This past summer, from August 4 - August 10, a small group of SLI officers and members traveled to Fuzhou China to assist in the English education of a small group of Chinese junior high students. This trip was an incredible leadership opportunity and an amazing experience for both SLI volunteers and the Chinese students.
Upon our arrival at Fuzhou Shu De School, we were enthusiastically greeted by the Chinese students and promptly taken to the dorm rooms. The school campus was very spacious, and even in the dark, I noticed many tall school buildings surrounding us. A quick elevator ride and a short walk down a hallway took us to our rooms. Each room consisted of six beds, desks, and wardrobes, as well as a private bathroom.
The morning after our arrival, all the students and supervisors gathered in the dining room of the school for breakfast, which consisted of soy milk, tea eggs, and Chinese doughnuts. After breakfast, we embarked on the journey to our first cultural destination, which was a small waterside village. To entertain ourselves during the hour-long ride, we conversed and got to know one another. As soon as we reached our destination and stepped out of the van, we felt the high humidity characteristic of southern China. We toured the waterfront rocks, appreciated the scenery, took some group pictures, and traveled back to the school. After we had lunch as a group near the dorms, we went to the school auditorium to help the students with their English homework. By utilizing this time to meet with each student individually, we were able to better understand each individual’s English language skills and abilities and adapt to every student differently to help him or her learn more efficiently. Afterwards, we watched the Avengers in English in the auditorium as an English comprehension activity.
The following days consisted similarly of cultural and language activities, including a calligraphy lesson and a visit to the tea garden. Toward the middle of the week, we started working intensely on revising and rehearsing the English play of Alice in Wonderland with the Chinese students. Each student was assigned roles in the production, and in addition to rehearsing the play as a group, we practiced individually with each student to tailor to every student’s skills and needs. We created simple costumes, decorations, and a backdrop for a more authentic Alice in Wonderland experience. After many late nights and rehearsals, performance day, August 9, arrived. During the official performance, everyone was able to say their English lines well, and the production ran smoothly. We celebrated with a cheerful dinner at a nearby local restaurant.
Once it was time for the Chinese students to return home late in the night of August 9, everyone was reluctant to leave and even tried to delay the departure. However, a parting was inevitable, and we all promised to stay connected and expressed desires to meet up again in the future. After tearful goodbyes, our trip was essentially complete. We had met our goal of improving the students’ English by assisting them with their English homework and producing an English play. We also managed to converse with the students in English to better help them with their conversational abilities.
The difference between American and Chinese cultures was prominent throughout the trip, and it took some time to get used to the foreign lifestyle; however, all in all, the trip provided an incredible experience that allowed us to develop our social, cultural, and educational skills. The few days that we spent with the students resulted in an abundance of memorable moments. We have met so many people during this trip whom we will forever consider our friends