A taste of teaching whets her appetite

Northeastern student Alexandra Liu, not yet 19, already has plans to pursue a career in academia as a result of a life-changing experiential learning opportunity in China.

Liu taught English to hundreds of students at the Yuelong and Yi Jia Qiao middle schools as well as the Longman English language-training center in Nantong, a city in China’s Jiangsu Province.

“I really enjoyed sharing knowledge with people and inspiring people,” said Liu, an anthropology and international affairs dual major who was raised in Hong Kong. “I absolutely loved teaching and now I have thoughts of getting a PhD and becoming a college professor.

“I like having my own space to create things,” she added. “Having that space in class to work with the kids and seeing them grow was really rewarding.”

Liu used her creativity to help students overcome their fears of learning English.

Though students in China are taught that “playing is bad and studying is good,” she incorporated charades, hangman, and other word games into her lesson plans.

She also encouraged students to chat with each other in English about career goals and family life. Classrooms didn’t have computers or TVs to watch videos or listen to audio recordings, so she stuck to writing notes on the chalkboard.

It all paid off.

After only a few weeks, students shed their embarrassment and began speaking freely in English. Liu noted her students’ growing vocabulary and comfort level with the language.

“I would tell them that there was no right or wrong answer,” said Liu. “It was about not being afraid to make mistakes.”

The experience boosted her self-confidence by forcing her to live independently in a foreign culture. She lived in a dorm, rode her bike to work and engaged her neighbors in Mandarin.

She wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. In fact, she “Absolutely, 100 percent wants to go international again,” adding, “I know that if I stayed in the states I would not have learned half as much as I did. Learning how to live as a local in China is a completely different thing.

“When you work internationally, you really begin to understand their way of life.”