Assumption Students Travel to China for Unique Opportunity to Teach, Explore New Culture
Jean-Pierre Tetreault ’18, a foreign language and political science major from Manchester, NH, ventured across the Pacific this summer, embarking on a seven-week journey halfway across the world. Tetreault, along with Meghan Gaughan ’16, a human services and rehabilitation studies and psychology major from Walpole, MA and Susanna F. Klicka Jacobsen ’18, a biotechnology and molecular science major from Rutland, MA, spent the last several weeks in the city of Dongguan, located in China’s central Guangdong Province, serving as teacher and teacher’s aide at a summer camp for more than 100 children aged 5-14.
The camp, developed by electronic manufacturing service company SEVECO Global, offers after-school care for its staff’s children. In his role, Tetreault and his fellow Assumption students, who learned of the new internship opportunity through the College’s study abroad office, are responsible for creating and preparing lesson plans that aim to strengthen the Chinese children’s English vocabulary. Tetreault shared their presence is to ensure the students obtain a deeper level of understanding of the world – and its people -- outside of China. “The reason we are here is because we have a different way of thinking than they do, and they see it as a positive influence to learn from us,” he said.
“Every day is an adventure,” said Tetreault, adding that in addition to teaching the children English in the classroom, they participate in outdoor activities such as kayaking, zip lining, swimming and camping. When he is not teaching during the week, Tetreault has visited the Tianzi Mountains, the Great Wall, Glass Bridge and Heaven’s Gate Mountains on excursions during the weekends.
Tetreault, Gaughan and Jacobsen aren’t the only summer interns at the camp. According to Jacobsen, her favorite part of the trip has been getting to know the other foreign interns from, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan, who have assisted them with translating during their teaching lessons. Jacobsen added that in addition to their helpfulness in the classroom, they’ve shared some memorable moments and have formed great relationships with one another during the experience. “This trip is about teaching the students, as well as learning, serving, and blessing others. Making new friends has just been an added bonus to this expedition,” she said.
Tetreault notes that the trip has been particularly eye-opening for him, and has helped him better understand the cultural differences between China and the United States. Exploring China on his own, as well as teaching the children at the camp, he has learned a lot about the Chinese culture and language. “One of my favorite parts has been learning from the children, it’s added so much more to the experience,” he said.
Though Tetreault and his fellow interns said that the natives have made a concerted effort to regularly communicate with them, it has been a challenge. During their first days in China and prior to entering the classroom, the interns took part in a team-building exercise focused on communication to bridge the language barrier.
“I’ve found that my biggest struggle has been growing a relationship with the children because that requires more communication through language,” said Tetreault. Though he’s had some difficulty building relationships with the children because of this barrier, one experience in particular changed everything for him; a time when the students became his teachers.
“One class, during a 10-minute break, I had my Chinese book out to practice my work,” he explained. “One of the kids came up to me and began teaching me how to read and say the characters by having me repeat after him. After a few minutes, more and more students came and helped me out. This was the experience I was waiting for and so far has been very rewarding, because through it, I grew bonds with most of my class.”
Gaughan agrees that while the language barrier has posed a challenge at times, she said it’s made certain experiences — those times when they understand each other – even more rewarding. She added that her experience at Assumption, and the values they impart, has made her “more culturally aware and understanding.”
While Gaughan and her classmates are enjoying the experience and learning from each other, Tetreault in particular is focused on immersing himself in the local customs and language. “There’s so much more to learn if you take things one at a time, completely immersing yourself in every situation,” he said, adding that he now understands first-hand the important of remaining open to all things. “‘Try everything’ has become somewhat of our staple here. Having the opportunity and trust to be able to go out, explore and try new things is a gift."
Assumption students interested in pursuing internship opportunities should contact the College's Career Development & Internship Center.
Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College