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My Chinese Newspaper Article About California

Originally Published in The Shenzhen Daily

California has been my home since birth, although for nearly the past decade, I have been teaching abroad, on both the Asian as well as the African continent.  Yet at the end of every semester, during the Winter and Summer breaks, I usually make my way back to the Golden State, flying across that vast Pacific Ocean, going from my professional reality in Shenzhen to my personal reality in California.

Growing up in Southern California, I don’t know if I appreciated it as much then as I do now, as it took me living and teaching in a rural Ethiopian landscape to fully value the beauty of the California coastline.  But years later, those sounds of waves playing upon the sand remind me of the home from which I came, their echoes shaped differently each year by the countries which I visit.  Similarly, my return to the classroom at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) is influenced by my experiences from California, not only teaching English but also the inherent culture which encompasses language.  Just as I speak differently than someone from London, likewise, I speak differently than someone from New York, and following, the lifestyle of California is unique in its own respects, mirroring the culture of the Golden State which often proceeds at a seemingly more informed and laid-back pace than perhaps anywhere on Earth.

On this particular trip home, I had the opportunity to visit San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles; interestingly all named in Spanish, reflecting the rich and complex history which has shaped California.  Part of Mexico until 1848, California has always painted itself outside the lines of traditional “Americanism”, challenging the status quo while remaining true to its own identity.  It is this personification of my home state which has likewise instilled in me a desire to handle things differently, using creative approaches to the cross-cultural dilemmas I encounter around the globe while at the same time finding sustainable solutions with those I meet from different countries.

In a number of respects too, California is similar to Shenzhen, acting as a local leader in a national economy and a global leader in technological innovation while being geographically situated to welcome the world through its advantageous location.  Because of these parallels, my two years living and teaching in Shenzhen have gone rather well, able to adapt to the cultural differences while at the same time cognizant of the contrasting realities which I encounter daily.

While traversing these global peaks and valleys, California remains in my heart regardless of where I go, my visions of sunsets in Asia tinted by the hues of those I have witnessed growing up along the Southern California coastline, reflecting my dreams upon the Pacific which now acts as a widening gap between work and home.  It is these collections of memories which push me forward to continue experiencing the world, while at the same time reminding me of that place I am so Grateful to call home…


I Won my University’s “Teaching Competition”!

My university conducted an interview with me about this unprecedented win, and following, is an article both in Chinese and (roughly translated) English about my pedagogical approach to teaching:



Special Report on “Young Teachers’ Teaching Contest”

特等奖获得者Matthew Jellick:


Grand Prize Winner Matthew:

“The world is a big classroom and we should never stop teaching and learning”

第二届青年教师教学竞赛两位特等奖获得者中有一位是老外,他就是我校语言中心负责英语教学的Matthew。来自美国的Matthew从事英语语言教育已有十余年,曾在新西兰的米德尔顿田庄大学(Middletown Grange College)、埃塞俄比亚的读经台大学(Ambo University 和尔达瓦大学(Dire Dawa University)等从事英语语言教学,在南方科技大学任教是他首次在中国开启教学之路。

One of the two Grand Prize winners of the Second Young Teachers’ Teaching Contest is Matthew Jellick, a foreign English teacher in the Language Center at SUSTech. Matthew is from the United States has been teaching English abroad for nearly ten years including working at Middletown Grange College in New Zealand, as well as Ambo University and Dire Dawa University in Ethiopia. SUSTech is his first stop teaching here in China.


Matthew has been with SUSTech for 14 months.  Part of his responsibilities include teaching academic writing skills to Sophomore students as well as conducting Staff English Training courses. Matthew said he is very happy with his teaching work at SUSTech.  SUSTech is a young and energetic university that is advancing on the path of vigorous development. He is honored to work at the university and witness its growth and development. He said that teaching in such a newly-developed university gives him an opportunity to make more meaningful contributions. When looking back ten or twenty years later, he will be proud of the teaching work he participated in and the achievements he made.

