Well, with a full belly of Chinese eats, it was time to let it settle into the relaxing, calming environs of a lecture hall. Good for digestion I hear—and sleep deprivation.
But you won’t be nodding off with this post. It was a kind of homecoming for me as I met a couple fellow Minnesotans. Come meet them yourself and see what a college lecture in China looks like.
Lei and I sauntered out of the cafeteria and toward her class, Contract Law. Yippee! Here we are on the way. Too bad the blasted sun had to be out, ruining my chance of taking shots of other students:
We got in the lecture hall, and of course the students were surprised to see me—I did kinda stick out. I mean I am thirty.
The room had the look of some old-school institutions in the U.S. White, bland. This is indicative of what I’ve experienced in a few academic settings in China:
The vibe of the student body was pretty reminiscent of my college days. Most wanted to lay low in the back of the room; several arrive with phones and music players buzzing; none look too thrilled to be there:
Actually, and surprising to me, there’s a fair amount of lethargy on campuses here. According to my friends who teach at colleges, students are pretty low-energy when it comes to learning. This went against the idea I had that students here are all “front row” types with hands eager to raise.
Then again, this was Contract Law, right? But if Hollywood’s taught us one lesson about school, (besides that 25 year old’s make great high schoolers) it’s that a rockin’ teacher can come in and make anything seem interesting! So who do we got today? Drum roll for Professor Wang Jian please.
Though I know nothing about him, except he had that same kind of professorial manner in his delivery, he’s cool in my book for allowing me to take pics and video during the lecture:
Okay, now that we’re versed in Chinese contract law, I don’t want to hear any excuses for not finding that job. Just gotta move a hemisphere. You wouldn’t be the first Minnesotan to come over here for work. (ahem)
I gotta tell ya, it’s a whole different job market, Readers. At the risk of jinxing what they got going on, it’s a scene of no-end-in-sight economic expansion, with opportunities easier to come by or make yourself. Take English teaching; as more Chinese make more money (and continue to have one child) they’ll have the disposal dough to spend on something like English classes. Consequently, it’s pretty easy to find work. Yes, pretty easy. (As oppose to what I’m hearing about back home.)
But there is one catch. You gotta live in China. That didn’t stop the Minnesotans I met, though. Turns out there’s a whole slough of ‘em working as teachers and teaching assistants at a neighboring college to the one I was visiting. I walked on the red-brick road from BNU to UIC:
And I arrived at United International College:
Impressive, because it’s really the only one on campus. This is a small, expensive, tightly knit college that encompasses 3-4 departments in one, large building:
So, whereas I was worried about finding the English department here, it turns out it was literally “just up the stairs and down the hall”. And here is where I met this guy:
This photogenic primed-to-be-professor young gentleman is named Jonas. Recognize him? Well, probably one of you at least knows someone who might, because Jonas is from Grand Rapids. He’s a recent college grad and now enjoys the time teaching English in China.
Unfortunately, the pic was all I really had time for as he was preparing for a class, but I did get a chance to talk to a couple other young ladies. Jessica Steinbauer is a teacher who’s been here over a year now and enjoying the experience. She’s from Owatonna and graduated from UMD. Amy Gilk is a Canon Falls native and a graduate from Augsburg in Minneapolis. The best part about being here, says Amy, is the karaoke bars and trying to communicate in conversations via broken English/broken Chinese. The worst, no surprise, is missing her family.
In total there are at least a half-dozen Minnesotans who make up a good chunk of the English Department at this tiny college north of little-known Zhuhai. But enjoying the proximity to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, Zhuhai offers “real Chinese charm” with all the modernism one craves.
There’s actually quite a connection between China and Minnesota. If you recall, Tim Pawlenty made trips out here. In fact, the Executive VP of UIC had met with Pawlenty in the past. And these recent grads get to take advantage of the exchange programs and teaching opportunities as a result of these relationships.
Me? I just got lucky to have a friend work at my school previously. And you? Who knows? Maybe China will be in your future, too. Or at least you’ll be wearing, playing with, listening to, or preparing food with something that was made here.
As China continues to build their wealth, their interest in education will increase. This means something to Minnesotans like Jonas, Amy and Jessica. And yet, this is just one small slice of the increasing pie that a better China means for Minnesota…and the rest of the world.
to new plateaus,