On September 7th I started my internship through JCC to teach primary and middle school students. When I was not teaching, I would be living and spending my time in an orphanage. I chose this internship for several reasons. One was that I love children. I have worked with children in the past and found that my personality is great for working with them. There is never a dull moment for me when working with kids.
When I saw this internship, I thought to myself, how could I not do it? Teaching kids English during the day and living in an orphanage and playing with the kids sounded amazing. Secondly, I chose this internship because I want to have a career in trauma therapy working with children. I figured working with orphaned children, and children from a different cultural background, might be helpful to me in my future career. Thirdly, I chose this internship because of my deep love of Chinese culture. Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated and intensely studied Chinese religion, philosophy, and culture. There has always been a part of me that wanted to move to China. I figured this internship would give me good insight to whether I can assimilate into Chinese culture.
I have always struggled with American culture and society – I never felt like I fit in very well. Additionally, I had been sheltered my entire life – living in Fredonia and never leaving except for one time to go to Yellowstone, one month before this internship. I hung out with the same people since I was 5 years old. I went to the same restaurants, same gym, same fair, same barber every time. I knew I needed to get away from our area. I wanted no remanence of Fredonia in my life. To achieve this end, I told all my friends and family I would have no way of contacting them while in China. I only made exceptions for two people – my mother, who I love dearly, and my girlfriend.
Additionally, I made sure I had no access to social media while I was in China. I would not be able to access anything American. It is kind of weird, but I wanted this experience to be fulfilling and challenging. I wanted to get away from social media and experience the physical environment that I am in.
I would like to take a little detour and use my experience to point out a very interesting observation. When I arrived in China, I was told that I would not start working till next week. While I was waiting, I was to live in an apartment in Chengdu City, which was due to the fact that the orphanage that I would be staying in was being repaired from a recent flood. This was a very challenging time as I was away from everyone and everything that was familiar to me and totally on my own. However, after a week I began to be introduced to some very awesome people. I was introduced to places where I could go to make friends. I began to work with the kids. The staff showed me around Chengdu and kept taking me out to eat. As soon as I felt included, a part of a group, loved, wanted, etc., my mood shot up. I was beyond happy. I bring this story up because I believe it says something about how important socialization is. All the literature points out the negativity and problems that can arise from being isolated. I only experienced a week of this. Imagine individuals who go their entire life being isolated. We were meant to socialize and feel love from other humans. When you take that away from someone, it can have significant impact on their life.
Regarding the teaching part of this internship, I absolutely love it. I will be honest – I am not yet the best teacher, but I make it extremely fun. That’s what the teachers here want from me – to make learning as fun and exciting as possible, and I can deliver that. The part of China I am teaching in does not have any foreigners. At the end of each class, the students all line up to get my autograph. My classes consist of the constant laughter of children. There are about 60 kids in each class, which is a lot, and at times, very loud laughter. I love it.
At the end of my day I head back to the orphanage, where I eat with the kids and play with them after they finish their homework. It’s funny that I get free Chinese lessons from orphans. I teach them English and they teach me Chinese. My Chinese is terrible, so they get a good laugh out of me trying to speak Chinese. It’s a nice little system.
I am discovering more and more about myself and who I truly am compared to who I became in a consistent and unchanging environment. If you are like me, as I know a lot us are who go to Jamestown, and never experienced the outside world, I really encourage you to make strides to change that. JCC offers many amazing opportunities that can be life changing. These opportunities can give you a whole new outlook on life. They might completely change your belief system or just reaffirm it. Whatever it may be, I don’t think these opportunities should be wasted.