After graduation, Drake students will likely go great lengths to find a job, and for most people, China isn’t generally at the top of the list.
Now, thanks to a unique program, Drake graduates have the opportunity to spend a year teaching English to students in China.
“It’s not a tour,” said Kirk Martin, Drake’s Chinese cultural exchange program director. “It’s not study abroad. You get to work in a Chinese work environment where you have the opportunity on a daily basis to speak with young people.
Originally the program was based in Shijiazhuang, Des Moines’ Chinese sister city, though in its eighth year, the program has expanded teaching opportunities to five Chinese cities in eight different schools.
“It felt like kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Evan Favreau, who graduated from Drake in 2010 as an advertising management major. “Especially with a program specifically for Drake grads.”
Since its creation in 2004, the program has sent 153 teachers to China, though Martin is quick to warn that the experience is not for everyone.
“Living in China is radically different than living in Des Moines,” he said. “It’s a challenge.”
Some students are simply not equipped to handle the culture shock of a new environment, language and cultural lifestyle, Martin said.
“The most simple tasks were 27 times harder than they should have been,” said Zach Smith, a ‘07 public relations grad who spent a year in China with the program. “It sucked while it was happening, but now the stories are absolutely hilarious.”
Though for the students who do choose to teach in China, the skills the new environment offers prove extremely valuable in future careers.
“You’ve got to be able to roll with things, and that serves you so well coming back,” Martin said. “That’s a skill that China will beat you or teach you.”
Martin also stresses that participants do not need to have any previous background in Chinese language. In fact, many of the students who choose to partake know very little Chinese.
“I knew how to ask for a beer and how to ask where the bathroom was,” Smith said.
Likewise, any variety of majors and professional concentrations are encouraged to apply for the program, even without previous teaching experience.
“I think it also just proved to me that, since I lived in China for almost a year and it was fine, that I could probably do most things, since I was able to survive that,” said Favreau,who now works as an admissions counselor at Drake.
Though for graduates like Smith, the opportunity could lead to a career in an unexpected field.
“I never considered being a teacher,” said Smith, who was recently hired as an English teacher at a boarding school in Taiwan. “It was just much more rewarding than I thought it would be.”
Informational sessions for students interested in the program will be held on Feb. 20 and 21 at 3:30 p.m. in the International Center and at 8 p.m. in Medbury Hall, room 221.