Chinese exchange a mutually beneficial experience

Aug 14, 2014

For four weeks this summer, a nine-person Heidelberg delegation immersed themselves in the Chinese culture while sharing the English language with students at Tianjin Normal University.

Julie Arnold (International Student Affairs), Michele Castleman (education), Jena Suffel (athletic training) and Mark Zeno (Residence Life), along with student teaching assistants Holly Oberlin, Danielle Howard, Amanda Barger and Meghan Yost, and Julie’s daughter, Lydia, represented Heidelberg for the 29th year in the summer exchange program at Tianjin Normal University.

While there, each ‘Berg faculty member was paired with a student teacher to teach a total of six classes to students ranging from high school and college, graduate school and professional teachers at TNU. Mark’s class, for example, was comprised of college sophomores, juniors and seniors, a pair of high school students and three post-college students. He focused on British English, as many of his students departed to study at Cambridge following the class.

“Most of our classes were geared toward helping our students improve their English language skills and prepare for the test required for them to study in the United States,” Mark said. “We talked a lot about study abroad. A lot were very interested in coming to Heidelberg in the future. They had a lot of questions about the testing and getting prepared for that.”

Senior education major Amanda Barger was paired with Jena in a class of all early childhood and middle school teachers. They focused on improving their students’ English language skills. As she prepares for her own teaching career, Amanda said she hopes to teach her students that there’s a different side to every country.

“I want to travel more and I hope to convince my students they can travel,” Amanda said.

Outside of the classroom, the Heidelberg world travelers had time to do some sight-seeing, including the Forbidden City, The Great Wall and Tiananmen Square in Beijing. There was also plenty to do in Tianjin, China’s third largest city. Some of the group visited a water park and rode the Tianjin Eye, a massive, glass-enclosed ferris wheel built over a bridge and a river. They want to a Buddhist temple, to museums, restaurants and of course, shopping.

“We had a really good group who meshed very well,” Mark said. “We all really enjoyed our students. By the end, they were actively involved in the classroom.”

Both Amanda and Mark agree they’d like to return to China one day to see more of the country. “All of us students ... there are so many other things we want to see, so we will go back some day,” Amanda said.

Maybe next year, when Heidelberg and Tianjin Normal University observe the 30th anniversary of the exchange program.