STORY BY ETHAN FICKAU
Each year, seniors at Drake University ponder what they want to do after they graduate. Some look to interview for jobs while a few already have offers waiting for them.
But others still want one more grand experience before truly entering the American workforce.
Enter Drake’s “Teach in China” program, sponsored by the university’s Chinese Cultural Exchange Program, or CCEP for short.
Managed by CCEP Director Kirk Martin, “Teach in China,” also known as TIC, is entering its 12th year of sending Drake graduates to China on a yearlong assignment to teach their students English.
Surprisingly, participants are not required to be English majors and they don’t have to know Chinese to apply.
The inception of TIC began when Drake President David Maxwell visited the cities of Shijiazhuang and Chongqing in China in 2003.
The country was in great need of native English speakers to teach their students, which opened the door for Drake graduates to participate in the newly founded program.
In the inaugural year, Drake participants were sent to two locations, Shijiazhuang and Chongqing. Then, 184 Drake graduates have taken part in the program and with more students signed up for the 2015-2016 school year, Martin hopes to hit the milestone of 200 participants.
“We ended up having 19 applicants apply to the program, so we are on track to break 200 participants this year.”
Martin was happy to share that while the number of participants in recent years has seen its ups and downs, more and more of those who go to China have opted to stay.
“The number of participants who are deciding to stay another year after completing their first year has gone up dramatically. I think that shows that it’s been a valuable opportunity for people to find opportunities past just the teaching to engage in China professionally,” Martin said.
Senior McKenzie Leier said that while she is not sure if she will take part in the program, it is exactly what she hoped for in an international experience opportunity.
“I’d like to spend some time abroad … and I’ve heard from other people who have taken part in the program and I wanted to learn a bit more.”
Senior Scott Loy agrees that it would be an invaluable experience if he decides to go on the trip.
“I didn’t know much about the program … but a friend of mine said he was coming to the information session, and I became really interested in it. I’ve never been anywhere outside of the U.S. and Mexico and I feel like I’ve been a little complacent in my time at Drake and I need to get out of that comfort zone.”
The need for native English speakers stems from the fact that Chinese students are required to study English from middle school through college.
According to Martin, there is a constant lack of resources, including foreign teachers which is a problem since foreign teachers are more effective than Chinese when teaching oral English.
Current TIC participants are being sent to a variety of cities to teach students in both public and private schools.
The schools’ expectations vary, but for the most part teachers are just supposed to be energetic, engaging and willing to be involved with the students.
Graduates are only required to teach 15 hours per week along with fulfilling some office responsibilities.
And are compensated for their work with a monthly salary ranging from $650 to $725. The TIC participants also recieve private, furnished housing, medical insurance, airfare reimbursement and over a month of paid vacation in between semesters.
Some past TIC participants used that time to visit other countries near China. One former TIC member, Sara Schoneberg, talked about her travels around China in addition to her trips to Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand.
“I definitely recommend traveling in and outside of China,” Schoneberg said. “Getting to see other parts of China and how vastly different China is from one part to another is incredibly interesting and fascinating. Airfare is quite cheap. I think we only spent $700 to travel to all of those countries.”
Another former TIC member, Evan Favreau, said that he loved being able to travel extensively, especially during the winter break.
He mentioned that his favorite memory was celebrating the Chinese New Year and encourages anyone going to China to partake in the festivities.
“I was really just looking forward to the experience of being immersed in a completely different culture,” Favreau said. “It was something I had not experienced before. Doing it through the Chinese Cultural Exchange Program offered a level of structure that I felt comfortable doing it.”
Favreau said he might not have gone on the trip if it was not for Martin.
“Working with Kirk Martin was definitely a highlight. If he were not in that role, I never would have been comfortable doing it,” Favreau said. “He’s not trying to sell the program to students. He’s just offering what the program is and making sure the students know what to expect. Getting that from him was important because I knew exactly what I was getting into.”
Now Drake provides assistance with location placement, contract negotiation, an International Student Identification Card (ISIC), registration in the U.S. Embassy’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), as well as on and off-campus training for participants prior to the start of the school year.
All in all, Drake University and its Chinese colleagues make sure that TIC members are well taken care of.
According to Martin, this year’s graduating students who are interested in taking part in the TIC program go through a thorough application process in March and April.
During this time students must complete the application, pay the $1500 deposit fee and interview with the program’s staff.
The “Teach in China” program is continuing to attract graduating students’ attention.
“I love giving people the opportunity to engage with China,” Martin said. “I love being on the ground when people have their first experiences in China. I think the more we can promote the interaction between young people in the U.S. and China, I think the better off the world will be.”