What is your favorite travel memory?
Traveling the first time to Taiwan was one of the most challenging and rewarding travel experiences I've ever had. The language and culture were as alien and incomprehensible as I could have imagined, and my job was to tutor three kids in English, as well as babysit them after school. Each day was exhausting, but I was eating new food, speaking new sounds, learning a new way of living, and finding out about my limits and abilities. I still look back on the experience as a seminal one. Through all the cultural confusion, misunderstandings and frustrations, the humanity and kindness of the people there always came through for me, and I think that they were also able to understand my basic personality and interests despite my abysmal language abilities.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
Being a very goal-oriented person, since I first went to China in 1987, one of my main objectives was to speak Chinese as well as possible, and so I spent 99% of my time in China with my Chinese college students, university academics, and local friends. Since working for CET I have shifted my focus to working more with American students and colleagues. This change has challenged me to expand my abilities to more effectively relate my knowledge of China and its culture to students and colleagues. The China-US relationship is without a doubt one of the most important global bilateral relationships, and I feel working with CET has improved my ability to act as a "bridge" between the two cultures, and to better communicate the fascinating facts on the ground about China and its changing future.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
One of the greatest joys of teaching with this program is teaching those special students who, during their time in the program, get "bitten by the Chinese bug", and begin to look for ways to come back and build a career in China. One such student, Jesse, sought me out to learn more about Chinese humor. I supplied him with some contacts in the media and academic world, as well as some advice about how to go about studying this subject. He won a Fulbright award to study humor in China, and since returning to Beijing, I've been amazed by his tales of success: performing Chinese standup comedy in Beijing nightclubs, appearing on Chinese TV doing comedy skits, and traveling to universities throughout the US to conduct seminars on learning Mandarin through humor. It's gratifying to see how far a student can go with just some inspiration at the outset.
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
I could experience China as a student again, I would love to take the CET Harbin program. To me, this program provides one of the most effective learning and immersion environments for the most dedicated and talented students. In addition to very rigorous and well-designed language classes, and a strict language pledge, the students are able to pursue a focused path of study that highlights exactly the language and cultural knowledge that they will need to effectively advance their careers. Students choose an area of academic study, and work with an assigned faculty mentor to develop a syllabus and research agenda. The entire program enables the student to focus like a laser on exactly the professional skills they need, and from what I've seen, the students make remarkable progress in a very short amount of time. If I had the time, I would go study there myself next semester!
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
CET offers quite simply the best all-around overseas study programs in the world, and its China programs are especially strong. We've been a presence in China since 1981, and part of our strength is the depth of our connections and collaborative network here. Our language programs are among the most rigorous and effective for students at all levels, and we have developed great frameworks for cultural and language immersion. China is a fascinating and volatile country, and I have been especially proud of our team in providing great educational and life experiences during times of dizzying change and unpredictability, such as during the 2008 Olympics, or the 2003 SARS epidemic. Whatever changes China goes through, we are able to flexibly work with our collaborators and expert to give students an incredible learning situation.