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Volunteer Teaching. Topic: Culture Shock!

by Almudena R., Loyola University Chicago, Fall 2017

A couple weeks ago, The Beijing Center worked with its host university, the University of International Business and Economics, to give us the opportunity to volunteer teach first year students about culture shock – giving these students a free, supplementary class to help them practice their English listening and speaking with native speakers. Without giving it much thought I took it, along with two students in my cohort. I signed up thinking about how I could transmit my own experience with culture shock in a way that students from the culture I’m still learning about could understand.

Since the day I had signed up for seemed very far away, I didn’t think about what I was going to talk about until I received a text from the tutor of one of the classes I was scheduled to teach. This made me nervous. What if I found nothing to talk about? What if the students didn’t understand me or like me? What if they didn’t participate in the class? I walked into the class two days later still nervous, but with a powerpoint presentation ready.

Then there I was, at the class. I started talking and all my nerves went away. I told the students about how I’ve fallen in love with the culture in China, even though it’s very different from own. I shared with them about how my previous Western view of China has been shattered and replaced by a variety of perspectives and experiences from the knowledge I’m gaining in the classroom, in my trips and in my everyday interactions with my roommate and Chinese friends.

After telling them about how living and studying in China is turning out to be very beneficial to me, expanding my worldview, and teaching me about Eastern Asian culture, the students asked me questions. I could see they were as nervous to ask questions in English as I had been when preparing for the class. But after one student asked a question, many others jumped on the opportunity to ask me questions about my culture and personal experiences. The topics that interested both of the classes I taught the most were dating (they were extremely shocked by the idea of open relationships), sports in the United States and Spain, and the difference between study habits in China and the United States.

I came out of both classes with a wide smile on my face, having not only taught but learned. It was an experience I will never forget and that I will remember whenever I have doubts about taking new opportunities.