Since 2008, students in the Early Childhood Education program have completed one-month study abroad internships at Regent International Preschool in the city of Suzhou, China. The value of their learning and working experiences at a Regent International preschool are invaluable. Read their own words written for the Talk Back China project, an online diary.
Karina Chua May 2015
It was a rainy day when we landed in Shanghai. After weeks of preparation and countless repacking, we had finally arrived! China was a foreign land to everyone, none of us had ever stepped foot in China before and so this trip would be the start of a new adventure. We had fussed over books to bring and materials to pack, planned our activities and our sightseeing adventures. Finally, we walked out of the airplane, on to the runway, boarded the bus, and we were off to the city!
We went around Shanghai on our first full day in China with two of our Suzhou friends. The first thing we noticed was the cleanliness of the city. There wasn’t a piece of garbage in sight. We were very impressed with the effort put in to clean the streets and sidewalks. We went to the beautiful Shanghai Museum, with floors of ancient artifacts. Ancient scrolls and paintings had beautiful and exquisite details. We saw the handmade ceramic pots and decorated jade and wondered how in the world people carved these items without electricity, nor modern day tools, like a drill or a 3D printer.
We ate delicious food for lunch and dinner, with one of us finding new love in Hot Pot and everyone enjoying with icy dumplings. We topped off our packed day with a visit to The Bund, an extensive array of buildings in Shanghai from across the river. The Bund was a 360 panoramic view of neon lights dancing around the mist and reflecting off the water. With our newly acquired selfie sticks, we were able to take glorious pictures of ourselves with the skyline of Shanghai.
Suzhou has a more relaxed vibe in comparison to Shanghai. We went around to the Suzhou Museum and explored the extensive markets around the gardens. There was a small bamboo garden, amidst the water pond and bridge in the Museum and even in the rain, it was very beautiful. The day was calm contrast to the one before and a good rest before the start of school. Now that we’ve explored Shanghai and Suzhou, seen a few sights, learned to say “Xie Xie” and count to ten, we are ready to start China Project 2016!
Today after school we took a boat ride along a canal in Suzhou. The city is indeed very beautiful at night! The buildings and houses were all lit up, and the canal is lined with trees and greenery. The team and I tried to take as many pictures as possible, but we couldn’t really capture the beauty that we saw around us.
Before the boat ride we had dinner at Third Cup; a beautiful restaurant that serves both Western and Asian food. Although Chinese food is delicious, it’s great to have a taste of home once in a while. I have definitely indulged in the local cuisine since we landed; this country is abundant in unique meals and snacks.
I’ve only been at the school for one week, but I’ve already learned so much about Chinese culture and language. This preschool is one of the most beautiful schools I have ever seen, and I am truly so lucky to be here. My cooperating English teacher is a great mentor; it’s inspiring to see how these small children are picking up the English language so quickly. When I first came here I was afraid of the language barrier, but the children actually understand everything I say. Since most of the children in my room are Japanese, they’ve taught me so many new Japanese words as well as Mandarin! I wish I was as adept at learning a new language as they are, it amazes me how well they are able to follow routines and follow along to simple rhymes and songs.
Even though I’ve been here a short time I’ve already become attached to the children at this school. I will miss them so much when I leave! I just hope that I’ll make as much as an impact on them as they have on me.
Regent International Preschool
We have been in China for eleven days now, and I am so happy that I had the opportunity to come here. At first, I had a mixture of excitement and fear about being so far from home, but that quickly turned into curiosity and wonder as I have been exploring the city, the people, the delicious food, the language and the culture here. I learn new words and new things about the city everyday and me and my team are having a great time as we seek out new experiences together.
My first week at Regent International Preschool was great! The centre offers a warm, welcoming learning community for families, children and educators and I felt part of the team from the very first day. It is a different experience being an educator when the children’s first and sometimes second language is not English. Although this is something fairly new to me, and although it comes with challenges, I am excited to use this as a learning opportunity and strengthen my non-verbal interactions and observation skills. I am also working on strengthening my Mandarin vocabulary with the help of the mandarin teachers in the centre. So far, I have learned to count to five and the names of a few fruits and vegetables. During our curriculum on feelings next week, I plan to learn how to say the names of a few emotions as well.
The children in my nursery class are very friendly and welcoming of my presence in the room. We have five Japanese-speaking and five Chinese-speaking children. Their language learning is both impressive and fascinating to me as I interact and build relationships with them and their families. We have had so much fun the past week as we play, sing and dance in our classroom. My favourite day so far has been Pyjama Day. All of the children and teachers dressed up in their pyjama’s as we celebrated the day by having a fashion show and a dance party followed by a very comfortable and dimly lit front lobby filled with pillows, stuffed animals and books for the children to get cozy in. The teachers in the school are great as well. Their relationships with the children are strong and meaningful and I am very happy to have a group of such influential mentors who have been teaching me about the children and showing us around the city. Their hospitality and their friendliness is more than we could have ever asked for! Regent international preschool has offered me a very rare learning experience that has strengthened my skills as an educator as well as my knowledge of Chinese culture.
