Visit to SYSU Zhuhai Campus

It has been a long time since the last update. It has been pretty busy these two weeks as our practicum coming to an end. Today, we were just back from a 4-day conference of American Centers of Cultural Exchange in Shenzhen, which I will talk more in future posts. For this post, I am going to write about our visit to the SYSU campus in Zhuhai which happened on last Tuesday, June 10th.

The campus is located in the suburb of Zhuhai, a city very close to Macau with cooler temperature and clean air. The campus is very beautiful, with several lakes and hills. There are “campus taxies” that are electric golf carts running around, taking students and staff from one side of the campus to another, because the campus is so big! We had a tour around the campus by the electric carts and I really enjoyed the views around the campus. It is interesting that our hosts told us if you don’t have a bicycle, you need to climb the hill to get to the library (which is huge).

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We did a presentation about the U.S. Education System at the school of translation. Out audience include undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty members. The school has a partnership with Miami University in Ohio, so several people in the audience had some education experience in the U.S. before. We have also met a girl who was really interested in psychology and education and applied to Peabody, but sadly got rejected and now she is going to UW at Seattle studying education. The school also prepared a short presentation about the Chinese education system after ours. We then had a round discussion about the comparison of two system and how we can learn from each other. It was wonderful to hear from the students’ and faculty’s ideas/stereotypes about the U.S. education system and what they have learned about the facts from our presentation. It was also an enjoyable experience to bridge two different cultures, break all stereotypes and summarize similarities.

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We especially wants to thank our two hosts Shuting Xu and Mengqing Fan for doing all the organizing work and taking time to tour us around; and Qing Zhang, their teacher, who joined us for tea time before our shuttle arrived. Shuting had studied abroad and taught as a volunteer teacher in Tibet. She is currently a graduate student at the school of translation and a teacher teaching Chinese to international students at the school. Qing had studied at Miami University in Ohio and she shared her big news with us (She actually just got her marriage license with her boyfriend yesterday! Congrats!). We had conversation over many topics and became instant friends in a short time period.


– Cynthia of the 2014 GZ 2


A Chance to Teach

On Friday, June 6, we travelled to Jianshe Main Road Primary School to teach some short English lessons. Cynthia and I taught two classes separately. First, we taught first grades students. Teaching can be an intimidating experience because it is so crucial to the development of young children, and ensuring that each student learns and engages with the lesson can be a great responsibility. Still, we managed to create lesson plans that the students enjoyed, which made the classes informative and fun.

 We taught the second grade students for one 40-minutes segment. I started by giving them a short introduction of myself, including pictures of myself at famous places like the Great Wall of China, as well as pictures of my family. Then, I played “Simon Says” with the students. First, we reviewed a few verbs, such as “jump”, touch”, and “sit”. Then, we reviewed the parts of the body and the face before playing “Simon Says” for a few minutes. After playing “Simon Says”, we played “IF You’re Happy and You Know It”, while practicing emotions and feelings, such as “happy”. “sleepy”, and “angry”. Lastly, I gave a lollipop to each student because they all did a good job.


After a short break, we taught the fifth grade students for one more 40-minute segment. Again, I began the class with an introduction of myself. Next, we played the game hangman. The students took urns guessing one letter. When one student would correctly guess the word, that student would go to the front and choose their own favorite word to use for hangman. The students really enjoyed participating, and showing their individuality by using their favorite word. After hangman, I taught the students “Old Macdonald”. We started by using pictures of different animals to review their English names, as well as the sound they make. After that, we practiced the song, including animals such as horses, sheep, and chickens. Lastly, we played “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. This was easier and more-engaging for the fifth-graders, who were more familiar with the vocabulary. Lastly, I gave the students one lollipop each for a job well done.

 After teaching, we had lunch with a few teachers and administrators from the school. It was interesting to hear about their personal backgrounds and the reasons they found education so appealing One of the teachers actually attended the PRT Symposium a few weeks earlier, which reminded us that it is a small world, even in a city with almost 13 million people.


Chuckie Carver

Professor Cravens’s Visit

Last Wednesday, Professor Cravens, one of the directors of Vanderbilt’s U.S.-China Center, and her son Isaac came to visit us to check up on our practicum work. This is the second time for Isaac to visit China. You can see how much he grew up compared to last year!

