Archives for 2017

2018 Course of Study

Davidson students who successfully complete the program will receive four Davidson course credits.  In 2018, course offerings will include:

  • POL 249: Business and Politics in China. Offered by Dr. Bullock, this course will examine how public and private actors interact in the People’s Republic. Students will explore a wide range of case studies from across China related to corporate governance and supply chain management, business innovation and entrepreneurship, environmental information and regulation, foreign direct investment and joint ventures, labor rights and intellectual property rights, among other topics.  In the course, students will also learn to a variety of social science methods to examine a particular company, government agency, and issue of their interest.
  • CHI X01 Chinese Language (level-dependent). Accessible, engaging and rigorous courses that will be customized to each student’s Chinese level. A Chinese language instructor will use the Davidson College Chinese language curriculum to teach Chinese (10 hours/week) in small group tutorials.  These courses will be designed to dovetail with the Davidson Chinese language curriculum so that students can move seamlessly between courses on campus and courses in China.
  • Two Courses Taught by Fudan University Faculty: Students will be able to choose 2 courses among nearly a dozen options taught in English by faculty in Fudan University’s School of Social Development and Public Policy. Some of the likely courses to be offered include the following options (more information about these courses will be posted here as they become available):
    • The Chinese Marketplace, taught by Professor Pan Tianshu (PhD Anthropology, Harvard University) 
    • Religion in Chinese Society, taught by Professor Fan Lizhu (PhD Sociology, Chinese University of Hong Kong)
    • China’s Social and Economic Transformation, taught by Professor Shen Ke (PhD in Economics, Peking University)
    • Shanghai History, taught by Professor Allison Rottmann (PhD in History, UC Berkeley)
    • Chinese Society and Culture, taught by Professor Yu Hai (MA in Philosophy, Fudan University)
    • China through Contemporary Film, taught by Professor Zhu Jianxin (PhD in English Literature, Shanghai International Studies University)
    • Psychology and Life: A Cross-Cultural Perspective, taught by Professor Gao Jun (PhD in Clinical Psychology, Peiking University)
    • Culture, Health and Medical Practices in Contemporary China, taught by Professor Zhu Jianfeng (PhD Anthropology, University of Minnesota) 

The Fudan University campus

 

Reflections

Working at OLE and living in Nepal was one of my all-time favorite experiences. I went bungee jumping, biked a 50K with my coworkers, went ziplining, and ate the lung of a buffalo. I never thought I would do any of those things and I did all of them in just one summer. I was out of my comfort zone upon arrival in Kathmandu and I stayed in that area of discomfort the entire summer. Not only did I learn to have a sense of adventure, I also learned how to take better care of myself and to not plan every minute detail of my life. I learned how to listen to my body and give it time to relax and heal, which is something I had been severely neglecting at Davidson and during my time abroad. My time at Davidson was spent eating too much junk food, not sleeping enough, and crying (a lot). I put my work and extracurricular activities above my mental and physical well-being and I learned in Nepal that taking care of yourself makes life so much better. Not only was I able to be more productive, but I began enjoying myself doing the simplest things. I was much happier and I’m already applying what I learned about myself in Nepal to this semester in Beirut. I take time out of my day to be myself (I even started training for a half marathon) and make sure I get enough sleep every night–even if I don’t finish all of my work. Doing this has already made me a better student, friend, and person and I really hope I continue this back at Davidson. I also hope that I don’t lose my renewed sense of adventure when I return to Davidson. Keeping it up in Beirut has been easy because there are so many places I have yet to visit in Lebanon and so many dishes I haven’t tried yet, but it will definitely be more difficult to do at Davidson. I fear I’ll get back into a monotonous, stressed out routine, but I’m using what I’ve learned from my time in Nepal and Lebanon to make sure this doesn’t happen.

 

OLE Nepal gave me an opportunity to work in a field of education that I hadn’t had before. I’ve worked (and am currently working) for education-based NGOs and have been teaching small classes for the last four years, but OLE was completely different. Working there reaffirmed my dedication to education access and showed me that I could enjoy education-based work that wasn’t teaching. I originally feared that working in an office setting would bore me, but it made me appreciate teaching in a classroom even more. I am very grateful for the lessons I learned in online education, lesson planning, and curriculum work but I don’t think I will stop teaching in the traditional sense anytime soon. I was also able to make time to teach a weekly English class and run a self-defense workshop while I was in Kathmandu. This is especially reassuring as I start looking for non-teaching jobs. No matter what type of job I have in the future, I know that I will make time to teach and spend time with students. After almost a year of living abroad, I’m ready to go home. I’m nervous to return to Davidson, but I know having these lessons under my belt will definitely make it a more enjoyable and rewarding experience the second time around.

