From student to teacher — a learning experience in China

September 10, 2018 — by Alan Zu

Sophomore volunteers in China, helping student learn English

Sophomore Anthony Qin stood before his class of 13 students in the rural province of Yunnan, China, singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to his 15-year-olds pupils. The students followed along, trying to master the classic song while bettering their English.

Qin was there from July 28-Aug 6 volunteering for the Peach Foundation, a program which helps children from poor districts lacking enough learning resources to complete a college education.

Qin had to pay $220 to cover his living costs in China for the summer. He lived in Kunming, a city near the village where he taught. Every day, the volunteer group drove him to the school where the children from the village went to learn.

The school Qin taught at also included dorms for some students to stay in because many live far away.

Qin’s main goal was to teach his students how to pronounce English words. The program also provided materials, such as notebooks and writing utensils.

One of the class’s projects was to prepare a song for the program’s final performance. For about an hour every day, Qin’s class focused on learning, singing and memorizing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The class copied down the lyrics while Qin played the music. As they practiced, Qin also corrected his class’s pronunciation.

Unfortunately, Qin couldn’t watch his class perform their song on the last day because he had to leave a day early for band camp here on campus. However, his mom recorded the performance for Qin, who said his students did really well.

Each class also received a badminton set and a basketball for their free time. At the end of the camp, the sports items are raffled away to one kid in each class, giving them items of enjoyment they could not afford.

During his trip, Qin and his group also had the opportunity to visit his students’ houses. Because of the village families’ low income, they didn’t use lights at night to save money, despite having electricity. Qin also said that many of the houses, adjacent to large government farms filled with corn crops, were dirty and carried a putrid smell.

Qin felt lucky to witness the differences between life in the Yunnan village and life in Saratoga.

“I learned that I am a lot more privileged than a lot of people,” Qin said. “Whenever I am slacking off, I recall my experiences on this trip and think, ‘Oh, [I] need to get back to work; I have so many more resources than the children I taught.’”

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