North­eastern stu­dent Alexandra Liu, not yet 19, already has plans to pursue a career in acad­emia as a result of a life-​​changing expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity in China.

Liu taught Eng­lish to hun­dreds of stu­dents at the Yue­long and Yi Jia Qiao middle schools as well as the Longman Eng­lish language-​​training center in Nan­tong, a city in China’s Jiangsu Province.

I really enjoyed sharing knowl­edge with people and inspiring people,” said Liu, an anthro­pology and inter­na­tional affairs dual major who was raised in Hong Kong. “I absolutely loved teaching and now I have thoughts of get­ting a PhD and becoming a col­lege professor.

I like having my own space to create things,” she added. “Having that space in class to work with the kids and seeing them grow was really rewarding.”

Liu used her cre­ativity to help stu­dents over­come their fears of learning English.

Though stu­dents in China are taught that “playing is bad and studying is good,” she incor­po­rated cha­rades, hangman, and other word games into her lesson plans.

She also encour­aged stu­dents to chat with each other in Eng­lish about career goals and family life. Class­rooms didn’t have com­puters or TVs to watch videos or listen to audio record­ings, so she stuck to writing notes on the chalkboard.

It all paid off.

After only a few weeks, stu­dents shed their embar­rass­ment and began speaking freely in Eng­lish. Liu noted her stu­dents’ growing vocab­u­lary and com­fort level with the language.

I would tell them that there was no right or wrong answer,” said Liu. “It was about not being afraid to make mistakes.”

The expe­ri­ence boosted her self-​​confidence by forcing her to live inde­pen­dently in a for­eign cul­ture. She lived in a dorm, rode her bike to work and engaged her neigh­bors in Mandarin.

She wouldn’t trade the expe­ri­ence for any­thing. In fact, she “Absolutely, 100 per­cent wants to go inter­na­tional again,” adding, “I know that if I stayed in the states I would not have learned half as much as I did. Learning how to live as a local in China is a com­pletely dif­ferent thing.

When you work inter­na­tion­ally, you really begin to under­stand their way of life.”