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USU student learns as much as she teaches in China

November 15th, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life

Story & Photos by Amber Neil
HNC China Correspondent

LINYI, People’s Republic of China—I am living in a city that my taxi driver recently described as “a small countryside city,” yet there are 10 million people here. I am living in a country where I am a superstar, where I am continually asked for my autograph, my picture and am stared at every time I leave my apartment. I am living in Linyi, Shandong Province, China.

China is filled with high-rises, pollution, crazy drivers, schools, historical sites and much more. Throughout my travels since I arrived, I have walked where emperors walked centuries ago, in places where decisions were made that shaped this country. I have enjoyed viewing ancient architecture that was hand-crafted by tattered little Chinese men. I have been intrigued by a country that has become a political, military and economic superpower, yet seems years behind the United States. And I have been moved by the millions of people that are willing to help me in an instant.

I am an English teacher at Linyi Normal University, instructing my students primarily about American culture and Western ideas. Yet my students always ask me to teach them American games and songs, so I do, giving them a break from their rigorous schedules.

Unlike American university students, these students are told what classes to go to, what time to go to them, when to study, when to eat and when to sleep. So when they get the chance to come to a class with a fun, attractive American lady who teaches them a variety of topics and who has fun with them, they get very excited.

It is times like these that make me glad to be a teacher here.

But whenever I pose the question “Why?” or ask my students debate a topic or issue, I am reminded that the government has a lot of power over people here, and are capable of teaching them exactly what they want them to know and not know.

I am living in a communist nation that is proving to be completely opposite from the democratic nation I have grown up with and take for granted.

As journalist students, we are taught to tell the truth and be objective—or at least fair and balanced—when reporting news. Then I came to China, where I don’t fully believe any of the news I hear or read.  All of the English-language news here reports only positive news about China, and is quick to point out the negative news outside of “The Mother Land.” It has made me appreciate U.S. news more, and it has been enjoyable to read American news and then Chinese news, to compare what the top stories are and what details get changed.

China is a fascinating country and culture that I get to continue learning from for two more months. I look forward to it every day.

Students in Amber Neil’s class at Linyi Normal University in the Yellow Sea port in Shandong Province shoot cellphone photos of their teacher.


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