Study abroad trip inspires 2010 grad to move to China
July 15, 2010 By Leigh Ivey
Russell, far right, studied abroad twice as a Centre student, once
in China and later in Merida, Mexico, where he and several others
visited Chichen Itza (above), a new Wonder of the World.
During the CentreTerm of his senior year, 2010 graduate Jay Russell of Cincinnati traveled to China. His experiences there did more than open his eyes to an entirely new culture—they also inspired him to return to the country upon graduating this past spring.
Russell, who was part of the College’s three-week CentreTerm trip led by Dr. Steve Beaudoin and Dr. Rick Axtell, says that while abroad, he became “fascinated by Chinese culture, and my curiosity continued after my short taste of China.”
Although he took advantage of two of Centre’s three-week study abroad offerings during his years at the College (visiting China last January and Merida, Mexico, this summer), Russell says he chose to work abroad because he “never got a chance to do a full-term study abroad experience where I could really immerse myself into a culture. Going to teach in China proved to be a great opportunity for me to really learn about a new culture.”
As someone who also greatly enjoys working with children, Russell is enthusiastic about his teaching position. “I think that it’s an important cultural exchange to be able to teach Chinese kids how to speak English while I learn to speak Chinese and experience that culture,” he says.
Russell is currently living and working in Xiangfan, Hubei province, China, a city of five million people in central/southern China. “It’s a big city by American standards,” he says, “but by Chinese standards, it’s more of a regional city. It isn't even the biggest city in the province; the capital, Wuhan, has 10 million people.”
Although he has only been abroad for a short while, Russell says he is “enjoying immersing myself into Chinese culture. I love learning about customs, learning a little bit of language, eating lots of great Chinese food and talking about all kinds of things with young Chinese people.”
One aspect of Chinese life that he hadn’t expected, he says, is that “Chinese children and their parents have a complete fascination with learning English and a real curiosity about western culture. There are a lot of kids learning English from a very young age here. I’ve also been surprised by how much a novelty a foreigner like me is here in Xiangfan. There aren’t a lot of foreigners here, and often I’m the first foreigner that someone from Xiangfan has ever seen.”
As a rare foreigner in a Chinese city, Russell is extremely grateful for Centre’s commitment to transforming its students into global citizens.
“Centre’s study abroad program helped me learn the importance of understanding and experiencing new cultures,” he says. “Centre gave me the opportunity to experience Chinese culture, and because of that, I’m now in China fulfilling my desire to learn more about the country. Without Centre’s commitment to global learning and the concept of becoming a global citizen, I would never have experienced China initially, and thus I wouldn’t be here now.”
Russell adds that becoming friends with Centre’s international students “helped show me what it’s like studying and learning in a foreign country. I got to know some international students very well, and their positive attitude while being so far from home and their commitment to their studies always impressed me. I’m trying to channel some of that attitude to get the most out of my experience here.”