Staff Class

Teaching and learning in the diversified classroom


As an ancient Chinese saying goes, if three men are walking together, one of them is bound to be good enough to be my teacher. Matthew believes that the classroom should be a diversified teaching platform that integrates various cultures. For him, the most important teaching method is to provide equal time for “teacher talk” and “student talk“. That is to say, although he is a teacher standing at the front of the class, every student should have his/her viewpoints and ideas listened to as an equal participant. When the students are learning from him within the class, he can also learn other cultural knowledge from them and their diverse cultural backgrounds. Matthew believes that one does not necessarily know more than the other. Only within a specific knowledge framework can one become a teacher of others, and beyond these specific circumstance, he needs to learn from others. In his opinion, suppose there are 30 students in a class and everyone can express his/her thoughts: then there will be 30 different cultural feedbacks in the classroom, which Matthew believes is very valuable in the teaching process. This is the teaching methodology most valued by him. He thinks that in teaching, especially language teaching, letting students express themselves can not only improve their speaking ability, but also improve their selfcognition and activate their thinking. Matthew believes that the sharing of ideas within the classroom is an essential part of a successful class.


A good textbook has an important guiding role for knowledge acquisition. In Matthew’s viewpoint,  good teaching methods may arouse students’ emotion and strengthen the interaction between students and teachers in the classroom, but a good textbook can further arouse students’ interest in learning and expanding their knowledge and cultural level. In the course of knowledge acquisition, the textbook can materialize the abstract knowledge so that the students can understand the concepts of that same knowledge more clearly. Teaching is a process of continuous adaptation. As a global teacher, Matthew needs to adapt himself to different geographical and cultural environments and students from different countries and different cultural backgrounds, and establish mutual trust based on mutual understanding and communication, and then promote each other through his the teaching process. A good textbook, as an important support mechanism in the teaching process, also needs diversified content, so that students can broaden their horizons and understand more world cultures while grasping knowledge.

Book Club

Expand the teaching platform and teach through lively activities


Matthew said he is very honored to win the Grand Prize in the Young Teachers’ Teaching Contest and regards it as a recognition and encouragement of his teaching. SUSTech provides good mechanisms and platforms for young teachers to develop their teaching ability so that they may accumulate experience and make progress in the path of their careers. The contest is a good practice to train their teaching skills and encourage them to improve on the path of teaching. Matthew has his own way of teaching. He doesn’t advocate cramming teaching, but tends to interact and communicate with students, so that the classroom is full of vigor and vitality. Matthew believes that a good teaching process should not be limited only to the classroom and therefore, he extends teaching outside the classroom. He provides the university’s staff with English training course and in his spare time, works with the English Speaking and English Book Club, providing a diversified platform of English learning for both students and teachers. He often encourages students to challenge themselves in the classroom. When he taught in Ethiopia, it was a great challenge for his outstanding undergraduate students in Africa to pursue a master’s degrees or doctorates in Britain, France or the United States, but if they succeed in doing so, they will broaden their horizon and benefit from it by obtaining knowledge and experiencing different cultural environments.

Speaking Club

Broaden the horizon while staying true to the original intention of education


Matthew enjoys every class with students. He not only shares the customs and cultures around the world with them, but also talks about what he sees, thinks, and feels with them. Shenzhen is a rapidly developing city that has gathered high-tech companies such as Huawei, Tencent and BGI. Matthew feels very happy to live in such a city and work at SUSTech, filled with vitality. He said that today’s world is a community of science and technology with different cultures integrated together. As an English teacher, he has the opportunity to work with colleagues of different professional experiences and backgrounds. He can not only get a lot of cultural knowledge despite the great working pressure, but also teach language knowledge through the teaching process and act as a cultural disseminator so that the people around him may experience the humanity from around the world.


Matthew said that if he has the opportunity to go to other countries for English teaching in the future, he will bring the cultural knowledge, teaching experience, customs and humanity he has learnt in China, just as he has brought the cultures of other countries into his classroom here.  While accumulating teaching experience, he will continue to be a discriminator of education and culture. In his view, he will lose motivation, passion and his own uniqueness if he stays in a country or university for ten years or more, so he will keep forward with the teaching experience accumulated and the humanities harvested, to pass the cultural customs he has learnt to the next stop. As he sums up his teaching attitude with a word, “the world is a big classroom and we should never stop teaching and learning.”

Staff English Book Club

One of the best teaching and learning opportunities I have been a part of during the time at my university, is the Staff English Book Club.  For the second consecutive semester, my students and I have successfully read an advanced-level novel, addressing both linguistic skill-sets as well as cultural dynamics through our bi-weekly meetings where open discussion and inspired dialogue foster unconventional education.

