Alumni Comments 2017

**From S. (2017 Nanjing Program):

Organization of the program: The program is very well organized. Every detail was planned out and explained before and during the trip.

Management of the program on the school site: We received a warm welcome and felt very appreciated. I would have liked to observe the Chinese teachers teaching their classes. I also would have liked access to a copier so I could print things as needed and not rely on the room teachers. Air conditioning in the classrooms would have been nice. There were units but the room teachers didn't like to use them even when it was 30+ degrees Celsius in the classroom.

Service of tour guides: The tour guides, Henry & Wilson, were amazing. They gave us great insight to life in China today and Chinese history. I learned so much from them. I appreciated their honesty and willingness to share the good and bad of Chinese culture.

Advice for future teachers: Read all the advice Sally includes in the emails. Watch Lewie's webinars and take notes. It is difficult to make copies at the school, either bring copies or use Lewie's ideas for vocabulary games that don't require copies. I chose a theme, nursery rhymes, and taught a different one each day. I loved collaborating with the other teachers at my grade level. We broke our 12 days of teaching up and each planned 4 days then shared our plans. If I do this again, my theme will be American holidays. The students were intrigued by them. You don't need to over pack supplies or snacks as there is a Walmart in Nanjing. You do need to get your rest, even though you want to explore the city after school, the teaching day is exhausting. The whole trip is well worth it. I learned so much about China, teaching ESL, and making friends with like minded world travelers. It was an amazing experience and an exceptional opportunity for teachers of all ages and levels.

Thank you, Sally! I loved the program!  My husband is a teacher and we are considering doing it together next year.

**From J. (2017 Suzhou Program):

Organization of the program in general was amazing...I couldn't even think of questions to ask because the information was so thorough. Management of the program on the school site was super. Everyone was helpful and kind. Service of tour guides was fantastic!

Suggestions/advice for future teachers: I would say just make sure teachers know that the Chinese speaking person in the classroom is not there to help with lessons and they won't be there for every lesson (at least this is what I experienced). This was not a problem at all, I just was planning on including this teacher in my lessons.

Thanks for providing me with this opportunity!

**From A. (2017 Nanjing Program):

First, please let me say again, Sally, that this was an amazing adventure, and I hope to do it again. You and Lewie did a great job setting up expectations. In fact, I found things to be better than I had expected--squatty potties, for example: I was expecting a literal “hole in the ground”, not a porcelain base with feet grooves and privacy stalls and a flusher. It was actually kind of fun to get used to—well, maybe not fun, but certainly not as bad as people had said online that it would be. 

The Chinese people in general tended to be warm and friendly. They were very tolerant of my attempts to communicate through body and sign language, but I, personally, was embarrassed by my lack of ability to speak to them, so I have made it my mission to have a few more phrases under my belt by the time I go again!

And what a history—thank you for sharing it with us. Now when people ask me “How was China” I talk less about what we did and where we went, and more about the amazing people we met, and how open and willing to share they are—and I recommend to anyone who ever has the opportunity, GO TO CHINA!

Thanks again, and I hope to be a part of this program again soon!

  1. Organization of the program in general: I felt that the program was outstandingly well organized. From the very start we were supported (thanks to Sally and Lewie for all the support and advice!). Having us meet in LAX to fly together was nice—we helped each other get checked in, then had a good amount of time to begin getting to know one another before flying out. Once we got to Hong Kong, and later to Shanghai, we were able to help each other find our way to and through the transfer and Border Entry. Giving us time to tour and adjust to the time difference and to the weather was key—by the time we got to Nanjing, we were ready and eager to get started.
  2. Management of the program on the school site:

    The two days to get to know the school and staff were important, too. By the time school started on Day 1, we could find the bathrooms, the classrooms, and lunch with only a minimum of help. The schedules were manageable, the workrooms large, comfortable, and well stocked. The lunches were bountiful!

