Amity teacher Jian explores passion for teaching in new country
November 16, 2018
Immersing herself in a new country, language and culture, Amity teacher Xiao Jun Jian traveled across the world from Taipei, Taiwan to St. Paul Academy and Summit School as a part of the Amity Scholars program this year.
“I just graduated this year from a University in Taiwan, and the professors in the school told us that the government has a program where we can go to a foreign country that we can apply for. I think most young Taiwanese people want to have a chance to work in a foreign country, so I thought this program was a really nice opportunity,” Jian said.
In her 2 months here, Jian has already experienced many challenges but also learned the benefits of being immersed in English.
“I have to do everything in English, and I only have myself here so I can’t rely on anyone to help me. I’ve only been here for 2 months, yet I feel like I’ve already overcome so many obstacles and grown a lot. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to feel sorry about messing up in English because it’s not my mother tongue language, it’s my second language,” Jian said.
Jian expressed her goals for this year, hoping it helps her find out what she wants to do with her future.
“This year is like a gap year for me so I can realize if I want to live in a foreign country and can work here. I’m also hoping to realize if I want to teach for the rest of my life or not because I think this year the whole experience will help me understand if I like it or not,” Jian said.
While Jian has learned a lot already in America, she misses being surrounded by family and friends in Taiwan.
“The most difficult part of this for me is that I’m here all alone. The school only has one intern every year so sometimes I feel lonely because I don’t have a same-age friend here with me. This summer I was in Los Angeles with my friend and we taught a Chinese summer camp for children, and that was really nice because I had a partner to work with. Generally, I think that when you’re alone you’re less determined, and that’s making it hard for me here since everything is in English,” Jian said.
However, Jian has been finding ways to connect with other Taiwanese people in the Twin Cities and create her own community here.
“Someone added me to a facebook group chat called Taiwanese people in Minneapolis, and the other day I posted in there asking if anyone wanted to eat hot pot with me and lots of people responded. And so, through that group I have met people and made new friends. But whenever you do anything new, you have to take that first step. You can’t just wait for someone to help you. You have to try and find people to connect with and make an effort. You can’t be scared,” Jian said.
Aside from being in a new, English-centered environment, Jian also notices many contrasts between her experience in SPA and Taiwan classrooms, with the greatest being SPA’s emphasis on discussions and interactivity between students and the teacher.
“[The SPA education style] is so different from our education system in China. I feel like the students here are really active, curious and willing to learn more. In a Taiwanese classroom, no one answers questions in classes because they’re all scared of saying the wrong answer and being laughed at. Here, people don’t have that fear and they’re willing to engage. I also like the language classes here because they are more interactive. When I learned English we always did writing and listening, no speaking. Here, students do a lot of recordings and conversations which is really good. And our teachers used to assign us so much homework so we would study all day and go to sleep so late. It was so stressful,” Jian said.
While in America, Jian is excited to explore the country, especially with some of the new friends she has made.
“I met a friend two days ago and he asked me if I wanted to go to New York with him for Thanksgiving, which made me so happy. When I was in junior high one of my dreams was to go to America because of movies and comic books and it seemed so nice. And the education system in Taiwan was so stressful so I was jealous of American students and wanted to come here. So now, it’s a dream come true for 15 year old me, but now I have to face all the challenges of living in a new country in a completely new language. America is so big and I want to see and travel more because there’s so much to do here,” Jian said.
And lastly, Jian shared a fun fact about herself that she hopes students can use as a conversation starter with her: “Something most students don’t know about me is that I like weight training. When I showed pictures of all the weight training I do students here were shocked that I did so much and then I was surprised because I thought all people in America loved to weight lift. So, if people do like to weight lift tell them I also like to,” Jian said.