Last semester we read Peter Hessler’s “River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze” which highlighted an American male’s perspective of living and teaching in rural China during the 1990s.  This semester, in an aim to see a different viewpoint, we read Anchee Min’s “The Cooked Seed: A Memoir” which describes a Chinese woman’s migration to the United States in the 1980s.  Both books have painted the countries of China and the US through the lens of their respective authors, giving insight into the hardships encountered and enjoyments revealed, showcasing language as both a barrier and a bridge.


The Cooked Seed begins with Anchee Min descending into Chicago’s airport to begin her journey, in possession of neither money nor an education to assist her as she looked for a new start, convinced she had “no chance to sprout” back in Shanghai due to her age and occupation.  Throughout the story, sadness and hardship are underlying themes, extending from dubious financial transactions, ignorant racists remarks, and a complicated love life.  Yet what rises from within the beautifully-written 340 pages is the notion that hope helps to overcome, having paved Anchee’s path with lessons learned and dreams deferred.

For the staff who are in my class, the Book Club offers a unique perspective on language acquisition.  Liu Yuling, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, says, “The Book Club is important to me because it is a gateway to English culture and literature. The Book Club shows us global culture – something which Shenzhen needs – while also cultivating good learning habits: to read, think and learn more!”


This semester too, both my parents and sister read along, with my parents joining us in person during their trip to China, and my sister using Skype to relay her thoughts on the book during a recent webcast from the United States.  Touching upon issues which stretch beyond individualized cultures, and instead expand to include the global world, it was interesting to hear the comparison of different viewpoints within our international classroom, with both China and the United States represented by different readers.

The Staff English Book Club offers a unique way to not only practice English, but to likewise understand the contexts in which language gains it’s sociocultural importance.  Learning opportunities such as these are an important mechanism to extend beyond the walls of a traditional classroom situation and learn about the global settings which define who we are, regardless of where we come from…

Newspaper Article about my Parent’s Trip to Visit me in China

This is the sixth article I have written for The Shenzhen Daily, the English-language newspaper in my host city of Shenzhen.  Titled, “My Parent’s Visit to China: Continued Global Education”, it highlights their visits to see me not only here, but across the globe, at different universities I have taught at, and the cultural and educational insight they get not only into the local people, but my students…

The Shenzhen Daily

My parents recently spent about 10 days visiting me in China, traveling to Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macau.  Over the course of my time living and teaching abroad, they have had the opportunity to visit me in classrooms around the globe, including New Zealand in 2014, Ethiopia in 2015, and now China in 2017.  Growing up in a family which loved to see the world when I was young, those ideals have been instilled in me so that now, as an adult, I am able to incorporate traveling into my job.  To be able to share the cultures of these dynamic countries where I teach, with my parents, has become our new “family vacation” and something I am grateful for.

Back in 2014 I was teaching Korean students on a study-abroad program at Middleton Grange College in Christchurch, New Zealand, when I invited my parents to visit.  These cross-cultural opportunities seem to offer much more than the ordinary vacation, as I get to introduce my parents to the schools and students I am working with.  It offers an insight which most tourists don’t get to see – an understanding of the educational contexts of different countries, highlighting the importance of education regardless of where it is taking place.

In 2015, I invited my parents to Ethiopia, when I was lecturing at Ambo University as a Language Fellow.  Quite a change from the physical landscape of New Zealand, but still, inside the classrooms there remained a desire for knowledge on behalf of the students.  Ethiopian tertiary education may not offer the same resources as those in the West, yet my students showed interest in hearing about the cross-cultural dichotomies which exist not only in schools but in families.  They asked my parents about American family dynamics, curious about the degree of both social and academic freedom my parents allowed me growing up. 

Now in 2017, I again invited my parents to spend some time with me, seeing not only the local sights, but also Southern University of Science and Technology, where I teach, in Shenzhen, China.  Spending the course of a regular working week on campus, I was able to again introduce them to my students, including undergraduate Sophomores as well as Staff English students. As was the case in Ethiopia and New Zealand before that, they were able to have discerning dialogue with inquisitive students about the contexts of American education and culture.

Victoria Harbour

One topic which has come up in classrooms from Oceania to Africa to Asia is the importance of traveling, and the impact it has had on my parents, and subsequently, myself.  Each time they are asked, my Mom and Dad underscore the significance travel had on them, and how they were able to incorporate that into their children’s upbringing.  Years later as I continue to teach around the globe, I am grateful for the early exposure my parents showed me to different cultures so that now, as a teacher, I can invite them to help reiterate to my students the notion that Learning is Lifelong and Worldwide!