    The Opening Ceremony made us feel welcome like rock-stars, and the Closing Ceremony was a great way to say good-bye. The Room Teachers were knowledgeable, and my own was very willing to share her with me. I felt like the children were learning not only English, but a little about American teaching styles, as well, which will help the “Culture Shock” if/when they ever come to the US to study.

  3. Service of tour guides: All the tour guides were phenomenal. Henry, of course, was indispensable. He shared China’s culture with us in a way that made even the most distract-able person on tour want to hush up and listen. We learned not only China’s past, but also a great deal about modern China, as well as the everyday do’s and don’ts of traveling there. All three were well-spoken, tolerant of the people who talked over the teaching and those who were chronically late to re-groupings, and understanding of the need to use the bathroom every time we arrived at a tour locale (it’s true—we always did! Myself included ). I think Henry and Wilson were my favorites, though, as they added a bit of the “personal” to their stories, so we felt connected to them, to the story, and to China… Oh, and Henry’s ability to find “extra” tour opportunities, like the show on the lake, and the acrobatic show—LOVED IT!
  4. Suggestions/advice for future teachers:
    • Don’t talk when the tour guide is talking. If the speakers in the back are not working well, tell him/her. For Wilson, this was a simple fix—he told the driver, who flipped a switch, and voilà! If your talk while the tour guide is, you miss out on key details, which then must be repeated over and over, or you wind up late back to the bus/meeting point, which aggravates everybody. Also, it’s just plain rude.
    • Don’t overpack—Lewie said that, yet many of us did anyways. Then you buy all these beautiful new clothes and don’t need yours, and you buy all these souvenirs, and the weight limit to Xi’an and Beijing is a super low 40lbs, so you have to leave your wine behind There’s a Walmart in Nanjing, as well as shopping centers everywhere—you can buy products in China, you don’t have to bring your own.
    • Bring those mini packs of tissue. They come in handy when you are touring. And a mini portable hand-sanitizer or handi-wipes.
    • Fans are a lifesaver. Whether you go manual or battery-operated, they make a huge difference on tour. There was a lot less complaining about the heat once people started using their fans! And they make an inexpensive souvenir.
    • Have an extra pair of shoes, in case you get caught in the rain! But make sure both are pairs you know to be comfortable. You will be doing a lot of walking, and even maybe some bicycling, and comfy footwear is vital.
    • Use your room teacher. They aren’t just sitting there to look pretty. This is their school. Ask them questions, ask them for advice, to be an extra pair of hands, to translate a word you can’t explain, etc. If you include them right from the start, you’ll find things running more smoothly later.
    • China feels very safe in general, but don’t push it. Don’t stay out partying late at night, don’t wander off alone, and listen to the tour guides for the do’s & don’ts of each city and of the country as a whole.

**From M. (2017 Suzhou Program):

 I think the organization of the program was done very well. I felt very prepared for what was needed and what to expect. The management at the school was flawless. The service was great! It would have been nice to be given a little more free time at the sights rather than trying to keep everyone together.

Suggestions for Future Teachers:  I would suggest bringing multiple USB drives to save your work. A few people had problems with their USB getting a virus from the computers at Suzhou’s school.

Thank you very much for this incredible experience. I enjoyed every minute of it!

**From J. (2017 Suzhou Program):

The organization of the program was great. Everything was great at the school site!  The tour guides were also great. They were very knowledgeable and helpful!

Suggestions for Future Teachers: Bring extra USB drives.  Be prepared to be exhausted during the tour dates. I recommend thinking about where/if you would like to travel well before being accepted to the program. This will help with booking flights through the travel agency. Bring snacks/food just in case. 

Thanks for the amazing experience!

**From E. (2017 Nanjing Program):

  1. Organization of the program in general:The organization by Sally was excellent and very appreciated.  Our travel agent at Bravo was very helpful before and during our program as well.  Thank you!  So many details were thought out in advance to accommodate and host many teachers.  We were a large group at multiple campuses and different touring sites.  The daily fresh fruit brought to us was wonderful as was the Chinese medicine readily available to us.  Things ran very smoothly, and the program was packed with multiple learning and teaching opportunities.