 

These are pictures of the students in my English class. These girls are part of a program, Sikaai, run by the organization I volunteered with called Powerful Hands. Sikaai provides these students with housing, free classes, and meals.

This was taken after we finished learning some of the lyrics to One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”.

Virtual Teaching

This summer, I worked at Open Learning Exchange (OLE) Nepal. I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d be doing at OLE before arriving in Kathmandu. I knew it had something to do with education and possibly involved lesson planning. At my first meeting with my boss for the summer, I found out this wasn’t completely incorrect. Their mission, as a social benefit organization, is to enhance education quality and access for underserved children through the integration of technology in classrooms. When my boss showed me their software and online lessons, I was intimidated. It would be an understatement to say I was horrible at technology–it took me over a year to figure out how to change my icon photo on my Macbook. Not only were my technological skills limited to Microsoft programs, but I had never used more than a powerpoint while teaching. All of the lesson planning I had done in the past was for classes I’d be meeting with face-to-face and in areas where I could not use a projector or laptop. This job was different than any I’d had in the past. I’d be creating English and math lessons which would be used by thousands of students in and outside of Nepal. I’d have to consult Nepali curriculum guides and textbooks to create the material and make sure it was understandable for all the students who would be using it. Usually, I can see how the students learn and determine my lesson plan from there, but I couldn’t be there in person to see what was working and what wasn’t. This was one of the biggest challenges of the summer–not having students to actually talk to about what helped them learn or what they wanted to do. I could only communicate through the computer and I couldn’t explain what my ideas were to the teachers who would be using my lessons. Everything needed to be explicitly clear and understandable. Although this was really challenging, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had and I learned a lot about how to be clearer when teaching–whether it be online or in person. My ability to communicate complex ideas improved and I also learned a few cool new tricks on Google slides! Working for OLE was a really incredible experience and I hope to return there soon. 

Below is an excerpt from a blurb I wrote about OLE to recruit new video game developers from universities. I think it aptly describes their work for those who are reading this and are interested in donating or working with them:

We create and design educational software and distribute them for free to schools in Nepal. All of our software is culturally specific and meets the national curriculum requirements. E-Paath, our interactive digital software, covers grades 2-8 and the subjects of math, Nepali, English, and science. Our software is translated into English, Nepali, and Chepang. We are currently operating in 230 schools across 34 districts in Nepal. In addition to providing free educational software for these schools, we provide teacher training so that educators can incorporate our materials into their lesson plans. Our in-staff teachers go to schools in Nepal and facilitate trainings for the schools’ staff. Our teaching team periodically checks in with the trained educators to receive feedback on the materials and fix any technical/logistical problems they may have. We also collaborate with other organizations to rebuild schools affected by the 2015 earthquake and to also provide laptops to schools in remote areas. All of the laptops are equipped with our educational software and e-library. Our extensive online library, E-Pustakalaya, holds PDFs, short stories, audio clips, videos, and other educational resources in both Nepali and English. These materials can be viewed for free directly from a web browser or downloaded to use later.

 

My coworkers showing Melech and me around Kathmandu! All of our coworkers were really kind and basically took us under their wings during our time in Kathmandu. They took us out to their favorite restaurants, cafes, and places to hang out. It was so nice having them show us more than the tourist-y parts of Nepal.

Plot twist: I don’t look Japanese

I think the biggest take-away was that I learned what it’s like to be a minority.

Sapporo is more isolated and less “Japanese”, I think, than other large cities in Japan like Osaka or Nagoya, and especially Tokyo. Part of this isolation is that it’s on a different island than Tokyo, and wasn’t part of Japan proper until about 200 years ago, which means it has fewer cultural and historical ties to the Japanese empire. The people of Hokkaido are fiercely proud of their uniqueness, and are quick to put “Made in Hokkaido” on everything (even moist towelettes, which, I’ll admit, was a bit excessive).

A BTS concert, where though I wasn’t the only foreigner, I was one of a handful of Westerners.

In terms of tourism, summer isn’t exactly the hip and happening time to see the city. It’s known for it’s skiing and winter climate (it hosted the winter Olympics in ‘72), and there is a large snow festival that, according to Wikipedia, annually draws in as many tourists as live in the city. And as for permanent residents, the vast majority are Japanese.

Me, I am not particularly Japanese. On one occasion, I was, however, mistaken for Japanese (it was wet and cold, so I had a lot of layers on and my hair was hidden). As soon as I turned around to see who was speaking to me, my secret was outed, and I replied “I don’t speak Japanese,” and that was the end of that.

Most of the time, however, I was obviously a foreigner. I like to think that with sunglasses on that my hair is dark enough and my skin pale enough that I had some blending in, but that’s just wishful thinking.