Chinese Newspaper Interview Article

“Teacher Stretches Beyond Classroom Into Culture”

In nearly a year of teaching at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), Matthew Jellick has initiated two clubs for both students and Chinese staff members, providing an authentic English environment and bridging their personal and professional lives through open-minded conversation.

Since joining SUSTech’s Center for Language Education (CLE) in late October 2016, the American has not only given both staff and students English classes but also organized an English Book Club and an English-Speaking Club and helped to edit the SUSTech Library’s English website and the English interface on its self-service machines.


Early this year, the members of the Book Club finished reading Peter Hessler’s River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, an English non-fiction documenting Hessler’s teaching experience in Fuling, Sichuan Province, from 1996-1998. Fuling is now part of Chongqing municipality.

The 15 club members, all university staff, met every other Wednesday during lunch, sharing their opinions on the book. “We not only talked about the book, but also about our lives. When we were discussing the changes in Fuling over the years, someone brought up how Shenzhen’s changed,” said member Lu Zhengming.

“The club has improved our speaking and reading skills, but most importantly, our cross-cultural knowledge. Matthew encouraged us to think, not just read. We communicated freely and Matthew even arranged a Skype discussion for us with Peter Hessler. We never thought we could talk with the famous writer,” said Huang Feiyan, another member of the club. “In a traditional English-learning class, maybe we are good at grammar, vocabulary and passing exams, but if you want to improve real skills, you should expose yourself to a natural English-speaking environment,” she added.

Jellick believes that English learning should be culture-based, so at the end of the Spring Semester, he organized a Potluck with the club. “Everybody brought their hometown food, from Sichuan, Hunan or even California. Food is a part of culture and we shared our cultural identities through the potluck. Real learning takes place in an authentic environment,” he said.

Jellick’s English-Speaking Club is called “Voice of SUSTech.” Students meet through weekly meetings, assembling every Sunday night to practice conversational English. In June, Jellick organized a field trip to Shekou, encouraging students to talk with foreigners. “I acted more as a mentor, not as a teacher in the club. The foreigner interviews in Shekou gave the students opportunities to practice their English skills in a setting which pushed the boundaries of their comfort zones. At first, some students were nervous. They were required to ask yes/no and opinion questions to interviewees, but in many cases, they turned ‘interviews’ into conversations, adding deeper substance to the prescribed questions. It was hard but enjoyable,” said Jellick.

Jellick holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching (TESOL) from the University of Southern California and a BA in Liberal Studies (Migrant Education) from Portland State University. Before joining the faculty at SUSTech, he had taught English in the United States, Mexico, South Korea, New Zealand and Ethiopia. Wherever he has taught, he has written prolific articles about global education and culture for the local press, including the Shenzhen Daily, Korea Times and Ethiopian Herald.


When he worked as a university lecturer in Ethiopia from 2014-2016, he initiated a Women’s Club as well as a Soccer Club. With financial grants from the U.S. State Department, he obtained 40,000 books to donate to the Ethiopian university he taught at, which had very few books in its library for research, let alone for enjoyment. Through gender-empowerment initiatives, Jellick encouraged African women to play Soccer and obtained a US$50,000 donation from Nike Korea to support women’s Soccer training in Ethiopia and Djibouti. With the Women’s Club, he was able to introduce his students to ideas outside of their prescribed setting, taking them to the capital, Addis Ababa, to see art and music and even to the African Union to watch U.S. President Barack Obama give a speech, where of course, he too mentioned Gender Empowerment.

“In Ethiopia, mostly men play Soccer with only a few women receiving cultural or tertiary education. Through my role, I did what I could to encourage women to find their voice, whether through sports or education, creating a viewpoint of equality to men,” he said.

In the future, Jellick plans to teach in more countries. “I’ve been teaching abroad from nearly 10 years and I know how to culturally adapt to the circumstance regardless of if I find myself in Africa or Asia. When I’m teaching, I don’t portray my culture as the best. Rather, I come here not as an American teacher but a global citizen, and I’m sharing my ideas learned from Mexico, Africa, South Korea and China to my students and hope that they too can be part of the global community.”