    The feedback from previous participants was extremely helpful.  Lewie was also very kind and supportive, addressing our multiple questions before and during the program.  He gave us an amazing pre-service training.  For next time, it may help teachers more if we saw his lesson ideas in advance, prior to leaving for China.  I believe his son created a YouTube channel for him.  This way, we have more time to adjust our lesson plans and materials before arriving.  They were such good ideas he shared with us! 

  2. Management of the program on the school site:

    My classroom teachers were wonderful.  They were very supportive and engaged.  They were very attentive and shared a lot.  The school administration was so generous with gifts and cultural lessons.  The kitchen staff also worked so hard to make us very delicious and fresh meals on a daily basis.  I had the best chicken and ice cream.  Thank you!

    Our teaching assistants were great.  They were eager to help, and a lot of fun to work with.  They worked hard, and we appreciated their support.

    The closing ceremony was a lot of fun, but a little stressful and confusing.  Preparation for a performance and not knowing if we'd be selected or not, took a lot of time from meaningful instruction.   On site administration could improve communicating the expectations of student and/or staff performances. 

  3. Service of tour guides:

    Henry and Wilson were the best guides.  I most enjoyed their personal stories about their own families, especially Wilson's stories about growing up in Beijing.  They were very professional, patient and accommodating.  We all loved Xi'an, and wished for an extra day there and one day less in Beijing.  Xi'an was so beautiful and clean.  The Muslim market was fascinating.

    Our bus drivers were great!  They worked so hard, took care of us, and were very humble

  4. Suggestions/advice for future teachers
    • Make an effort to learn basic Chinese phrases before coming to China.  Go to YouTube. Several of us were embarrassed and frustrated not being linguistically prepared.
    • As safe as China is, do not travel alone anywhere.  Many people do not speak English.
    • If exchanging US bills for yuans, make sure the bills are new or almost perfect.
    • If purchasing a comforter set from the silk factory, watch the staff pack everything.  When I arrived home, I realized that a few sheets were missing from two sets I purchased.
    • Bring fabric softener to keep your clothes smelling fresh.
    • Drink a lot of water and/or green tea.  Stay hydrated.  It's so hot in the summer.
    • Overpack on materials and prizes for the students.  Underpack for personal clothing.  Bring a lot of American candies like Jolly Ranchers, and prizes from the dollar store. 
    • As you may not be sure of the students' language level, American cultural lessons are a safe go-to and are very engaging.  Bring as many different US quarters and let students trace over the different state coins.  Let them study the US map and famous landmarks.  From what my colleagues shared, students also enjoyed comparing and contrasting their country with ours.
    • Bring a photo of your class or your school yearbook.  Allow your Chinese students to see what diversity we have back home.  Colleagues had their American students write letters to the Chinese students in advance.  Awesome idea!
    • If ill or anxious before the transatlantic flight home, you can visit the medical clinic at the Hong Kong international airport and get prescribed medication very cheap out of pocket.  The staff is very professional.  Hong Kong from within the airport looked amazing.  Do consider the extended stay there with other teachers.
    • As suggested by previous participants, make sure your technology is in order prior to departing the US.  This includes converting any YouTube videos to MP4s, downloading Google Translate onto your phone, downloading VPN, have spare memory cards or a cloud account to back up the many photos you take, and having a spare battery or battery charger (but not lithium batteries as the Chinese airports will confiscate those).  My VPN kicked me out several times, and I wished I had converted all my YouTube videos into MP4s back home.

**From K. (2017 Suzhou Program):

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful experience! I knew right away at the airport when the former teachers met each other with such warmth and enthusiasm that it must be a unique program.