We meet with the staff at SYSU in the morning and reunited with professors from the Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage at lunch. Our tasks at SYSU so far mainly involve proof reading their online English materials, and providing recommendations for the reconstruction of the new English version of their website. Next week, we are going to their Zhuhai campus to present about American education and application process for graduate schools and have a seminar with their students.

In the afternoon, Professor Cravens and her son Isaac visited the U.S.-China Center at SCNU together. Dr. Hong Wang, the associate dean of School of Professional Development and Research on Primary and Secondary Education at SCNU also came and talked to us. She is an old friend of Professor Cravens and the two started ELLE program 10 years ago which founded the base for the center.


For dinner, Professor Cravens invited both Chuckie’s and my host families to say thank you to their kindness and generosity. We have had great time together talking about education issues, social life and sharing a lot of stories.


Professor Cravens also helped us to register for the upcoming American Centers for Cultural Exchange Conference in Shenzhen from Jun 16th to 19th. It means we are going to Shenzhen representing the Vanderbilt and SCNU center in two weeks! That is the most exciting news!


– Cynthia of the 2014 Guangzhou 2

A Weekend With the English Language Fellows

Much like last year, SCNU again hosted a PRT Symposium for English teachers at the K-12 level from different parts of Guangdong Province. On Thursday, May 22nd, we were fortunate enough to assist Dr. Chris Hastings, the resident English Language Fellow (ELF) at SCNU, in preparation for the event. We also got to enjoy dinner with Dr. Hastings and several other ELFs who flew in from other parts of China to participate in the symposium. On Friday and Saturday, the ELFS presented to over 100 Chinese English teachers on how to improve teaching methods for pronunciation, reading, and task-based learning. The symposium was highly informative and engaging, and the Chinese teachers seemed to greatly enjoy and appreciate the experience.

 On a personal level, the PRT Symposium was also a great opportunity to learn from the experiences of the ELFs, all of whom have many years of experience working in education in various countries outside of the US. Their efforts to improve educational opportunities for students all over the world are quite impressive, and their perspectives on international education are particularly insightful. The PRT Symposium ended with a graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 24th for the participating Chinese teachers. Afterwards, Cynthia and Chuckie celebrated the completion of the symposium by accompanying the ELFs on a nighttime trip to Guangzhou Tower. It was a great way to close out a culturally and educationally enriching weekend.


A group photo from the PRT Symposium at SCNU, with ELFs and other staff members seated in front, and participating teachers standing behind.


Cynthia and Chuckie at the Guangzhou Tower with ELFs (from left to right) Bruce Applebaum, Gena Rhoades, and Chris Tebbe.

The Week with Blair Delegation

I have been super busy after my arrival in Guangzhou on May 10th. The delegation group from the Blair School of Music of Vanderbilt University arrived on May 14th, and I have been with the group serving as a coordinator and translator for their 7-day tour in Guangzhou. The delegation was led by Prof. Joy Calico, an Associate Professor of  Musicology. Other delegation members include Prof. Gayle Shay (Associate Professor of Voice), Ms. Jennifer McGuire (Senior Lecturer in Collaborative Piano, Pianist for the performance), Tom Mulder (Tenor), Katie Heaton (Soprano), Julia DiFiore (Mezzo-soprano) and Matthew Brennan (Baritone). The tour is a return visit for the Lingnan Beijing Opera League at Sun Yat-Sen University that visited Vanderbilt and performed at Blair in March.

Front row left to right: Dawei, Tom Mulder, Julia DiFiore, Prof. Joy Calico, Sunshine. Back row left to right: Ms. Jennifer McGuire, Prof. Gayle Shay, Katie Heaton, Matthew Brennan, Cynthia Feng

Everyday in that week was pretty packed. The group had performance at two high schools, Tung Wah High School in Dongguan and Nan Wu High School in Guangzhou, and one performance at Sun Yat-Sen University. They performed opera scenes from The Marriage of Figaro, Cinderella, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Lakme, Pearl Fisher, Again and Candide. Audience were mainly high school students, teachers, college students and university professors. I co-hosted the show (in Chinese) with Prof. Calico (in English). The performances were really amazing, entertaining and engaging. I was still thrilled before the show at SYSU although I have already watched it twice in two high schools. Audience enjoyed a lot, since they often laughed and clapped at the right time during the performance.