Fifth Chinese Newspaper Article

The notion of global education is spoken of often, with the understanding that we, as global citizens, are being brought closer together due to technological innovations and ideological practices, regardless of the distance which may stretch between respective countries. No longer is China “on the other side of the world” from California, rather, it is an overnight-flight or a telephone call away, bridging that gap which explorers have fraught over for centuries. Following, the benefits derived from this smaller collective of learners allows for the exchange of not only educational ideas but similarly, cultural practices.

This Summer, one of my students at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in Shenzhen, took the opportunity to study at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, enrolling in the 2017 Summer International Acting Institute Program, through USC’s School of Dramatic Arts. Not necessarily a course which would be accessible in a traditional Chinese educational context, it was for this same reason that Krystal, a gifted student in her own right, chose to survey a trail which led off the prescribed path, following, what she described in her Personal Statement, as “the sum of craftsmanship, spirit, creative ideas, and inspiration.”

Matt & Krystal at USC
I completed my Master’s Degree in Teaching at USC, and while home in California this Summer, took time to visit campus, meeting up with Krystal to see her class while also touring the university. Offering innovative practices to learn not only the specifics associated with Dramatic Arts but also the creative approaches to underlying theory, the four-week course steered away from rote learning and instead used exploration as a guide, encouraging students to “let go” and let inspiration lead the way. Krystal mentioned that at first, this methodology surprised her, but after seeing the relationship between patience and practice, she realized that a redefinition of her approach was needed if she was truly to understand the varying identities which each of us have, and how we go about choosing which one we showcase to others both on and off the stage.

A leader in STEM-related fields, SUSTech offers students an impressive education in those subjects, partnering with the entrepreneurial spirit which thrives in Shenzhen. When coupled with ambitious students who wish to gain different perspectives from across the ocean, there is no limit to what cross-cultural and integrated educational partnerships can do, acting as a catalyst for cooperation and a mechanism for change. For myself, to be able to bridge two universities which have played an integral part of own my educational journey, acts a testament to the power of global education and the reach is has which stretches beyond distances and over time.

Student Interview: Shenzhen – New York

This past semester, I taught the (adult) Staff here at my university.  It was an interesting and exciting 16 weeks, working on English language acquisition while also addressing issues pertaining to global educational inequalities.  Myself, as an American who had recently taught in Africa, contrasted my experiences with theirs, most of whom had undergraduate level education in China but had traveled abroad for Masters and Doctoral work.

One of my students, Sandy, approached me after class asking if I could help her son, Michael, as he was a Senior in High School exploring options for universities in the United States.  I of course welcomed the opportunity to assist him, meeting the next week to discuss the circumstances surrounding his decision.  During his high school years, Michael’s parents had taken him on an extensive tour of American universities and he had decided upon completing his tertiary education in the States.  He came to me with questions about specifics including the difference in campus culture between the University of Miami and the University of Wisconsin(?!) as well as the educational guidelines for deciding upon a major with the option to change if need be.  It was refreshing to speak with a student who viewed the university experience as a part of collective personal growth, not solely limited to what takes place inside a classroom.

One of his interests was NYU, and he was curious to learn more.  Through my networking as part of the USC Alumni Association of Shenzhen, I had come in contact with Mark, the President of the NYU Shenzhen Alumni Association, and reached out to him to see if he would be interested in sharing information with Michael.  We set up a lunch meeting, and over the best Cantonese food I have ever eaten, we discussed the cultural and educational realities of being an International Chinese student at a place like NYU.  Throughout the nearly three-hour long meeting, we touched upon issues ranging from class size to campus diversity, and from the availability of Chinese food to the safety measures implemented by the school.  Michael and his parents listened intently, asking valid questions which addressed legitimate concerns while Mark told them of the countless benefits of attending school abroad, both from an international as well as domestic perspective.

Needless to say, Michael accepted the offer to attend NYU in the Fall, and has since been involved with the university’s preparatory committees both in Shenzhen and Hong Kong.  He and his parents will fly to New York in August for the welcoming convocation and begin the long (and expensive) path of university life in America.  In an effort to share his story, I interviewed Michael last week, and have now put together a 10-minute video where he talks about his decisions, the process, and his hopes for the future.  As someone who continues to have the opportunity to view education through different cultural lenses, I was grateful to have met Michael through his mom, one of my students; a testament to the global perspective I try to highlight in my classes.

If you have the time, I encourage you to watch the video, as it highlights the circumstances of a modern day young Chinese student and his understanding of international education, including the benefits of an expanded worldview which comes with studying abroad, where truly, the world is your classroom…