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…
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.
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!