At Home Abroad


They may not have planned on becoming teachers when they were at MCLA, but three recent graduates are doing exactly that while they discover life and culture in China.

Dayne Wahl '09 of Delmar, NY, Emily Silver '09 of Bennington, VT, and Kim Harris '08 of Burlington, MA, teach English to the students at Hebei University in Baoding, just southwest of Beijing, China.

Truly an international experience, while in Baoding, they've met people from all over the world, including Nigeria, Russia, Korea, Japan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgistan, Canada, England, New Zealand, Madagascar, Mongolia, France, and the United States.

A sociology major, Silver calls teaching English in China "the experience of a lifetime."

 "I'm having an amazing time, and learning so much from my students," she says. "Everyone is so gracious and welcoming, and I'm excited to learn more and more about Chinese culture."

 "My students are a joy to work with and become friends with," says Wahl, who majored in interdisciplinary studies.

He recently spent time with a student who is part of a hip-hop dance crew. "He invited me to watch and, to my surprise, join in," Wahl says. "They cheered me on when I danced, and made me feel welcome. I now feel like I'm part of their family."

Wahl says his MCLA experience allowed him to flourish and grow up intellectually, socially, and emotionally: "Through that, I found myself and I carried this newfound confidence with me to China."

While he and Silver arrived in China this past August, Harris, who majored in psychology at MCLA, has been teaching at Hebei University since the summer of 2008. Unsure of her post-graduation plans, she decided to "take a chance" and go to China.

"I'm thoroughly enjoying learning Chinese and I'm very grateful that I have so many friendly teachers who will help me with my everyday tasks, such as buying fruit and getting around Baoding," Harris says.

"I find the Chinese people to be the friendliest and most helpful people I've ever met," Harris continues. "Even if we don't fully understand what the other is saying, many Chinese people will do everything they can to help me in Baoding. Because this is my second year, I am excited to learn even more details about the culture, including certain rituals at festivals, more about the tea culture, and the history of China."

As a result of the experience, she is considering a career in teaching English as a second language.

Silver calls the experience a "dream job."

While she's not yet certain what her future will hold, she says, "I'm learning more about myself here than I ever have before. I learn something new every day, either from the students, from other teachers, or from new situations. This experience makes me realize I love teaching, and I have so much more respect for teachers now that I am standing in a teacher's shoes.

 "MCLA has given me many opportunities to travel and learn about other cultures, either through Alternative Spring Break or the travel course to Spain," Silver continues. "These experiences have given me the opportunity to explore, and have given me the confidence to pursue this big adventure."