  1. I was impressed at how organized the program was in terms of preparing teachers for their trip and the efficiency of the tours. The webinars and instruction manuals provided ample information on how to prepare- although some teachers thought they were a bit repetitive. The system of reimbursement was very efficient so that we did not have to worry about exchanging money. One issue that caused a little anxiety was confirming the flight itinerary. I know it needs to be done as soon as possible, but if there is any way to give the teachers a little extra time to think about post-program travel, that might be helpful. You did emphasize staying healthy and the non-stop nature of the trip in the booklet, but getting there and experiencing it was a little different. On another note, it was encouraging and helpful during the program to have so many teachers who had already participated (especially my awesome room mate, Claudia!).
  2. The teachers and administrators at the Suzhou International School were all extremely friendly. Mr. Mao was incredibly accommodating and compassionate. My room teacher was helpful when asked for advice about the schedule, but did not have much of a role besides that. 
  3. The tour guides Eric and Henry were fantastic. I loved how they shared their knowledge and stories of China and were open to many questions. Sometimes they would continue telling stories when everyone needed a break- but Eric joked that they were "bedtime stories."
  4. Suggestions for Future Teachers: Classroom management could be a challenge, especially when trying to engage students in group work- many teachers agreed that the students were manageable in their seats, but would immediately start talking and playing when asked to stand up. Teachers allergic to dust, pollution and mold should be prepared- perhaps air filters could be a recommendation. I lived in China for a year without getting ill, but during the course of the program I got sick twice despite preventative measures. Luckily, I was in a very caring group in Suzhou, and they shared anything they had to help me get better. Mr. Mao was also very attentive to our health and was always looking for new ways to make sure we stayed healthy.

I hope this is helpful, have a wonderful school year!

**From C. (2017 Suzhou Program):

I think that the program is very well organized and that over the years you have gotten it down to perfection with types of questions, ideas and help for newcomers.  I think that Lewie does a great job getting one ready for China and Nanjing, but that you should have someone different do the Suzhou orientation since it is slightly different.  I felt prepared and ready for any challenges, but did run into a few glitches.  My music would not download, and my phone did not work, so the technical things were solved by Abraham and Chris, Mr Mao's assistant, thank goodness.  

The hotel is wonderful in Suzhou and perfectly located for all things one might want to do, if not, the subway was only a few steps away again and it was very easy to navigate.

I love that in Suzhou there was "tea time" where you could get a cup of coffee, glass of water and/or a snack in the teacher’s lounge.  There was always something to check out before lunch, lunch and after lunch.  The time off was perfect to allow you to roam a little from the campus on your own, and as the Suzhou campus has the shopping area right next door it was very easy to wander, come back and still have time to prepare for the afternoon.

Eric Liu was a wonderful tour guide, very knowledgeable and quite willing to answer questions no matter how many times they were asked.  He was very good at guiding the group to do things on their own and helping them with finding their way to and from activities.  I enjoyed his stories and thought he was very kind, helpful and a good guide.

Suggestions for Future Teachers: Make sure you get your VPN, "we chat" and other technical things straightened out before you leave.  Lewie and Abraham did a wonderful job in explaining all the different things you might need to make it easier while you are in China.  Make sure you bring flash drives to use in case you need to download things, or share things with others.  I had two with me and it was just enough, but had I needed to have more music videos, that would have not been enough.  Also the flash drives can get a virus easily so that all need to have their personal computers ready as a back up to the back up.  Mac's are not as accepted, but the PC worked very well.

I am often talking to colleagues and others about the amazing trip to China and the opportunity that many should try to go, as it is hard to explain to others how awesome it truly is. No matter how many "negative" comments you hear, the bottom line is that this Summer Program is amazing.

**From S. (2017 Nanjing Program):

Overall, I think the 2017 Summer China Teaching and Traveling Program was an awe-inspiring event.   On the school site, I think personnel did an excellent job of making teachers feel welcome. The extra little touches that were put in place, a well stocked fridge in the planning room, having our bags carried by security upon arrival since there was no elevator, went a far way to make us feel welcome. I think classes were scheduled in a manner that gave us a fair amount of time with students, but we could have used more. As is the case in the United States, by the time we got into our lesson each day, it was time to pack up and change classes. The professional development session offered by Lewie prior to us getting to the classrooms was definitely of great value. In terms of the cultural connections in which we were engaged, I feel most teachers would have benefited from multiple sessions of lessons on the Chinese language, rather than devote that time to playing of the instrument.