Suzhou Early Childhood Education College
Team China 2016 had the opportunity to visit the new location of Suzhou’s Early Childhood Education College. We were greeted at the main gates by the College’s chair, Ms. Gao, who showed us around the remarkable campus. The college was designed with exquisite landscape and architecture, “Suzhou style.” We were blown away with the beauty and serenity of the campus.
In order for students to attend Suzhou’s Early Childhood Education College they have to audition and showcase their artistic talents. Throughout their five years at the college students engage in different art classes, for example dance, vocal, instrumental, calligraphy, visual arts, etc. Every year students further develop these skills and become experts in the arts. We had the opportunity to sit in on a dance and vocal class and also saw their breathtaking artwork.
In China early childhood education is predominantly female, which is similar to Canada. Therefore the Chinese Government promotes the ECE program to males by providing them with free education. Currently there are 500 male students enrolled at the college and the number continues to increase every year. The students who attend the college are between 15-20 years old and once graduated most will work in kindergarten.
In the Chinese culture there is a significant appreciation for the arts, which we have seen first hand at Regent International Preschool. Throughout the year there are two events that children participate in- the Christmas party and Graduation. Even the youngest children at Regent are expected to and enjoy rehearsing and performing at these events.
Regent International Preschool
As we begin to slowly pack our suitcases for our last weekend and our final mini trip to Beijing, China, we are coming to the realization that our days in Suzhou are coming to an end. It’s sad that we have to say goodbye to the friends we made, the staff, parents and especially the children at Suzhou Regent International Preschool. Before we had to say goodbye, we had the opportunity to celebrate Children’s day at the school with all of our students.
Children’s day is recognized in many countries around the world, honouring the children in their country. In China, Children’s day is celebrated on June 1st. Gifts are given to children as a way of honouring them. Regent Preschool held a Children’s day event for all the students, which included a lunch buffet. The students in my class were very excited about all the activities they would get to do during Children’s day. When they heard there was a lunch buffet they were all looking forward to the lunch even more than usual. This made me laugh. The English and Mandarin teachers organized different activities for all the children that included: art activities, water play, hair salon, face painting, a game station and a nutrition break.
The whole day was filled with squeals of laughter, happy children who weresinging, and dancing. The children enjoyed the day's celebration, but I can guarantee you that Children’s day wasn’t only enjoyed by the children but also by the GBC team. At the end of the day, when all the children left to go home, I finally got to rest for a few minutes and as I peered around and saw the teachers and other staff members passing me by I think we all had the same thought, that this day was an amazing day and a way to celebrate children. I will now always remember June 1st because this is a very memorable day and it is a memory I will cherish forever!
I would love to stay for a few more weeks teaching and being with the children at Regent, but our time is coming to an end. In a few days we will be heading off to Beijing then back to our homes in Toronto. I have learned a lot working and I am thankful that I got to be part of Team China 2016!
Our last day at Suzhou Regent International Preschool saddened Team China, as we knew we would be leaving behind the children, families and staff whom we had grown very close with. As each of us left our rooms after saying our final farewells, we met, with tear-stained faces, at the corner of the hallway. We knew at this moment that we all shared the same feeling of not wanting to leave, although we knew that a journey still lay ahead of us.
We managed to get rest on the night train to Beijing, where we would spend our last few days in China. When our feet touched the ground, we felt the history of this new place consume us. We were met by Kevin, who, unbeknownst to us, would become our tour guide and a great friend. We dashed off to The Bird’s Nest, China’s national stadium. As we viewed this space, where the 2008 Olympics were held, we got the opportunity to photograph many places where the various Olympic events were held. Next, we headed to one of the wonders of the World, The Great Wall of China. Kevin took us to a part of the wall that wasn’t as daunting or as steep to climb as other parts – although at first glance, it seemed so. We gazed, in awe, at the beauty of this wall built of stone, brick, and other natural materials, and thought about how amazing it was that human hands, in ancient times, constructed this. After climbing the steps, the team was able to capture the breathtakingly beautiful scenery from atop the wall. It was agreed that the climb down was a lot tougher than the journey up.
We then made our way to the Spirit Way of the Ming Tombs, a road leading into the actual complex of the Ming Tombs. Here, we witnessed many beautifully constructed statues and pillars that lined either side of the road. We ended our day in a small village, where the guardians of the Ming Tombs lived. We received a quick introductory lesson on how to make dumplings, and got to eat those, along with a beautiful spread of other dishes.
The next day we visited the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, followed by a visit to the beautiful Temple of Heaven. These were three very historic places filled with beauty that could not be captured in photos alone. We headed back to our hotel for rest and met again for dinner at an authentic local restaurant. We indulged in many Beijing style dishes such as Peking duck, and noticed that by the end of our trip, we had become quite skilled chopstick users.
On our final day, we headed to a busy market place, where many of us did some last minute shopping for trinkets and souvenirs. We said our goodbyes to Kevin and to China. This month long experience here in China will leave imprints on our hearts for a lifetime!
Read more letters from students 2015