Staff English Class: Semester Completed

I just completed another Semester at another University in another Country on another Continent.  These past few months have found me in Shenzhen, at Southern University of Science and Technology, where I am the Staff Language Instructor, working with various departments on improving both business as well as practical English.  Over the course of the Semester, I worked with University Staff on English-language attainment, as it pertains to use both inside and outside of campus.  Since my arrival in late-October, these past three months have been rich in terms of unlimited cultural experiences, including my professional development, again working in a demanding academic environment.

Below are two short articles I wrote for the University’s Website, one describing the contexts of my classes, and the other celebrating the successful completion of our first Semester, hosting a PotLuck Party with my students.  I hope that you are able to take the time to read the short entries, shedding light on what I teach, where I learn, and with whom I share my experiences, here, far across the Pacific.

Never seeming to live in a country which matches up with Western Holidays, I will be spending the upcoming Chinese New Year in California, visiting with family and friends; enjoying many of the people and places which help frame my years abroad.  So, from this dynamic city of nearly 20 million people to each of you, wherever on the globe this email arrives, I wish you a Happy and Prosperous Year of the Rooster…
Expanding Cooperation Through English Learning
(November, 2016)
As the world continues to shift towards a smaller global community, shedding the distance between countries and continents, English language learning remains as pertinent as ever, helping to bridge the divide that separates. Common goals inspire common avenues, and Southern University of Science and Technology is paving the path towards internationalization within itself to help foster a community of learners, researchers, and staff that works together, underlying the foundations of cooperative education.

Introduced this year, English Language Training for Staff is a course which brings together members of different departments for daily lessons on the both the fundamentals of English as well as many of the cultural aspects which encompass language.  Learning important vocabulary as well critical thinking skills, SUSTech Staff are encouraged to think outside the classroom, applying their knowledge to practical situations which they encounter on a daily basis.  Using language acquisition as motivation for social mobility, students from the Library, Human Resources, Student Affairs and a number of other offices are taking advantage of this course which promotes cooperation amongst the different departments, in turn supporting collaboration with various partners and new colleagues.

The city of Shenzhen is a microcosm of the diversity which now defines our international context, with people from all corners of China here to advance themselves through personal and professional development.  A leader in creativity, technology and the entrepreneurial leadership which merge the two, the same attributes which describe our city can be applied to Southern University of Science and Technology, and the talented people involved with its development towards a global leader in education.

As SUSTech moves towards its goal of becoming a top-tier international university that excels in interdisciplinary research, nurturing innovative talents and delivering new knowledge to the world, it is through inter-department collaboration, where such visions are nurtured.  The Staff Language Training acts as a strong example of fulfilling a promise which the university is making to itself to ensure an expanded global understanding on behalf of everyone involved here on campus in Shenzhen, as we reach out to an expanded global platform.

End-of-Semester Party!
End-Of-Semester PotLuck Party
(January, 2017)
As we celebrate the completion of the first Semester of our Staff-English Class, I wanted to be sure to thank each of you for welcoming me into your culture, your community, and your classroom.  A year ago, I was in the highlands of East Africa, teaching and living in an entirely different context, grateful for those experiences but equally thankful for the opportunities which a return to Asia has provided me, especially the time I have been able to work with you, the staff of Southern University of Science and Technology, practicing English in a constructive environment.

Your desire to discover, coupled with motivation for success is highlighted in the classroom, with each of you putting forth the effort needed to learn such a challenging subject.  While there is rich history in Chinese, English is the language of this global world we live in, and it is my hope that through the lessons and discussions in our class, you are able to tint the lens through which you see into that vast beyond.  Similarly, SUSTech’s path to be an international university is reflected in each of your own roles here, from the Library to Student Affairs, and from Secretaries to Lab Assistants.  English stretches across each of the boundaries which separates your departments, but your participation in our class shows that you are not limited by language restrictions, instead, embracing the challenges and accepting the responsibilities.

A few months ago, at the beginning of our class, I suggested that language is only one part of culture, and that likewise, so too is music, clothing, beliefs, and food.  Here then today, I am happy to have all the classes together to share some of the meals which gives credence to our past, unites us in the present, and promotes ideas about the future.  It is my hope that this gathering acts as a strong ending for our first semester together, while at the same time representing a catalyst for continued growth next semester; learning together in an educational environment which fosters creative concepts about language and culture, and expands our worldview through cooperative ideas.