Category Archives: Outlook

Teaching English to Migrant Students in Shanghai

By Jasmine Zahedi

[4 minute read]

While studying abroad in Shanghai, I had the incredible opportunity to work with Stepping Stones, a non-profit organization through which I taught English to grade school students at various Shanghai migrant schools. Through my experience, I learned that there is a huge influx of migrants moving from the farmlands and agricultural areas into Chinese cities, with Shanghai having one of the highest concentrations of migrants in China. In recent years, the government created many new schools to provide the children of migrant parents with access to education they might otherwise not receive. In theory, the idea is a good one, but there are still many underlying issues affecting the quality of education these students are receiving.

Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash

Stepping Stones placed me at Huabo Lixing Hang School, an elementary school about an hour away from the university campus at which I was studying. When I first arrived, I immediately noticed that the area was much poorer than the area in which I lived in and went to school. I noticed that even the inhabitants looked recognizably different (or distinguishable) from the Shanghainese people I normally saw in the city, probably due to the fact that they originally came from inland provinces such as Anhui, Hunan, and Sichuan.

The government chartered school I worked at clearly stood out from the rest of the environment. Its modern architecture seemed out of place among the surrounding buildings and shops. The classes were packed with students. A normal class size was around 60 which, as one might imagine, made teaching English incredibly difficult. The children were extremely excited to learn, but there were many daily challenges in the classroom. Having so many peers, the students were often rowdy and distractible, and the ones in the back of the classroom had trouble understanding what was occurring at the front. Furthermore, the children were all greatly varied in their English abilities. This is a common characteristic in migrant schools, as students who weren’t born in Shanghai have a wide range of educational history. One of the Chinese volunteers who worked with me in the classroom told me that her elementary school was nothing like this. She said everyone was always well-behaved because parents reinforced their children’s behavior at home. Unfortunately, with parents that often have to work late, these children tended to have very different home lives, and these differences translated into the classroom.

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Advice For ph.d. students

By Wei Gao

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Are you a Ph.D. student? If you are, or you are considering pursuing a PhD, I have some advice for you. I am currently a PhD student, and without receiving advice from different individuals in my life, I wouldn’t have the outlook I do now. I want to share one particular word of advice that had a great impact on me, which I think could have an impact on any PhD student.

To fully explain why the advice I received was so important to me, I must introduce the person who gave it to me: meet my friend Tanya [ˈtɑːnjə]. Tanya is from China (the Chinese pronunciation of her name is Tanya [tán yǎ]). I met Tanya for the first time a few years ago in 2016 at an academic conference in Shanghai. As a graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tanya was certainly a rising star in academia. I was responsible for her reception when she came to my university as a guest for the conference. Since it was such a rare opportunity to speak one-one-one with such a distinguished scholar, I asked her, “Tanya, I plan on pursuing a Ph.D. degree in the near future. Could you please give me some advice about how to do good research?” She replied, “Lady Gaga is a great singer; a real artist. You should listen to her music.” Then she left. Needless to say, I was confused after hearing that. I thought to myself, “So does she mean I should listen to Lady Gaga’s music to become a good researcher?” Following her suggestion, I started to listen to Lady Gaga’s music. However, after I listened to all of Lady Gaga’s songs, my research skills had only marginally improved.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

One year later, someone told me that Tanya hadn’t published any papers this year. I couldn’t believe it, but after checking her website I realized this person was right. Soon after, I heard people starting to gossip, “Tanya is not a rising star any longer,” “Tanya flops”, “Tanya isn’t what she used to be”. I was genuinely worried about her, and I kept wondering what had happened.

A year later, I met her in person again at another academic conference in Washington DC. After some small talk, I had to mention, “Tanya, I have been following your research, but it seems that you haven’t updated your website for some time.” Although I didn’t ask directly why she hadn’t published anything notable, she quickly understood what I meant. Then she said, “Remember a couple years ago when I asked you to listen to Lady Gaga’s music? Here’s why I did that. Lady Gaga had a commercially successful career for several years. Then, she flopped in 2013 when she released her album Artpop. So what happened? Instead of just satisfying the public, Lady Gaga was trying to produce an album created from an artist’s perspective. Thus, the album Artpop was not accepted by the majority, although it had a large influence on the music industry overall when we look back at it today. The subjects of this album, art and pop, can be considered by many to be antithetical. She caused a stir with her pop fans when she picked sides. Lady Gaga chose art, but that came with a cost.” 

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Election Complexion

By Jonah Vroerop

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3½ minute read]

Voting is arguably the most important facet of our democracy. It is the vehicle through which the voices of the common people reach the ears of leadership and the only way in which we can choose who represents us, both on a world stage and in our local governments. Many people think that Americans dislike talking about politics because it is rude or private. However, this is largely untrue. Yes, Americans may be hesitant to tell you which candidate they voted for or plan to vote for but engaging in conversation about political topics or asking someone’s opinion of a candidate is not rude at all. In fact, you may learn some things about American political history from these conversations and you may begin to understand why politics are such a barrier of change in the United States.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

2020 is a big year for a lot of reasons, among which is the presidential election. In November, American citizens will cast their votes for the President and Vice President of the United States of America. Americans have the option of voting at a local polling station (usually a school, gymnasium, or community center) or via mail. The mail-in ballots are very important for many Americans, especially those who live out of their home state or state of permanent residence, since American voting laws mandate that your vote is counted by your state. The result of this year’s election will rely heavily on mail-in ballots, since many will likely be taking precautionary measures to avoid possible COVID transmission.

COVID, among many other things, has made this election pivotal for saving the lives of thousands of Americans. Our current administration has made an abysmal effort to address the coronavirus pandemic and as a result, America has had 7.3 million cases and over 200,000 deaths. The environment, racial inequality, and economics (partially due to covid), have also emerged as influential factors in the 2020 election. And so, if Americans want to see changes and progress in these areas, we will have to vote in record numbers. Although the election results are impossible to predict, we know that both leading candidates (former VP Joe Biden/Kamala Harris and the incumbent candidates Donald Trump/Mike Pence) still have a very realistic chance of winning. Therefore, the small percentage of “swing voters” in the United States will be the individuals that determine the outcome of this election. The states that have the highest numbers of these voters (we call these states “swing states”) are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Since the Presidential candidates win the votes of most of the states “all or nothing” (meaning that if the majority vote for one candidate all electoral votes of the state will go to that candidate), even a small number of voters in a swing state have a very large amount of electoral influence.

Photo by Louis Velazquez on Unsplash
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