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.
Our Arrival, 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!
Yesenia Hidalga Mendo, May 2015
As an ECE student, I have to say that the China Project has been a lifetime experience。There is no better way to learn and understand about people's traditions, culture, and language than to dive right in. During our time abroad we have been visiting incredible places such as the Tiger Hill and Tongli Water Town；I am fascinated by these natural wonders. We also visited the provincial ECE College and a public school kindergarten which was a great experience, because it gave me the opportunity to learn about distinct cultural perspectives in terms of education.
I believe that the greater advantage the China Project has is that we, the students, are exposed to a completely different continent，which allow us to fully immerse ourselves in another culture。Since we are surrounded by the local people - their language and their culture - on a daily basis, it also help us to improve our problem solving, social, and communication skills that certainly we have to use in order meet our own needs。For instance, going to a restaurant and asking for a specific food dish or a preference can be challenging sometimes, but definitely a one-of-a-kind experience that helps us adapt and respond in effective ways.
The greatest and priceless experience for me so far, is being able to go to the Regent International Preschool and spend time with the children。It's exciting to see them, to talk to them, and to know about their families. It is a memorable and rewarding experience that makes me feel that I am in the right career. Being able to be close to them and their culture makes me reflect about my own culture and appreciate even more the differences between peoples. This awesome experience afforded me the opportunity to have a better understanding of people's culture, how their language, food, appearance, beliefs and values influence their lives and the way they perceive others. I am fortunate for being part of George Brown College and this project.
Trina Rosenzweig, May 2015
Two weeks have gone by so quickly! My experiences in China have felt adventurously far from home in some ways, but welcomingly familiar in others. Our time in Shanghai was very exciting, and our Suzhou river cruise was quite beautiful, but my most memorable experience so far has been connecting with the children in the Nursery classroom at Suzhou Regent International Preschool. Getting to know the 15 unique and heart-warming personalities has been my greatest pleasure so far. Every day has been a learning opportunity and I’ve had such valuable freedom to learn and share. The teaching community at the preschool has made me feel so welcome. The English and Chinese teachers in my classroom, Sarah and Wendy, have offered me such genuine examples of responsive, creative educating. I’m very grateful for my experiences, and I cannot wait to discover what I will learn next!
P.S. I’ve been working on my Mandarin vocabulary and I can proudly order vegetarian food in a restaurant all on my own!
Jacqueline Taylor, May, 2015
The China Trip 2015 has been a delight. I have seen diversity, culture and learning celebrated in an environment with three languages. Language is celebrated; culture is celebrated; social and emotional skills are developed; and the well being of every child is valued even if there are language barriers.
We had one of our Japanese-speaking mothers come into our class to read to the children. All the children responded with enthusiasm. Our George Brown English-speaking graduate read along in English while the Japanese mother read in Japanese. I saw the children responding in Japanese, Mandarin and English all at once. They were fully engaged in story time. It was a perfect moment to study the Communication, Language and Literacy Domain in a unique setting for me. This is a learning environment that was practiced regularly in the Suzhou Regent International Preschool. I have watched the Mandarin-speaking teacher work at building communication skills with warmth and compassion. Everyone collaborates to support the children’s learning. It has been a rewarding experience to be a part of.
Another highlight for me, as I have an arts background, has been to see an exceptional approach towards the Arts in China’s educational system. It is celebrated and practiced in all forms in the early years and at the College of Early Childhood Education. I saw children enjoying performance in the preschool; elaborate patterning and design in a public kindergarten; and precision in dance at the College of Early Childhood Education. It has been inspiring.
Fengchao Yu, May, 2015
Hello friends back home!
I have been very lucky to be on this trip, and it has been a great experience for me. It’s been so much fun to get to spend time with my classmates, and really get to know each other better. It has been very interesting traveling with this group in China…I was born and educated in China, so experiencing it as a visitor has been unique. One of my main goals in participating in this trip was to see how the traditional Chinese education format can be blended with the Canadian, emergent play-based curriculum. Since I studied in both China and Canada and have a good understanding of each, I was so interested to see an example of how the two styles can be merged.
When I first arrived at the preschool, the families and staff made me feel welcome. I was amazed by how much the children learned and developed even in the two weeks we have been here. I also found it amazing how the children use multiple languages; switching between English, Mandarin and Japanese in their play and in their communications. The third thing I found amazing is the empathy I noticed among the children. They supported each other when they needed help and problem-solved during their play. Also, it is very nice to see how the Mandarin and English teachers partner and bring their strengths together in the classroom. Children really benefit from this learning environment. I have learnt so much from this experience. As a recent graduate, the trip provided me with a great opportunity to practice my skills, and also to learn how I can make full use of different learning styles.
Read more letters from students 2015