During orientation, I met a ton of people. Funnily enough, none of them were in the TESOL program. I’m kind of impressed and shocked that this was the case for me because the TESOL program is the biggest one at GSE. So when I went to a mixer one night, Yvonne’s roommate exclaimed that I had to meet Yvonne because she is also in TESOL! And I’m so glad she introduced us. Yvonne is in my Teaching Second Language Writing course. She’s insightful and such a pleasure to talk to. Read on to learn more about Yvonne!
What is your name? My name is Yifan Qiu, and you can also call me Yvonne.
What’s your hometown? I am from Shanghai, a megacity in China with a population of over 24 million. Similar to many big cities in the world, Shanghai is a place where people of different ethnicity, nationality and cultural background converge, which makes life in Shanghai vibrant and exciting.
Where did you go to undergrad? I majored in economics for my bachelor’s degree at Shanghai Normal University.
Have you ever taught English before? I have taught English for about nines years after finishing my undergrad degree. In the earlier years of my teaching career, I mostly prepped high school students for international English tests such as IELTS and TOEFL. Later, as I’d become increasingly interested in content-based instruction, my language teaching expanded to include courses like academic writing, English literature, and business English. I was the director of the teaching department of a private-owned language institute where I administered cross-cultural English programs and organised a maker faire.
Why did you decide to get a Master’s in TESOL? My decision of getting a Master’s degree in TESOL is partly rooted in my renewed understanding of learning through a brief contact with the framework of project-based learning and partly due to my enduring interest in language learning as well as learning new languages.
What made you want to come to GSE? Penn GSE has so many merits and I don’t know where to begin. One thing for certain is the amazing faculty we have in the department of educational linguistics. The stress on social factors that shape language learning is definitely something unique about our TESOL program. In addition, I like the size of our student body, not too big and not too small, whereby I can not only have the intimate, small class experience, but also have an interestingly diverse cohort.
What do you want to do after you graduate? As of now, I plan to continue my teaching career preferably in an ESL context and be involved in curriculum development and teacher training.
Enough about school, tell me something you like to do outside of class! At the beginning of last school year, I joined the PennTango club and it’s probably shaped a large part of my experience here in Philadelphia. I go to Tango classes every Monday night at the Penn Museum and occasionally car-pool with friends to go outside of Philadelphia to attend Tango Hop. Besides that, I also like to explore Philadelphia, going to concerts and plays, visiting museums and art galleries, and trying out restaurants.
What do you think of Philadelphia? Philadelphia has its significance in American history and, therefore, is very historical — probably why I like the city in the first place. If you look in the right direction, you will discover a lot of anecdotes about a building, a theatre, or a statue. Also, there are pockets of interesting places all around Philadelphia, some of them are very quaint whereas others are very hipster. Once, my friend, who is a huge Green Bay Packers fan, managed to stumble upon a Packers bar in the city center.
What was the hardest thing you had to adjust to in the United States? To be honest, the hardest thing for me to adjust is still the language. Although I think I have a decent command of English as a functional medium for communication, I realize that I lack the necessary sociolinguistic knowledge for me to create an English-speaking identity. To this day, I am still working on the social pragmatic side of language that can help me (or prevent me if I lack the knowledge) to bond with friends from different cultural background.
What is something you miss about China? I miss my family and friends back home in Shanghai. I miss the lifestyle that I was so used to: the food, the convenient public transportation system, and, most importantly, a steady income!
What is something you love about the United States that you cannot find in China? I like the value of self-efficacy in the United States, or, in other words, the essence of an American dream, which embodies a discourse of opportunity — every one has an opportunity to get social mobility if he/she is talented and prepared. While this idea also pervades the Chinese society, people might feel a lot more frustrated in my home country. Also, I will definitely miss Google if I am back in China.
Do you have any advice/comments/words of wisdom for prospective students? Appreciate the differences you find in other people and other cultures. Don’t be afraid to try new things and adventure outside of your comfort zone.
Thanks so much for the wonderful answers, Yvonne!