Tag Archives: china

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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Recreating My Favorite Dishes

By Sarah Selke

[3 minute read]

After asking several students in ALI conversation groups what they missed most about their homes, the unanimous response I received was simply, “food.” Despite the wide array of restaurants in Los Angeles featuring cuisines from all around the world, it is hard for many international students to find what they would consider be truly authentic good food.

A student I recently conversed with talked about the food from his hometown, Chengdu, a city known for its spicy cuisine. Although he likes trying other cuisines, nothing beats Sichuan food. Speaking of the various similarities and differences between regional cuisines in China, I proclaimed my own partiality to Shanghainese food, which is known for having more sweet and sour flavors. One dish that I especially love is Sheng Jian Bao, which roughly translates to pan-fried buns filled with pork inside. This dish can be found throughout China, but is most common in Shanghai, where it is commonly sold as street food.  

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Thinking about food left me with a craving to make my own Sheng Jian Bao. Ever since I tried the dish on a trip to Shanghai several years ago, I had been looking for a place in the San Gabriel Valley that would meet my expectations. Unfortunately, none of the restaurants I visited succeeded in matching the ones I had eaten abroad. Finally, over a recent three-day weekend, I looked online for a recipe and decided to try a hand at making the dish myself. It was a long process: gathering all the necessary ingredients, letting the yeasted dough rise, seasoning the meat, wrapping the buns, then steaming them. Although the whole affair was rather tedious, the buns turned out to be delicious – perhaps not quite as perfect as the ones I had eaten in Shanghai, but enough to be worth the preparation effort. 

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By Sabrina Hsu

There isn’t much green in China. Beijing, China’s capital, is notorious for its horrendous pollution. So when I was given the opportunity to stay at a friend’s house in rural Qinghai, I was thrilled. Qinghai is one of the few well-preserved landscapes left in China – planes are not allowed to land anywhere near the small area and rarely do non-locals visit the place. Unfortunately, well-preserved usually comes hand in hand with underdeveloped economies and a heavy reliance on agriculture. But the experiences I had there, regardless of the poor conditions we lived in, will forever be some of the most precious and valuable memories I hold onto.

I was basking in the moonlight as I lied on the prickly grass in my friend’s backyard, looking up at a site so alien yet so familiar to me – stars crowded in the darkness, blinking down gently. I was in awe. This isn’t scenery one sees on a daily basis in China – in fact, in the 10 years I’ve been in Shanghai, there wasn’t a single day I could look up in the sky and see more than ten stars. We opted to sleep outside, on the moonlit plateau, to fully appreciate Mother Nature. Even though we ended up getting soaked from the downpour that night, it was still worth the experience. It’s an enchanting feeling to lie in the cradle of nature and let your mind run blank, concentrating on the things we usually take for granted. The noise that was usually covered up by cars honking or buildings under construction was crystal clear – birds chirped early in the morning, bugs buzzed around harmlessly, and the cattle and dogs roamed around freely, scraping at doors looking for food.

The next day, I rode in the back of a truck, my hair whipping in the wind as we drove through mountains of scenery. Though underdeveloped, the farms were kept in good shape and cattle roamed idly in the mountains. We arrived at our destination midway up a mountain. Changing into local clothes – long dresses with long sleeves that go way beyond one’s arms – I grabbed a bag of salt and started feeding the cows. I never knew cows enjoyed salt so much, but herds of old cows bounded towards me, scraping salt off my hands with their harsh tongues. In the end, I struggled away from the cows’ insatiable hunger for salt and tried to milk cows. The rhythmic movement of milking cows always looked so simple! But I failed again and again and didn’t manage to squeeze a single drop of milk out. I have plenty of embarrassing videos from that.

The entire trip was filled with so many activities and fond memories that I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it was. But I think the one day that will stick with me the most is the day I went mountain climbing – not mountains that have roads and stairs paved into them, but actual mountains that are almost 180° steep and if one falls, they fall to their death into the river hundreds of feet below. We had no harness, no map, and no guidance. The only things we had were support from one another and a lot of courage. By the end, we were exhausted physically from the climb and yelling chants to make sure we stuck together, but even more exhausted mentally from the fear of falling. To give ourselves a small celebration on achieving what seemed like the impossible though, we soaked our worn-out feet in the stream, which looked a lot gentler close up than from on the top of the mountain.

This trip taught me to open my eyes and fully appreciate the things and people around me. What we have will only become better if we make them so. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, as long as you put yourself into it completely, you’ll get something (good) out of it. And definitely, step out of your comfort zone and do something you think is impossible. Do something you love and always wanted to do – that’s what college is for! The friends who will stay with you for the rest of your life are the ones who will support you and stand by you when you fail or make a fool out of yourself trying something new.

Step out there and fight on!

Featured image from Pxfuel

Sabrina is studying Health and Human Sciences and minoring in Chinese for Professions and Managing Human Relations. Though born around the Bay Area, Sabrina moved to Shanghai, China at the age of 8 and has since then attended different international schools. She has 4 years of tutoring experience both in student organizations in her high school and outside of school. She was also a member of the National English Honor Society and took part in the Writing Center, which focused on editing student’s essays and helping students with their English classes. In her free time, Sabrina loves reading, hanging out with friends (exploring LA), and doing anything that makes her happy.