Reach to Teach Interview with Lauren Tininenko
Our latest Reach to Teach Interview was with the always positive Lauen Tininenko. We caught up with her after just three months of her being away in China to see how her experience has been so far.
1. Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Lauren Tininenko and I am from Bentonville, Arkansas in the USA. I am a recent graduate of the University of New Mexico. In University, I had wanted to study abroad as some of my friends did, but I was unable to because I was a student-athlete.
When I graduated, I thought it was the perfect time to go out and adventure, which led me to teaching English abroad! I now work at Kid Castle, an English training school in Shanghai.
2. How have you enjoyed teaching in China to date?
I have absolutely loved it! I was honestly surprised at how quickly I felt at home in this place where I don’t even speak the language, and how quickly I got the hang of teaching.
I have only been here for three months and have learned so much. It’s easy to make yourself want to go to work when you know that you get to see the kids’ smiling faces every day.
3. What advice can you give to new teachers interested in teaching in China?
Teaching in China is so rewarding. At first, the kids won’t really know what to think of you because they don’t see many foreigners around, so they’re a bit shy. After a couple of weeks, they get to know you and they get so excited to see you every single day.
It’s awesome to realize that you have that kind of impact on them that they are happy to be there learning English, even on a Saturday or Sunday when other kids may not have classes.
4. Can you tell us about a particularly powerful moment in your classroom?
This last Christmas, my school said that I could dress up as Santa Claus if I wanted to, which was a no-brainer. I didn’t think about how Christmas isn’t a recognized holiday in China, so they didn’t really know who Santa Claus was or what he does, but they laughed that their teacher had a fake beard and a pillow stuffed in her shirt.
Even though they still may not understand Santa Claus, they got to experience a little bit of the Christmas that I grew up with in America, so I was excited to be able to help give them that experience.
5. What are the positive and negative aspects of living in China?
I love that Shanghai is never dull. Any activity or type of food that you’re looking for, they probably have it. It’s also really easy to get around the city on the subway or a bus.
I have also found that people are generally friendly towards foreigners. I assumed that they would be annoyed that I am unable to speak their language, but they mostly just laugh at my inability to communicate with them.
One negative thing I have found is that personal space isn’t really taken into consideration here. If there is a fully packed subway, thirty more people will get on it anyways. It’s almost impressive how many people they manage to squeeze in! I’m just glad that I’ve never been a person who is very claustrophobic.
6. Have you had the opportunity to travel much in China or in Asia?
My first couple of months, I didn’t leave Shanghai. I was still settling in, and not only that, but I could explore a different part of the city on every one of my days off and still not even finish seeing the whole city.
For my Chinese New Year break, I went to Cambodia with two other Kid Castle teachers whom I met at my orientation. We got to see the temples at Angkor Wat and spend some relaxing days at the beach.
It was beautiful and such an adventure, and it made me even more eager to start planning more trips in the future. I’m realizing how close I am to so many neat places that I’d like to see, so now is the time to go see them! It’s a lot harder to take a weekend trip to Japan when I’m living in America…
7. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about?
Don’t be afraid to just go! I had friends and family telling me that China wouldn’t be safe or that people wouldn’t be very friendly or I would have a hard time getting around the city, etc..
I decided that I wanted to find out for myself rather than deciding to stay in the US, and so far, I haven’t run into issues with any of these things, and I am so glad that I took the risk to come out here.
8. Do you have any favorite blogs or websites about China that you’d like to share with our readers?
A website I rely on for most of my information about restaurants and things to do is SmartShanghai. Another website I have found to be helpful is shanghaiexpat. I’m not much of a blogger, but you can follow me on Instagram here.