Hengbi Xiao, a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) from China, has joined the CU Department of English and Foreign Languages for the 2012-2013 academic year.
Xiao has taught courses in English Literature, Western Culture and Film Studies for seven years as a Lecturer at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, and she is teaching Beginning and Intermediate Mandarin Chinese during her term here.
The Fulbright FLTA Program arranged this auspicious match according to her educational background and expectations, Xiao said.
“In my application material, I mentioned how I come from a very busy city that hustles and bustles, and I wanted a quiet place that fits my personality,” Xiao said.
The change of scenery was just what Xiao had in mind when she applied for the opportunity to teach in the United States. Xiao hails from Guangzhou, China, which is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province. The institution where she teaches rests on 600 acres and serves 20,000 students.
“Lawton is much quieter compared to city where I am from. I love the tranquility here,” Xiao said.
According to Xiao, most of her free time is spent immersing herself in the environment on campus.
“I think the most enjoyable moments here happen in the afternoon when you lie down in the grass and you look up and have the colors of the clouds and the whole sky,” Xiao said. “It is much different in my city. There are too many cars and the whole sky is grey. Some whole days are dark, and when you look outside and see nothing,” Xiao said.
Xiao said the blistering summer temperatures caught her off guard during her first few months in the United States.
“The first month here in August was a really harsh time for me because I never experienced such heat before,” Xiao said.
Xiao said students have already warned her how the mild autumn weather can turn frigid during the winter.
“I have not seen snow in 20 years, so I am looking forward to it, but I do not want to see the power go out during a blizzard,” Xiao said.
Xiao said she is learning with Cameron students in tandem, and she plans to share the knowledge she obtains from her CU experience with her students in China.
“The education system here, in particularly the first class meetings, are quite different,” Xiao said. “When you read the syllabus here, you see very detailed requirements about particular essays and papers. This is something I will adapt later on when I return and face my students.”
Xiao said she is implementing her own creative approach to make learning Mandarin an enjoyable challenge.
“Students like the challenge. I sometimes arrange games for them to play. I also arrange office hours so I can talk to them individually,” Xiao said.
She has made several observations regarding the differences and similarities shared by the CU students and the students of her home country.
“In China, most of the students are of similar age and they are peers to each other. Here, you can see students who are 20-something and 70-something,” Xiao said. “People in China also choose group work more often and have a strong sense of community.”
While her students in China rely more on their parents and peers, Xiao said she is pleased to see Cameron students take initiative in class and think more independently when contemplating the direction of their college career.
“Changing majors is considered a big thing and does not happen until they [the students] talk to their parents and they agree,” Xiao said. “Students here really think things through about majors and courses. They do not follow trends. It is a good thing.”