Jaline and Jen both studied Chinese in college, and both women had spent a few months in China before joining AYC. Jaline is particularly attracted to Chinese as part of her heritage: her mother is Chinese, although as a fourth-generation American, she can no longer speak the language. Both women knew before they arrived that they would remain in the country another year or two.
When they were placed in Hefei Number One High School, the school did not quite take them seriously. Rather than giving Jaline and Jen classes to teach, the school gave them small groups of students to practice conversational English with in the hallway. But the two quickly proved themselves, bringing quiet students out of their shells and pushing confident students further. “We made it clear they couldn’t just give one-word answers, they had to expand their thoughts in English,” Jaline says. “If they didn’t want to talk, we’d ask them, What do you think?” Noticing that the students’ written English skills lagged far behind their spoken ability, the women set up a writing lab for the kids, both to go over basic English writing skills and to edit college essays. “We’re so happy our school supports our ideas, since we know that’s not always the case in China,” Jen says.
Next year, the women think they may stay on at Hefei Number One, where they have made so many connections and so much progress. Although life hasn't always been easy – the women mentioned flushing their toilet with chopsticks – they have carved out a niche for themselves at their school.