Info for info box: Strong science and engineering programs. Over 40000 students. Located in Xi’an. Ranked one in 2006 in Telecommunications Engineering and Information Processing Technology.
Dana Andrews, professor of English, has gone to China this semester to teach English at Xidian University.
This is the second year of the professor exchange agreement between Western and the university in China. The first professor to go overseas was Director of Composition Kay Siebler.
“I thought, ‘this is a great opportunity because I have never lived in Asia ,so that’s a new experience,’” Siebler said.
Andrews also believes teaching for a year in China is a different experience, and expresses his gratitude for the help Siebler has given him to make the transition easier.
“It takes a bit of adjusting, but I’m honestly doing fine. Kay Siebler, being the first of us, really, really, really has been a huge help,” Andrews said.
Although, spending a year in China differs in many ways than teaching here in the States, Andrews has come to fit in well.
“I’m a person of habits and routines and I’ve settled right in to Xidian as if I were back in St. Joe,” Andrews said.
The difference in cultures is the biggest adjustment to make according to both Andrews and Siebler. Siebler explains that even the day-to-day tasks are a lot to get used to.
“It took me a while to figure out the subway system, it took me a while to figure out the bus system, the phones, finding things in the city, teaching, the difference between Chinese students and American students,” Siebler said.
In fact, most of the advice she had for Andrews before he left this semester was centered on the day-to-day tasks. But, the people overseas have also been a huge help to Andrews.
“The people here are incredibly nice and warm and helpful,” Andrews said.
Although he has been there for about three to four weeks now, Andrews explains he has adjusted to the students, faculty and teaching schedule.
“I am no longer confused by my teaching schedule,” Andrews said. “The layout is not easy to read or understand, and it had to be explained to me a couple of times, I’m sure to the exasperation of the chair of the English department here.”
The students in China have also had to adjust to the exchange. According to Andrews, students overseas are very shy and not easy to get to discuss their observations regarding some of the subjects covered in class.
Siebler agrees that the students are shy and don’t have as much experience in group discussions as we do in America. She feels that teaching critical thinking and analysis is important to bring to students in Asia.
“It’s something that a U.S. professor can offer them – a model of how to teach critical thinking, of how to run a discussion-based classroom,” Siebler said.
Western also has a lot to gain from the exchange. Mike Cadden, professor of English, explained how students and faculty here have also learned from the program.
“It provides insight into an education system quite different than ours,” Cadden said. “It gives an appreciation for other cultures and awareness for how things are done differently in other places.”
Cadden explains his hopes that this program will get more students interested in taking another foreign language on campus.
In the future, the program will look to expand to other departments in order to keep the exchange going. But for now, the exchange is geared towards getting more focus on foreign language opportunities here on campus.
The program certainly has an impact on the students and faculty involved. Andrews explains what he hopes to gain from this experience.
“Just committing to this trip and getting out of my comfort zone in my living situation, in the classroom, with students has already been an accomplishment for me. I hope I leave here with an intermediate ability to speak Mandarin,” Andrews said.
Both Andrews and Siebler gained much by their experiences in China. This program had brought opportunities to the English department here at Western, and also to many students in China.