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July 4, 2014

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Home » City specials » Suzhou

Three years and lots of memories for teacher

JESSE Lynn Hoselton was born in 1987 in Skaneateles, New York. The youngest of three children, her parents were not keen on letting her go too far away from home. Nevertheless, she managed to come to China to study its culture and language, which has been fascinating her in the past decade.

Hoselton first got to know about Chinese culture and Chinese language in college. When she entered College of Wooster, Ohio, in 2005 as a music major, she decided to learn a new language. Her father had been to China on business trips many times, and he suggested she choose Chinese. After a year of Chinese language and culture lessons, Hoselton decided to change her major to Asian Culture Studies.

“Chinese is very interesting to me. It’s not like French or German, which are similar to English. Chinese has totally different writing system,” said Hoselton.

“And as an American, it is interesting for me to study a culture with such a long history,” she added.

In 2007, she came to China for the first time for a five-week intensive language program jointly run by College of Wooster and Xi’an International Studies University in China’s Shaanxi Province.

Besides language classes, she and her classmates enjoyed weekend trips to historic sites. They also traveled around Yunnan Province and Tibet, watching local concerts, dramas and dances. “One of my favorite places is Lugu Lake in Yunnan,  which is very beautiful and has a very interesting culture,” Hoselton said.

Lugu Lake is the highest lake in Yunnan at an elevation of 2,685 meters. It’s called the “mother lake” by the Mosuo tribe, also known as the “women’s kingdom,” a matriarchal community where women rule and where men and women never get married.

“But really everywhere was so beautiful that I didn’t want to leave. And I was very excited when I got to come back later,” Hoselton said.

After graduation in 2009, she began to work as a software engineer in her father’s company, but it did not hold her interest and she still studied Chinese by herself with ChinesePod, a web-based Chinese language-learning service founded in Shanghai.

Later, she told her parents that she wanted to come to China to find a job, such as teaching English at schools, and work on her Chinese.

“I really want to experience the culture firsthand. And I was hoping that my Chinese could get better by living here,” she said.

She submitted her resume to the Council on International Educational Exchange, a non-profit American organization promoting international education exchange.

“I told them that I wanted a city not so big that everyone would speak English with me, but not so small that I could not understand the local dialect,” said Hoselton.

So when Zhangjiagang Foreign Language School, a privately run school with both primary and middle school students in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, contacted her through CIEE, she took the job.

Hoselton has taught spoken English in the school between August 2011 and June this year.

On her bedroom wall, she has put up pictures and maps of the places she has visited in the previous three years, along with handmade greeting cards from her students. One card reads, “Happy Thanks Giving Day! Nice to have you!”

Unlike many Chinese teachers who focus on reciting of vocabulary and grammar, which is effective for examinations, Hoselton encourages students to speak English aloud with songs and games. Students usually shout and wave their hands excitedly in her classes.

She also tells stories about Western cultures to her students. Last Halloween, she and other three foreign teachers decorated their residential building into a ghost house and invited their students to adventure in it. The children had great fun.

That’s what the school expects her to do — improve students’ oral English and bring more happiness to them.

Though Hoselton took a class about how to teach English as a foreign language before she came to China, she thinks she has learned her best skills through teaching.

“The first few months were hard, but now I know better what they like and don’t like and what will be good for them,” she said.

Besides spoken English, Hoselton also taught some students Irish dance, a skill she learned while living in Skaneateles.

Her students have danced in front of their parents during the school’s foreign language festivals, which fall between April and May every year. Some students have won medals in dancing competitions with her help in tutoring and choreography.

The first and second graders of the junior high section now even dance as their everyday morning exercises.

Hoselton was chosen as the favorite foreign teacher in Suzhou last November by the Suzhou Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security.

This year, Hoselton was named one of the 50 favorite foreign teachers of Chinese students by International Talent Monthly and China Society for Research on International Professional Personnel Exchange and Development.

She was one of just three foreign teachers in Jiangsu to be so honored.

As students love Hoselton for her happy classes, she is also grateful for their help for improving her Chinese. As the young children know only a little English, she has to figure out the meaning of their Chinese expressions, which has pushed her to learn Chinese quickly.

On weekends, she likes to travel around China. Most times, she travels with her Chinese friends but this year she managed to go to Harbin alone.

After living in China for three years, Hoselton’s Chinese has improved significantly.

“When I first came, I was too scared and unable to really have a conversation with anyone. I would actually hang up the phone on anyone who spoke to me in Chinese because I was so nervous!  But now even when I don’t know all of the words, I can work out what I want to say to people and am not shy to do so,” she said.

Hoselton has played major roles in two videos about the history of Zhangjiagang, a county-level city under the administration of Suzhou. One is a short movie about Huangsipu, the marine outpost from which the famous monk Jianzhen started off for Japan in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), and the other was a TV documentary about how to make globe fish, a kind of fish that could be poisonous when cooked improperly. In both videos, she spoke Chinese.


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