A Visit from American Friends

10/19/15 Week 8

This week kicked off to an exciting start because our friends from the U.S., Ron and Evelyn, visited with us for a few days! Ron and Evelyn taught in China for several years awhile back, and now they visit China twice a year to visit with teachers they know and to see the country again. We met them at our Chinese training this past June – during that week they offered lots of advice on living and teaching in China.

We went to dinner with them Monday night and then cooked dinner for them on Tuesday night, and it was so nice to receive encouragement from them! They told us about more of their experiences and wanted to help us find ways to meet more brothers and sisters.

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In my classes this week I taught about university life in the United States! I talked a lot about Harding and my experience there, and also mentioned activities, clubs and schedules other schools around America had. My students loved seeing videos of football and basketball games and I even showed them what spring sing is like!

As I created lesson plans about American universities, it was interesting for me to see how different American education systems are from Chinese ones.

In China, it all comes down to the Gaokao.

The Gaokao (pronounced like gow-cow) is the college entrance exam for Chinese high school students – every year, over 9 million students take this test, vying for a spot at the limited number of universities (only around 6.5 million spaces are available.) You could compare this to the American SAT or ACT, except the Gaokao is only offered once a year, and it’s a two day test. The Gaokao tests Chinese, math, and English skills of students.

Most students study from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.in high school, with limited time for hanging out with friends. Many high schools also forbid students from dating so they aren’t distracted. I’ve asked a lot of my students about this, and they tell me if your teachers found out you were dating, they would call your parents and get you in big trouble.

Based on their gaokao score, they will be accepted into tier 1, 2, or 3 schools in China (1 being the best). This score will also determine their major. Many students don’t really have a choice in what they study. If they don’t score high enough in certain subjects, they get stuck studying something they don’t like. It’s so different from our system of choosing your own major!

Once they are in university, the workload eases off of them a little bit and they have more free time. Their junior year is their hardest school year though, as they have more classes and have to start preparing for grad schools or finding jobs.

It was interesting for me to learn more about the backgrounds my students are coming from and show them mine.

On Thursday Lauren and I helped Gari with his speech he is doing for a contest, and then we went out for dumplings afterwards. Gari is the funniest Chinese person I’ve ever met.

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Friday night we had dinner with my new friend Sophia at a nice Chinese bbq place (another place you cook your own food!

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We also had a girls day on Saturday – Brittany, Lauren, Minnie and I had lunch and then took bus 160 over the bridge to a different part of town to check out the giant shopping area. It was like a grand bazaar, dozens of shops and stands everywhere!

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Sunday morning the freshman English majors had a drama performance contest and I went to see them before our Sunday meeting. They were so funny! Several of my classes performed – they did scenes from Les Mis, Cinderella, Titanic, and others did traditional Chinese plays.

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(Also I lost my selfie stick at school awhile ago, but luckily they’re very cheap here in China and I found a new one for like 12 RMB. Hence all the selfies)

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