There was part of me that was self-conscious wherever I went. I felt like people were waiting for me to mess up, to say, “Oh, that American.” But then I had to remind myself that I would never, ever see these people again. I could have literally stripped naked and ran down the street and it wouldn’t have mattered (unless there’s a law against public nudity, I don’t know). And even with a law, some part of me thinks that the police would have been so afraid to interact with a foreigner (we don’t have the best reputation), that I would have been allowed to get away without any negative repercussions.

There was another part of me that knew that as I walked down the street, I wasn’t an individual, but a collection of people. Since I was foreign, the unknown, everything I did reflected  my culture, so my identity was much more than “Sophie.” I was “Sophie-the-American.”

For example: I had to take the bus. I was terrified. I got on the bus at a tourist stop (it was a scenic outlook with a famous statue). I had walked there, but was too tired to walk back. Just as I was planning to leave, I saw the bus I needed to get on, and thought, “Aha! Here’s my chance!” So I followed other people and got on the bus. When I sat down in my seat, however, I realized I hadn’t paid when I got on,

I had to walk back to that giant shiny thing far in the distance.

and couldn’t find out how much it was going to cost. I stressed the whole bus ride. When we finally reached our destination, everyone had their change in hand. I had less than a hundred yen (~ one dollar) in change, so I had to pay with a 1000 (~ ten dollars) yen note instead. Man oh man, I held up the whole line trying to figure out what I needed to do. I felt so self-conscious because I was the idiot American who didn’t know Japanese and held up the line and everyone was able to watch me fumble around. It wasn’t until later that I remembered that personally, I shouldn’t be embarrassed. I did what I needed to, and people are going to forget my face. However, there was residual shame, because I knew that while I individually would be forgotten, the impression of the bumbling white girl would live on in the memories of those behind me waiting to get off the bus.

It was also weird when I go out to eat food. The more I went out, the more I found people trying to assist me with the menu by pointing to things and using English words to try and help me order. For example, there was a festival in the main park, and part of this meant lots of food booths. I went to an ice cream stand, and the man in the booth just started speaking to me in English. I told him what I wanted (in Japanese), but as I was leaving, he said, “Have a nice day!” To which I responded, “You, too!”

Sure, on the one hand, he was trying to be nice, maybe try out his English, but on the other hand, I couldn’t help but think of all the clothing and accessories that have random English words and phrases on them. My language seems to be more of fad, because oftentimes, the words are strung together with no order and make no sense, or are completely irrelevant to the item on which they’re printed.

Now, coming from the US, it sounds really weird to say that I think my culture is being appropriated. After all, normally white people are the ones stealing aspects of other cultures and inculcating them into our own aesthetic. But I think that’s some of what’s going on. English is “hip” and “cool” so people learn phrases just to seem like they have that wow factor. People buy American brands not because they’re better than anything Japanese, but because they’re ~American~.

Which leaves me with the impression that people like me or notice me not because I’m an individual who came to Japan for her own reasons, but a part of a much bigger culture. People want to know why an American came to Japan, not why I, Sophie Eichelberger, wanted to visit.

This was reiterated when I went to a club. My friends (two other foreigners) had read online that foreigners were treated like celebrities at the club. We, of course, wanted to know if this was true. Well, it was.

I had a dreadful cough, so my host told me to put a mask on. Aslo, 3/4 of my outfit I bought in Japan, so this is as Japanese as I could hope to be.

People came up and tried to buy me drinks because I was white. People watched me dance way more in Japan than they have ever done in America. Anything I did, from waving my hands to nodding my head, they would parrot right back to me, because they thought I was cool.

I felt very much that people only saw my green eyes and double eyelid and instantly put me on a pedestal. Even other women, they would grab me and try to talk to me, grab me and put me right in front of the DJ, or would make sure that I got some of the drinks that were being handed out.

Obviously, it isn’t everyone that has the same views to outsiders and English, but I found some people had an odd obsession with English and foreigners, which was not at all what I was expecting, and definitely makes me think about how I treat people who look differently than me here at Davidson.

Kids are Exhausting, the Food was Delicious

While many internships are the same type of work everyday, my routine varied honestly from hour to hour, let alone from day to day. But I guess that’s the joy of working with (for?) children.

I worked five days a week. Everyone that worked at my school had Sunday off, and then one other random day off in the week. The days that I didn’t have off, I woke up at 7:30, which was surprisingly easy, mostly because the sun was up before 5:00, and my body never really adjusted to the time change (because time-travelling thirteen hours into the future is no mean feat).

