Interview With Maggie Attoe: An American Teacher in China
Introducing our latest interview from our Reach To Teach teacher Maggie Attoe. Maggie hails all the way from Wisconsin and is currently teaching English to young learners in China. Read on to hear more about her adventures in China, and what she feels are some of the positive and negative aspects of living there.
Please tell us a little about yourself
I am an (almost) 28 year old female from a small town in Wisconsin. But being from a small town has had its perks and has not stopped me from living the big life that I have wanted to live. I think three words best describe me: active, outgoing, adventurous!
With an environmental background I love the great outdoors, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. I have traveled to different countries, to name a few Belize, Bahamas, Spain, Scotland, and China and have enjoyed all of them for they were each so different and offered new opportunities. My favorite quote, “you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough” … I think this is my motto!
How have you enjoyed teaching in China to date?
I have enjoyed it so much. It has been different from what I expected but the relationships I have created have continued to grow. It’s amazing how close the bonds are you can create even when there are communication problems through language barriers. I have seen children grow in the time I have been here and it has been a touching and unforgettable experience.
What advice can you give to new teachers interested in teaching in China?
Well first I can say that culture shock isn’t what you think it’s going to be, support from family and friends back home is very important. I think if you are going to do this experience then get ready to miss home at times, and guess what, that’s totally OK to do so, it doesn’t mean you aren’t enjoying yourself in this new culture, its normal to miss the comfort of the States.
But remember that this experience is something that will help you grow even more by knowing yourself, creating even more independence and opening your eyes to things you would never experience back in the states. I would suggest to new teachers to educate yourself on your location. Know what is around the area, know how to reach out to other expats and know how to get around. Plan vacations even before you arrive, because then you have something to look forward to (especially if you are in a small town), just make sure the vacation won’t clash with your timetable.
Can you tell us about a particularly powerful moment in your classroom?
Teaching English in China has given me many powerful moments. I was teaching my class of young learners some vocabulary through an art project. I asked my 5 year old student, Daisy, to glue the watch on the man. To my amazement I didn’t need my translator to come over, Daisy picked up the glue (which I had been trying to teach her the word for) and glued the watch on the person she had drawn. Then I asked Daisy what color the watch was, and she replied, “pink”. I was so proud of her!
What are the positive and negative aspects of living in China?
Good question, there are so many nice people in China. They want to get to know you, they want to ask you questions, and they want to practice their English. There are areas of China that are very beautiful, and the food in China is delicious. In Beijing the transportation is plentiful, you can use a bus, subway, taxi or rent a bike to get pretty much anywhere in the city. I really love China, there are always new things to see and do. You can buy cheap train tickets that will take you to the coast or the south. The opportunities here are plentiful and are always bringing new amazing adventures.
Now here are the negatives, prepare for things to get quite dirty. Coming from an Environmental background it is very hard to see people sweeping trash into the streets, or someone walking in front of you taking their wrapper off of something and just throwing it into the air. If you eat in small restaurants get ready to maybe find a bug in your soup … I have found a few. However delicious the soup was, finding the bug didn’t make me very happy. But you keep trucking on. The regulations here are very different to the States, they are a lot more relaxed, So prepare yourself for that before you come over here. The transportation, although plentiful, can be very long and time consuming. It can sometimes take hours just to commute to work.
Have you had the opportunity to travel much in China or in Asia?
Well for me, there is never enough travel. I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a lot in China, I have been to Dalian, Tianjin, Beijing, Xiamen and I even went to some festivals like spring festival and I still have so many more adventures planned. You can find pictures of my time at these places on my blog, stay tuned for future adventures.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about?
Don’t be afraid to explore and get lost. I know this sounds crazy, but I have found some amazing things whilst taking this leap into the unknown! Sometimes when you get lost it’s actually the trip along the way that made the whole journey even better than finding what you were looking for. I have found restaurants, a swimming pool (yes that’s right, an amazing outdoor swimming pool), golf driving ranges, and new people by just taking a wrong turn here and there. Life should be an adventure everyday!
Do you have any favorite blogs or websites about CHINA that you’d like to share with our readers?