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As one of the earliest DukeEngage programs to start, the Zhuhai program has already wrapped up week 1! This week has truly been an eye-opening one, and it’s already set the tone for a creative, heartwarming, and busy summer.

I was pretty nervous going into this experience. I had tutored plenty of times before (even virtually), but never in this unique context. How would I, a native English speaker, approach teaching English to Chinese students? More importantly, how strong would the connectivity be across 8,000 miles? Hsiao-mei and Sara had explained to us the technological difficulties of using Zoom in China – there was even a chance that we wouldn’t be able to run our program at all! In our test calls, the sound of the students was sometimes deafening (imagine zooming with 50 other students in the same classroom!) and we couldn’t even see their faces. I was scared that my lessons would be filled with technological difficulties and awkward silences.

I’ll be honest, there have been plenty of technical difficulties and awkward silences. For the first two days of class, I was unable to teach my last period due to a slight issue with my Zoom link. Sometimes the students’ videos will completely freeze and I’ll just be stuck wondering when they’ll reconnect. Other times a student will unmute but I still won’t be able to hear them. I’m lucky that I can speak and understand Chinese, so sometimes I will use Chinese to clarify instructions. I’m still figuring out how to use more English and rely less on Chinese though.

But these issues fade to the background when I’m truly able to interact and talk to my students. The students at Zhuhai No.9, Nanping, and my baobaoban are amazing. Although oftentimes shy and reserved at the beginning of class, they soon become loud and silly by the end. I can truly feel their energy, excitement, and gratitude at the end of each class, and it makes me so excited to be able to get to know them better. According to Hsiao-mei, they never want to leave class!

I’m also very grateful for the Zhuhai cohort and their never-ending creativity and openness. Being able to work together with different teaching partners has made this experience so much more meaningful and fun, and I can’t wait to grow closer with them as well. Sara and Hsiao-mei have done a great job bringing us together, leading us through difficulties, and keeping us on top of everything. Now… on to week 2!