I hope to attend the full-time Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Affairs Program at XXXX University. I have nine years of experience teaching English to international students. This international working experience, I believe, has exposed me to the various social, cultural, and academic challenges that young international students might face when they study at Western universities. My own experiences of quickly and pleasantly adjusting to various unfamiliar cultures have provided me with multiple insights that I believe equip me to assist others in doing the same.
I was born in Ecuador and moved to the US when I was fourteen. I am fully fluent in Spanish and English, have achieved intermediate-level Portuguese fluency, and am progressing in Mandarin. I have lived and worked in several countries and visited twenty-five in total. I have happily worked, studied, and socialized with people of many social and cultural backgrounds. I consider myself exceptionally culturally aware, having observed various behaviors and attitudes, challenged preconceived assumptions, and learned to be sensitive to and understand others’ boundaries, cultural norms, and perspectives.
I was on the corporate ladder and anticipating a predictable future and advancement in that working environment when I worked for Turner Broadcasting Systems in Atlanta. In February of 2007, however, I was involved in a minor car accident which caused me to re-examine my life and career goals; I decided to live a more fulfilling life now rather than putting it off until retirement. So, in December of that year, I traveled to Brazil and volunteered to teach English to high school and college-aged students at the local community center of a small fishing village northeast of the country. I worked there for around a month, thoroughly enjoying the experience, and feeling like I had discovered a vocational calling.
I returned home to Atlanta and my job at Turner Broadcasting but felt restless and eager to return to teaching and living abroad. However, I did not immediately pursue this because of the 2008 economic recession. I waited for two more years. In June 2010, I accepted a post as an English teacher in Busan, South Korea, with the Wall Street English Institute, which has various international training centers.
In Busan, I acquired a basic but solid foundation in various language teaching techniques and lesson planning, and my students ranged from high school students to corporate professionals. I immensely enjoyed the job and the opportunity to live in a new and fascinating culture. While there, I met a fellow American teacher who encouraged me to seek the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification. In the summer of 2011, I traveled to Chicago. I pursued a TEFL course during which I was exposed to various teaching theories, classroom management techniques, and hands-on teaching experience for international students at a local community center.
After being professionally certified as a TEFL Instructor, I began teaching English at two private colleges in Guangzhou, China, where I taught first- and second-year English. Although the college provided materials, we were allowed some latitude in the choice of activities and materials, which enabled me to compare their relative usefulness. My current teaching position is teaching English Language Arts at a private international high school. I have been teaching ELA to high school students planning to study abroad for the past five years; through this class, students develop competency in English usage and mechanics and oral and written communication through classical and contemporary literature. Most importantly, I highly encourage my students to use analytical and critical thinking skills in all their assignments while examining the various literary forms we discuss in class.
I am aware of various research findings into the problems encountered by Chinese students in America and those of their teachers. The researchers have identified various significant issues. Many arrive with a level of English language fluency that is insufficient for academic purposes, this is exacerbated by the fact that there are so many other Chinese students that they can have a full social life without engaging much with native English speakers. This is highly detrimental to their progress toward fluency. They have also noted a marked difference in how students are taught in China and the West. In China, students are expected to absorb the information given to them. By contrast, in Western universities, in many disciplines, the student is expected to develop and provide his own opinions and insights, backed by evidence, about the information provided to them. This contrast confuses Chinese students, who need to be taught to think critically and express opinions. US-based research into these and similar issues continues.
My interest in this graduate program at the University of XXXX was further aroused when I came across a video news package on YouTube that CNN had produced in 2015 for their “Great American Stories” documentary series. The title of this news package was “From China to Iowa.” I used this video in one of my “American Culture” classes that I was teaching to Chinese high school seniors in Beijing that were planning to study abroad at different American universities. CNN highlighted the cultural and linguistic difficulties explicitly faced by the many Chinese students studying at the University of Iowa and the university’s attempts and programs to overcome them.
My aim in joining the program is to acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable me to assist students from around the world to achieve their potential academically, participate in student affairs programs and events, interact with a diverse group of students, and be part of other appropriate and fulfilling extra-curricular activities that will aid them in maturing socially and to get hands-on-experience in leadership roles and to work as part of a team, skills that they will almost certainly utilize in their future careers. I am confident that the variety and length of my teaching experiences and the significant exposure to the cultures and challenges that students face,
Thank you for considering my application.
MA Higher Education, Student Affairs Personal Purpose