds and told us some of the history of the Sichuan region. After returning to campus we enjoyed a nice lunch together and finished our day preparing for our last week of teaching!
- Angie D.
We began our Friday teaching at the preschool. We did our weekly routine of getting to the school half an hour early to gather our materials and be ready to teach. Shanti and I got to work with the 7 year olds at the primary school. I did a couple of adjustments in my lesson due to the much older age group and the students seemed to enjoy it!
For lunch, some of us decided to try a new cafeteria on campus. I think we all agreed that we liked that it had more food options than the other cafeteria. But, I think the real reason we liked it was because we were able avoid the steep and never-ending stairs that we dread everyday.
After lunch, Julia, Elda, and I took the bus to downtown Mianyang to do some shopping. For dinner we met up with the rest of the group and the professors to spend one last time with Dr. Paik.
Dr. Paik previously mentioned that she has worked over 20 years doing cross cultural research. Throughout her work, she has imagined building something that will allow different countries to collaborate and create an experience for mutual learning. She shared with us how it all began and now many years later, that vision has come true. This is only the second year of the program and there is much more that it will offer in the future. Dr. Paik’s dream has become a reality and it has been an inspiration to many of us!
- Angelica F.
Today, a group of us decided to plan a trip to Leshan to visit the Giant Buddha statue. Standing at 233 feet tall it is the larges and tallest Buddha statue in the world! It was AMAZING, pictures provided below don’t do justice to the magnitude and beauty of the statue and surrounding scenery.
We had an extremely busy day. Getting to Leshan was a journey. We started the day at 8 am, first up was a 20 minute bus ride to the train station where we got on a 1 hour 45 minuet bullet train to Leshan. This was the first time riding a bullet train for most of us. I was extremely surprised at the whole experience. Our tickets were rather cheap, so I was not expecting comfortable reclining seats with lots of leg room and air conditioned cabins. As soon as we took of the train reached a speed of 250 km per hour within seconds. We were all amazed at how fast and smooth the ride was. It really made me think about our train system at home and how developing a similar system to this could completely change the way we get around, especially between major cities. After getting off the bullet train we got on another bus to get to the mountain where the Giant Buddha is hidden. Once we got there we had a couple hours to walk around and explore. Julie and I preformed a praying ritual for our ancestors. It was nice to walk around and even with all the visitors still feel at peace while walking around. The statue of the Giant Buddha was enormous. To give a small sense of size, I’m pretty sure I’m smaller than a pinky toe of the statue.
After Leshan, we took a bullet train to Chengdu to visit the wide and narrow alley. The rain didn’t stop us from walking around an exploring the traditional and cultural shops in the area. It was our first time here as well, we liked it so much we are planning a trip to go back again, with more time to spend walking around. Our long day ended with another short bullet train back the Minayang, and a taxi ride to the dorms. Happy we made it back safely, time to rest up for tomorrows adventure!
Today I found out what it must be like to be famous. After a fun day of teaching, we visited the Mianyang Fule International school. For starters we were welcomed and taken on a tour of the school, seeing the students dormitory, cafeteria, gymnasium and more! Afterwards we headed into their auditorium for some performances which included; three dance pieces, two songs sung by the school choir, a kung fu performance by the martial arts students and a piece performed by student musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments. It was so welcoming and entertaining I felt very humbled and honored to be visiting their school. But the fun doesn’t end there, after the performances multiple of our students were asked on stage to participate in some of the acts. Tommy and Katie did some Kung fu, Julia and Andrew played an instrument (that I really need to find the name of) and Dr.Paik, Tommy, Allie, Elda and I were lucky enough to receive beautiful hand written scrolls. After all this fun, we were told to mingle with the students, and when I say mingle I mean bombarded by 300 students. They were excited and eager to teach us; singing, dance, piano, take us to their classes, talk with us, take photos with and of us and get our autographs. It was overwhelming I have to say, but in a really great way. Like I said we had about 30 minutes of fame, and I for one really enjoyed myself. Following this we headed to dinner hosted by the school. It was one of the nicest dinners we have had on this trip, with more dishes than 30 people can finish. Including dishes I have never imagined of trying before but loving, like pigeon and ducks blood. On our way back to campus we stopped at the Yuewang tower and went up up up to the 15th floor to get a 360 degree view of Mianyang. We could see where two rivers meet, and two bridges. We saw skyscrapers and a magnificent LED light show across all the buildings. We watched the sky get dark and the lights get brighter. I have never seen anything quite like it. After taking another bunch of pictures we headed back to campus. Maybe we won’t be signing anymore autographs but we will be signing onto the blog. Stay posted for more from Mianyang to Cali.
Please check out more information about our school visit at: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/AM1J0bKn0nW9TconHIzmNg
Today started with us all teaching our lesson plans as usual. After teaching, everyone had lunch and then we went to visit a different school. Based on the experience we had at the other boarding school, I expected this visit to be similar, but I was wrong.
We started with a brief meeting in a conference hall to introduce the heads of each school/program and talked a little bit about the school we were visiting. Once we finished the meeting, each of us were assigned to a group of students and from there we started to tour the school and did a bunch of fun activities.
First we listened to a music teacher play Lin Qin, which is a musical instrument similar to a guitar, then we watched the dance teacher perform as well. After that we were taken to a room where students were practicing their calligraphy skills, and we were given the chance to try writing some Chinese characters ourselves which was very fun and entertaining.
We then went to another room to try Chinese paper cutting. This activity was also very fun and creative. The students were able to make some very incredible designs. Once we finished our designs we glued them onto a fan, so now not only did we make beautiful art, but it was functional too!
After the paper cutting, we went to make a functional model plane in one of the science labs. Once we finished all of our activities we all gathered to take a picture together. After the photo our cohort went to have dinner with some of the faculty and left the students behind. I had a really great time at this school and had a pretty special bond with the students I was with. Leaving those students was kind of hard for me, but I will cherish the memories I made with them.
Another goodbye is to Dr. Smith and Dr. Duh who are both leaving to head back to the U.S. tomorrow morning. Thank you both for all of your help and encouragement throughout this program. You will both be missed for the rest of the time we are here!!
Today, Tommy and I taught the Better class at the preschool today! This class had five year olds and they truly enjoyed Tommy’s lesson plan. They loved making their “all about me” books! After making their books, a few students presented their books to the class and we took a class photo! After teaching today, I talked to a few other students and we decided that we all needed to decompress after teaching and a long weekend. We decided to go get our nails done near the SWUST campus. We walked outside of the campus to try and find a nail place. We walked in circles for about twenty minutes before finding a few different nail places that could do gel nails for us. We were impressed to find gel nails for 49 Yuan - an equivalent of 7 US dollars! We split into smaller groups and this was great because as a cohort we are not often able to have alone time or have one-on-one time with other students. This was a great bonding and relaxing time for us as well. We all needed this time for self-care and to have a calm moment especially after the chaos of teaching. While we were waiting for a couple other classmates to finish their nails, we went shopping around at the local shops. I love looking at the different trends in Chinese fashion. We noticed that a popular trend is wearing t-shirts under tank tops and tank top dresses. Another trend we have seen in men’s, women’s, and children’s fashion is Peppa Pig. Peppa Pig is a children’s cartoon character and it is all over men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing! We all found this trend funny and fascinating as Americans since Peppa Pig is mainly on children’s clothing in the US. After coming back from teaching, getting our nails done, and shopping I decided that I needed to take more alone time and self care. I did yoga for about an hour and meditated to ground myself. This trip has helped me recognize when I need to take more time to myself on the days we have free time. I loved having nearly a full day to just chill out and relax in between teaching!