Group photo with students from Nan Wu High School after the performance


Group photo with students from Tung Wah High School in Dongguan after performance

Despite visiting high schools (interacting with students and having Q&A sessions), SCNU and SYSU, I have also visited some attractions in Guangzhou and nearby cities with the  Blair group, including the Canton Tower, Chen Family Hall (陈家祠), The Museum of the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King, etc. The group had a visit to the U.S. Consulate on Friday and we learnt a lot about their operations. On Sunday night, SYSU invited us to watch Kun Opera at the grant new Guangzhou Opera House performed by the best Kun Opera Group from Jiangsu province (my hometown!). We also reunited with students from the Lingnan Opera League at SYSU and had a wonderful discussion session with the students and professors from the Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage at the university, while I served as the translator.


Confucius Statue at SCNU’s campus


Blair Delegation with Grace from SYSU in front of the Canton Tower

The food was always amazing. We had dim sum for every meal! Guangzhou is famous for delicious food, and is the heaven for foodies.

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I have been working non-stop for 12 days and today is my first day off after arrival. However, it was a very rewarding experience for me to serve as a coordinator and translator for the group. This is the first time for me to serve as a communication bridge of cultural exchange and fully utilize my fluency in both languages and knowledge of Chinese and American cultures. All the friends I made, knowledge I learnt (mostly about Western and Chinese operas) and language and real-life skills I practiced are invaluable.

This past Friday and Saturday we had a PRT Symposium at SCNU with several English Language Fellows from the U.S. who have been training teachers around the world for several years. Chuckie is going to write about this event in the next post.


– Cynthia of the 2014 Guangzhou 2

ACCT: An Ongoing Experiement

The last days of our practicum I spent helping Dawei and Sunshine with the ACCT (American Culture Center Tour) actors. They were Nellie Sciutto ( and Henry Clark ( – two very talented and intelligent individuals. The duo has spend the past six weeks touring the American culture centers in China, and last week it was our turn. They performed a piece written by Clark himself called “An Ongoing Experiment” at three schools for audiences ranging from 200 – 1200 people.

I thought that theater was a wonderful way to teach these students, teachers and community members about American culture and hope that the US Embassy will fund more projects like this in the future. Even if the students could not understand all the dialogue it was such a treat for them to see the performance and meet these wonderful actors. They all ran up for autographs and pictures after the performances and Nelly and Henry were extremely gracious.

Here is Henry’s description of the piece:

The theater is not a uniquely American art form, but the American Theater is unique. An Ongoing Experiment presents five exceptional scenes, and offers a brief introduction to some of the major voices and artistic movements that have shaped the American stage. Generations of playwrights and theater artists have dug into the fundamental themes of the American experience – our struggles for civil rights, the pressures of capitalism, and the phenomenal complexity of the American dream – and have left us an artistic and historical record of the nation. At its best, the theater is a voice for progress and a herald of possibility. In the 20th Century, and now in the 21st, the diversity of voices on the American stage has helped to shape and guide our national debate. The history of the American theater is, in many ways, the history of America itself.

SCNU’s PRT Conference

One of the final things we’ve been able to do is participate in a PRT conference for English teachers from around Guangdong province. PRT is an acronym describing a set of teaching methods and their implementation in the classroom. P stands for pronunciation, R for reading, and T for task-based learning. Many of the speakers used methods pioneered by Spencer Kagan to promote group collaboration and classroom efficiency. The speakers, who were English Language Fellows (ELFs) as well as long-tenured teachers in the US, wanted to introduce those topics to Chinese classrooms. The featured speakers, Jill Kester and Jim Radebauch were brought to SCNU by Alice Murray of the US Embassy Beijing.

The purpose of the workshop was to introduce about the cutting-edge teaching methods currently being used in the US, and we learned a lot from Jill and Jim’s sessions. We were also met and got to work with very kind, creative and talented Chinese teachers. Other ELFs from Guangdong province came to help out at the workshop as well. To read more about the program see Georgetown’s website:  The seminar attracted English teachers from all levels, elementary to high school, and their enthusiasm and desire to learn made the time pass by quickly. We thank them for their willingness to share with us and their desire to learn new things.

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