Getting to Know You – Kelly

One of the first people I remember talking to in my Approaches to Teaching English class last semester is Kelly.  Kelly is a smart girl with a great sense of humor who is great at making people laugh.  She always has interesting things to say and I really enjoy hearing her contributions in class.  Read on to find out more about Kelly.

What’s your name?  Xuan (Kelly)

What’s your hometown?  My hometown is a city in China called Nanjing. It has served as the capital of various dynasties in the Chinese history, and is now the capital city of Jiangsu province.

Where did you go to undergrad?  I went to The University of Texas at Austin for my undergraduate study. I was majoring in EC-6 Generalist and graduated in 2015.

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Hanging out with her friends in Texas.

Have you ever taught English before?  Yes. I have taught English both in China and in the U.S. During the last few summers, I tutored 5th graders English in China as well as worked as assistant teachers in different English tutoring institutions in China such as New Oriental. I also had the chance to work in elementary schools in Texas with students of all different grades. I absolutely enjoyed working with the students especially the younger ones. Seeing every little progress they made on English had always been so encouraging to me and made me believe that teaching is something I would like to do for life long.

Why did you decide to get a Master’s in TESOL?  As I said, all of the part-time jobs I had in China were about teaching English as a second language. Many of the students I worked with in elementary schools in the U.S. came from immigrant families, and therefore English was also their second language. While working with these students, I felt powerless sometimes because I did not know how to help them especially when I did not share their native languages. Therefore, I made the decision to get a Master’s in TESOL so that hopefully I could learn more systematic and efficient ways to teach English to students like them.

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Artwork given to Kelly by one of her students.

What made you want to come to GSE?  As one of the well-known Ivy Leagues schools, University of Pennsylvania has one of the best TESOL programs in this country. However, this is just one of the reasons why I chose UPenn. After quite a few research online and by consulting some second year students in GSE, I learned more about this program and finally made the decision to come here for my graduate study. Here are some of my other reasons. First, different from my undergraduate program which focuses mainly on the practical knowledge of teaching, the courses in this program are more theoretical-based, which I think would be a compensate for what I lacked. Secondly, I was fascinated by the location of UPenn. I spent my past four years in southern part of the U.S. However, I always heard from my friends about what life is like in the north, which triggered my interest of moving to the north and experiencing the life there myself. Last but not least, after looking at the school page introducing the faculty members online, I was impressed by their high reputation and rich experience in this field. Besides, my experience of meeting with some of them in person and attending their classes last semester again proves to me that I have made the very right decision.

What do you want to do after you graduate?  I have not decided yet, because there are just too much I would like to try out after I graduate. I definitely love teaching, however, I’m not quite sure which grade level I would like to work with. I had several great experience working with younger learners, but my previous part-time jobs and the fieldwork I’m doing this semester for one of my classes also provide me with an insight of what it is like to teach adult English learners and so far I really enjoy it. Besides, I’m also not sure if I would like to work as a classroom teacher or a tutor. I may prefer the second one, as it would allow me to spend more time on my other interests such as writing a book, opening a coffee shop or volunteering at an animal shelter.

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Hanging out with friends from Texas in Philly.

Enough about school, tell me something fun you like to do outside of class!  My friends call me “old” sometimes because I like reading books, visiting museums and watching documentaries. I’m especially fond of history, and I believe I can learn history the best through these ways. I also enjoy going out to eat with my friends. I love to try different foods, and it’s really hard to say which type I like the most because I love all of them! I also like hanging out with my friends because I like to share everything (good or bad) happens in my life with them and listen to their advice. Last but not least, I love to volunteer. I always enjoy making contributions to make our school and our society a better place to study and to live in. I also found that I could always make new friends during volunteering (and guess what! They all like volunteering as much as I do!)

What do you think of Philadelphia?  Philadelphia reminds me of my hometown sometimes, as they are both historical and gorgeous cities. If you like museums, Philly is definitely the place you don’t want to miss. If you like to try different foods just like me, you could go explore the Reading Terminal Market (where you can find foods from all over the world). If you like shopping, the center city and the King of Prussia (the second largest mall in the U.S.) could both be the options for you.

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Kelly hitting up a restaurant during Restaurant Week.

What was the hardest thing you had to adjust to in the United States?  For me is the culture. I do agree that though language could be challenging, it is also something that can be explicitly taught as I think. In contrast, however, culture, as something influences our everyday life, is not usually introduced directly and needs to be figured out through our own experience. I have made many mistakes in the process of learning about American culture. To give a very simple example, people in China never give strangers compliment on their clothes. However, people here are generous with their compliment on others even if you are just a person walking pass by whom they don’t know at all. The first time I heard people saying, “I like your shirt” or “That’s such a cute dress”, I was so shocked and somehow felt very awkward without knowing how to reply. Then I learned that it’s actually a part of the culture here, so we could just take the compliment, smile and say “Thank you”. 

What is something you miss about back home?  My family and my friends. Every winter break and summer vacation, I go back to China to see them.

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Kelly hanging out with her best friend in China.

What is something you love about the United States that you cannot find in your home country?  Less air pollution and safer food maybe? Just kidding. There’s one thing I love about the U.S. is how diverse people here are and how acceptant people here can be. While I went to elementary school in China, I feel like we all had to follow the same rules and have the same dream of becoming the same type of people (students who get 100 points on all subjects). However, in elementary schools here, I see more possibilities. It doesn’t mean that teachers and parents here do not value high grades. But they are more willing to help students become the type of people the students themselves want to be. This is something that truly inspires me as a teacher.

Do you have any advice/comments/words of wisdom for prospective students?  In my opinion, graduate school is very different from undergraduate. I’m not very good at time management. However, this was not a big problem during my undergraduate years because even though there were a lot of classes we needed to take every week, the class levels and the homework we had to work on were not too much of a stress. However, graduate school is a totally different story. I only took three courses last semester but I always found myself running out of time. So here are a few suggestions for people like me:

1. Keep a checklist that reminds you of what needs to be done everyday or every week so that you can plan your time accordingly. Trust me, you would enjoy the feeling of crossing things out on your list.

2. Always set up a new deadline for yourself that is one or two days before the actual one, so that you don’t have to stay up all night or stress out too much about getting things done on time.

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Thanks so much, Kelly!





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