From 7:30-7:45 we cleaned the school. This just meant sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping. If you didn’t do one of these three things, then you set up the tables and chairs for the day. Once that was all taken care of, you could make your breakfast. Personally, my go-to breakfast was toast. Fun fact: Japanese bread is different from that in America. It’s much thicker, and just has a different taste (I’m no food critic, sorry, that’s the best I can do. Maybe it’s something to do with rice vs wheat flour?). There was strawberry jam that I liked to slather upon my crispy toast, and that, plus fruit, was typically how I broke my fast.

If someone tells you the Japanese don’t like sweets, point them to Hokkaido, where they take pride in their ice cream. On an unrelated note, I ate too much ice cream this summer.

I’m told, however, that this is not the typical Japanese breakfast. The traditional breakfast is rice and fish, but the same way that not everyone in America eats Pancakes for breakfast, not everyone takes the time in Japan to eat a nice breakfast.

After breakfast, things were less routine. I either worked a morning shift or an afternoon shift. With the morning shift, work was from 9:00-2:30. In the hour or so before the kids come in, I just kinda lazed around. I discovered that Rick and Morty is on Japanese Netflix (!!), so I spent a few mornings binging that. I had planned on taking advantage of the massive quantities of anime on Japanese Netflix, but it turns out they don’t sub anything, and my Japanese was trash, so that wasn’t really an option.

Once the kids arrived, we took them to the park. It was only a five minute walk, but the kids were always so rambunctious, it was like herding cats. You really have no control over them, but somehow have to make sure they don’t run into the streets because, you know, that would not be great. You also have to keep a close eye on them at the park because there are things they can climb, and consequently of which they could fall off. So getting back to the school all in one piece leaves you a bit frazzled.

If this doesn’t sum up working with children, I don’t know what does.

It’s about 10:00 that the teaching really starts. There were two groups that I would work with, either the babies (part of the preschool), who were around three. The other group is the ‘older’ kids, who are still only a whopping four/five years old.

With the babies, you’re really just babysitting them as much as teaching. But don’t worry, that’s still plenty of work. Normally, we would build things with blocks, and that would teach them shapes and colors. There were also flashcards, which they loved doing. These ranged from animals to food to numbers.

The other group read some books, did small science experiments, and crafted, such as cutting up magazines and gluing them, or drawing a certain scene from a book, that sort of thing. This group was smaller, but there was a larger difference in their levels, so it was hard to teach everyone at the same time.

Lunchtime started at 12:00 for the kids, so the morning lesson isn’t very long. I had to watch them eat, and encourage them to keep shoveling food into their mouth because they have the attention of a hyperactive squirrel. This whole process took all of 30 minutes, and in that time, I got to smell my lunch cooking. There is a kitchen in the back of the school, and one of the volunteers was a very good cook, so he always made us lunch. My favorite was karage, which is the Japanese version of fried chicken.

Our lunch lasted until 1:00, and then it was time to take the kids to the park again. Luckily, once you’re back from the park, the morning shift is over. Unfortunately, taking them to the park is exhausting, so I normally need a quick power nap/relaxing time before I was ready to go exploring in the afternoon.

The afternoon shift started either at 1:00 and went until 6:00, or started at 2:00 and went till 7:00. I personally was a fan of the 1:00 afternoon shift, because the 2:00 shift had an awkward gap between eating lunch and beginning work.

Park time with my favorite kiddos. Peep the Anpanman hat the child on the left has- it was even cuter in person.

In the afternoon, the older kids came, as they’d finished their day at Japanese school. Because they’d been learning all morning, they normally just wanted to goof off or sleep, which, as you might imagine, made trying to teach them just a wee bit difficult (re: impossible). Normally I did flashcards with them, or something active because otherwise they were just unmanageable. However, they were really bright kids, and always managed to impress me, if also frustrating me at the same time.

Most days, everyone was gone by 6:00. However, sometimes some of the older kids stayed later, and there’s one kid who was normally picked up between 6:30-7:00.

When I was not working, I went exploring. Some days I would just pick a direction and walk, other’s I had a specific destination in mind. I went towards food primarily, and never found anything I disliked. Sure, some things I was mightily surprised by (takoyaki: octopus in fried bread), but nothing that I wasn’t at least willing to try. It was a fantastic city to explore.

Sapporo is known for its miso ramen, of which I ate far too much.

Dinner was normally around 7:00, but that varied depending on how many people were eating dinner at the house and who wanted to cook, as well as a whole lot of other variables. The volunteers were in charge of cooking, though some of us were much better than others. Dinner was typically a group thing, so it took quite a while, as we were quite chatty.

After food was finished and the dishes cleaned, people queued up to take showers and do laundry. Other than that, it was pretty quiet, as we were exhausted from the kids and whatever else we’d gotten into that day. Most everyone was in bed by 11:00, which made it almost bearable to wake up at 7:30 the next morning.

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