Our tour guides Henry and Wilson were professionals, extremely knowledgeable, pleasant and relatable, and just all round super guys. The one critique I have here is that it would be more convenient and open to have us know upfront about costs for extra entertainment, (acrobatic shows, etc.) rather than the day of, and having to rush into making a decision about attending or not.

Suggestions/advice for future teachers: I think future teachers need to know that a great sense of adventure and flexibility, an open mind and the ability to get along well with others are all musts if they are to enjoy themselves and really appreciate all of amazing experiences the program has to offer.

**From K. (2017 Suzhou Program):

I had an amazing experience overall, and it was one of the best summers ever! I feel grateful to have been able to participate in this amazing program :)

Overall, the program was very well organized. I was impressed with how much was thought out and planned ahead of time, even all of the little details. We were very prepared with what to expect, with all of the pre-service orientations, Skype interviews, and thorough information packet/comments from alumni. The visa service for Socal through Bravo was the easiest visa application I've ever done!!! Definitely worth the money. 

The school in Suzhou took very good care of us. When I got sick, I was immediately taken care of. We were very well-welcomed, and the interns Chris and Jasmine were especially helpful in communicating program information and making us feel welcomed. I appreciated the lunch workshops that were planned for us, and learning more about the Chinese culture, but there was just one or two too many planned. Most days I needed that lunch break to lesson plan, and also just decompress or use the wonderful nap room they had available for us to use. I did like having the classes, but a few less would be best

The tour guides were very helpful, welcoming and knowledgeable. I really liked and appreciated Eric at the beginning. He was super nice and patient with our group, and very knowledgeable. Henry, Ruth and Winston all did a good job too. Winston told a lot of heartfelt personal stories, which added a nice, more meaningful personal touch to the tour. 

As far as the tours, I loved them, but I would have liked one more full day in Xian and one less day in Beijing (I don't know if that's something you can change). 

Suggestions/advice for future teachers:

  • Really read though your information packet in advance before packing and going on the trip. Everything you need to know about what to bring (and what not to bring) and what to expect are in there!
  • Go with an open mind, be ready to meet lots of new people, and be ready for so many new experiences! This really is the experience of a lifetime :)
  • It's okay to have some nights in and take some time for yourself to recharge, so you can enjoy the times you are with the group.
  • Definitely listen to everyone's advice and bring lots of snacks and your own food for breakfast- it'll prevent you from getting sick of Chinese food, which is what you have for lunch and dinner almost every day (and it's delicious, but it's nice to have some other options!)
  • Bring hydration packets that you can put in your water bottle (they have them at Costco or sporting stores), since it's so humid and you'll be sweating a lot.
  • Leave space in your suitcase to bring home gifts from your students and teachers, and also the many souvenirs you will buy!

Thanks for everything Sally!!!! I'll be back one of these summers (if not this one, then the following).

**From M. (2017 Suzhou Program):

I loved the program again and would love to return next year! I would like to stay on the whole tour and travel after Beijing when the whole program is over

  1. Organization- Everything was very well organized. I did not really understand how to reapply and let you know that I for sure wanted to return. I am glad I was able to return to Suzhou and I do understand about the need for participants on the tours.
  2. The school site was also very well organized. Meals, tours, cultural classes, Abraham, Ana and Kevin were all fantastic and so helpful.
  3. Tours and Guides- The Guides were great! 
  4. Mr. Mao was the best part of the trip! He took such good care of us and even found someone to teach me how to play Chinese Chess! I would love for him to give a talk as a cultural class about growing up during the Cultural Revolution and the changes he has seen in China over his lifetime.

Have a great school year! Happy Fall!