Getting to Know You – Chris

Something I really like about the TESOL program at GSE is not only do we have a faculty advisor, but a peer advisor as well.  Peer advisors are second year Master’s students who are assigned to you at the beginning of the year.  They are there to answer any questions you may have about the TESOL program and life at Penn/GSE.  I find it really comforting to know that I have a peer who I can turn to for advice.

I was lucky enough to be assigned Chris as my peer advisor.  He’s such a friendly and great guy who happens to have a wealth of knowledge about our program.  I seriously lucked out!  Keep reading to learn more about Chris.

What is your name? Chuqiao in Chinese and Chris in English.

Where is your hometown? My hometown is Harbin, China. It is a beautiful northeastern city, which is famous for Westernized architecture and intolerably cold winter.

Where did you go to undergrad?  I studied in Beijing Language and Culture University, and I graduated from its nationally well-known, but incredibly boring Teaching Chinese as a Second Language program, in 2014.

Have you ever taught English before?  Since my undergrad major was mainly about teaching Chinese, I had not worked as a formal English teacher before I came to Penn GSE. I had some experience in teaching English to secondary school students in China. In my first year at GSE, I taught novice learners at PEDAL@GSE with an amazing team for the first semester. Then, I worked as a volunteer instructor in an intensive English language program at the International House Philadelphia for my second semester. Working with the curious and hardworking students was always cheerful.

Chris with his PEDAL@GSE team.
Chris with his PEDAL@GSE team.

Why did you decide to get a Master’s in TESOL?  Because I enjoy interacting with people, and I hope that I can teach in a college/university someday in the future. So, getting a master’s degree is a must!

What made you want to come to GSE?  Unlike many TESOL programs in other schools, which largely concentrate on teaching practice, teaching methods and curriculum design, our program has a remarkable emphasis on the interrelation among education, culture, politics, and society. I always consider a solid theoretical foundation and a broad, cross-disciplinary knowledge as essential for educators who want to constantly improve themselves as well as their work. That said, in my opinion, if you only know how to make lesson plans and materials for tasks, and thus feel so proud of being a 100% practitioner, your teaching is likely to be monotonous and uninspiring to your students. As a teacher-learner, I would prefer to get more insights from a variety of research studies. I found GSE attractive primarily because of our intelligent and inspiring professors and researchers.

What do you want to do after you graduate?  This is a little hard for me to answer. I wanted to teach adult learners in an ELP program in the US at the beginning of my first semester. However, after spending a whole year learning and working at GSE (especially after completing my fieldwork and getting more familiar with the career of an ESL teacher), I have become more and more research-oriented. I’m not saying that I’m no longer interested in ESL teaching, but I’m much more interested in gaining more research experience.

Enough about school, tell me something fun you like to do outside of class!  I’m a huge fan of almost all kinds of music. I have been singing with the University Choir since I came to Penn. We have two rehearsals per week, and we hold two concerts each semester. Singing is probably my favorite thing to do in my life. 

Chris after one of his concerts at Penn.
Chris after one of his concerts at Penn.

What do you think of Philadelphia?  I think Philly is a very nice city. I always enjoy hanging out with my friends in the Center City. However, my favorite place in Philly is still our campus.

What was the hardest thing you had to adjust to in the United States?   Nothing in particular. In fact, I’ve never had difficulty in adjusting myself to a new environment.

What is something you miss about China?  My parents and my closest friends in my college choir. We are all notoriously talkative. I went back to China this summer, and I lived with my friends in Beijing for a few weeks. We never slept before 4 AM because we always talked too much!

Chris hanging out with his friends in Beijing.
Chris hanging out with his friends in Beijing.

What is something you love about the United States that you cannot find in China?  Well, I don’t need to worry about air pollution anymore, haha! Honestly, I love collecting perfumes, and I can almost get whatever scent that I want in the United States, at a much lower price!

Do you have any advice/comments/words of wisdom for prospective students?  Before coming to school, do some research on our faculty and get to know about their expertise and research interests. Look for someone you feel connected with, and choose his/her class. Since everybody has his/her own learning style and strategy, it is difficult to give an overgeneralized suggestion. However, course selection is definitely something important to all the prospective students. Sometimes it will even determine whether or not you will enjoy the upcoming semester.

Thanks so much, Chris!

If you’re reading along and want me to ask my peers any additional questions, don’t be shy.  Drop me a comment and let me know!

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