There's a saying that goes, “If you've seen China, you've seen the world.” For Dodge City native Hillary Snyder, at least, the journey to the country has proven to be an eye-opening experience.
Snyder, a senior at Concordia University in Nebraska, spent three weeks teaching English language and American culture to students aged eight through 12 at Buena Vista Concordia International School in Shenzhen, China. The school is sponsored by The Lutheran Church-Hong Kong Synod.
Snyder said the biggest challenge was being thrust into a new environment for the first time and not knowing how the students would respond.
“I think I gained an appreciation for other cultures and for language in general, because it was all about communication: how do we communicate with people who don't speak the same language that we do,” Snyder said. “I think being over there and not being able to use words to communicate with people was very different for me.”
Snyder and her colleagues were led by professors of education Dr. Vicki Anderson and Dr. Bernard Tonjes. The curricula included vocabulary words, music, art, camp activities and physical education lessons. Individual instruction time was also included.
Snyder said that, although Concordia is a Christian university, the instructors weren't allowed to discuss faith as part of their teachings. They were, however, allowed to discuss aspects of American culture that include Christmas and Easter. If asked about something religious, they were permitted to explain. For instance, Snyder was asked about the cross she wore on her necklace.
“Once she asked I was free to tell her everything about who Christ is,” she said, adding that it was her favorite part of the trip.
Snyder said she decided to go because she was interested in other cultures and had also been planning to be an English language teacher.
“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to practice that before I get into the teaching profession,” she said.
Snyder is a secondary education major at Concordia and is currently doing student teaching. In October, she will undergo the second part of her student teaching in China. After graduation, she plans on going to Japan for seven weeks to teach English language, and hopes to find an overseas teaching position thereafter.
“It was a great opportunity for me to see the wider world,” Snyder said. “… It opened my eyes to how big the world is.”