After living in Japan for 4 years then returning to America again, I experienced reverse culture shock and began to be open to new opportunities in other parts of the world. A good friend posted some information about teaching in China on Facebook, and that was the beginning of our interest in this university. We viewed China as a fascinating place, but with too many challenges and risks, especially since we had two children – ages 1 and 3 at the time. Both my wife (Japanese) and I had lots of misconceptions about China, and previously had no desire to visit, much less live there! However, the more we researched and discussed, the more excited we became about the possibility of working at Sias.
Would you recommend this job to other people?
This is a young institution, growing and changing very fast. It is an exciting place to be, full of new challenges, and opportunities for learning and growing all around you. People like my wife who are used to highly structured, organized, and stable environments find it difficult to adjust in the beginning, but the support from other foreign faculty here, as well as people in leadership, is excellent. It really is a great place to be.
What is teaching here like?
We have received all kinds of support from other teachers and families who live here with us in Peter Hall. We have developed some very close friendships with other teachers, and there are people who have lived here for several years who have supported us and taught us so much. I would highly recommend connecting with people who have lived here for several years.
Have you traveled outside of campus with students and what was that like?
There are plenty of opportunities for traveling during your time in China. It is easy to find students that are more than happy to travel with you and help. We have done this for day trips to the city, as well as a couple small overnight trips. Traveling outside Sias has been very important to us because it gives us a much better understanding of where our students are coming from, and how different people live around China. Sias is a very special place and has a wonderful community, but I think it is really important to spend time outside of the campus to learn more about real China.
What is the community like?
The things that immediately come to mind are sports, music, and performing. One of my favorite things to do is going out to eat with the students and letting them order different kinds of food. Food is very affordable, and there are so many different kinds of delicious dishes to enjoy. It is also fun to just hang out with different groups of people while getting to know each other and learning from each other.
What keeps you coming back?
There is so much to do and so much to learn about. We have lots of free time, but I always feel so busy because there are so many things to be involved with. It is hard to be away from our families in America and Japan, but it will also be very hard to leave when it’s time to go home.
Any tips for new teachers coming to China?
During my training in China, a young but wise teacher said, “Stay focused on your reasons for coming here and don’t compare yourself to others. People come to China for different reasons, and it can be very counter-productive if you start comparing yourself to others.” I found this to be excellent advice because we live in a close community with lots of different people, so it is very easy to look at others and feel bad because it seems like they are accomplishing so much more than you; or to develop a judgmental, negative attitude towards other people.
Any additional comments?
This year we have noticed big improvements in language training and lots of teachers are wisely taking advantage of that. Learning the language has been our biggest struggle, and I wish we would have studied more before coming to China. It is not absolutely necessary to be able to speak Chinese, but it certainly makes life in China much more exciting, opens up a lot more doors, and helps you understand the culture and people on a deeper level.