On the Saturday after we got back from traveling, we went to Helen’s office to get our new schedules. And just as I suspected, I’m teaching Oral English again to the freshman English majors.

This semester there are less classes for us foreign teachers to teach, so everyone’s schedule is a little lighter. Lauren is teaching two writing classes to the foreign freshman students (which sounds like it’s gonna be awesome) and she’s also taking two of my Oral English classes. Brittany and Drew are teaching sophomore/elective culture classes, and Drew also has a writing class. Pete is teaching some AA  English classes (non English majors), and Mervin told me Max is teaching his oral English class and the girls are in love already.

I was a little bummed because I was hoping to meet some new students and have different classes, but at the same time I’m really excited because I do love my students a lot, I know them really well, and we’re movin and groovin in class because I know what works with them. I teach two classes on Tuesday morning, two classes on Wednesday morning, and two classes on Friday afternoon. (I realllly love this schedule even more than last semester, because now I don’t have to ride the school bus to the new campus and back again 4 times a day.)

My first week of classes went great! It was just an intro to the semester class where I told them a layout for the semester, talked about my expectations for class, had a discussion about the Spring Festival, and also played a question game to get them into English mode again. There is so much I learned from my first semester – what works best in the classroom, what gets them speaking more, what activities flop and which ones the students love.

I’ve come to understand more about the Chinese education system and how to adapt from the western style. I also told them I’m cracking down on cell phones being out and talking in Chinese when they’re supposed to be having English discussions. Looking back on last semester I was so easy on everything – rules and grading and so on. I was talking to Pete about this and he said the same thing; every semester you learn a little more and realize what you can do better.

Since I have 4 days off a week, I have some new goals for this semester. I want to study Chinese more. It’s easy to get comfortable with the short phrases and words I do know and rely on calling Chinese friends to translate or just pointing at things or looking words up on my Pleco app, but I want to try harder. I downloaded some Chinese podcasts and hopefully can find a Chinese teacher this semester.

Lauren and I also joined the gym before we left and it has been such a great experience! So we’ve gone to yoga classes, a spin class (OHMYGOSH), zumba classes, and recently a strange Chinese dancing class with long sticks (I also go just to work out too.) We still get stared at in the gym, but it’s nice to have a fun place to go. One of the managers, Mr. Hu, is my friend now and we talk on wechat, and another guy (Lauren named him Vinny) is a trainer and dance instructor that talks to us when we come in.

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We’ve also started going to a Friday evening discussion in Hengyang. There is a group that has a meeting in an English/Chinese language mix. There are several other foreigners that go too, and we’re excited to meet more people here and build more connections. If you could be thinking about our new friends and opportunities this semester I would be so thankful! I’m looking forward to whatever this semester brings.

Some other fun things this week:

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We ran into my Chinese BFF Andy and his roommates this weekend

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A  lovely visit from Ed and Pam and a traditional Chinese lunch with our university foreign language directors, Sunny and Mr. Yuan

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Until next time, lots of love from Rach