In a recent English department blog post, (What Faculty Members Really Do Over Summer Break: Kristie Yelinek), Composition Instructor Kristie Yelinek said “The great thing about teaching is having time in the summer to be able to pursue passions that I have in addition to my passion for teaching.” At the beginning of this summer, Kristie is teaching, but she’s doing so in Vietnam. She’s keeping a blog while she’s there, Teaching and Other Adventures: Vietnam — “I mostly created it for my family, so much of it is travel related, but I do have some teaching information in there as well,” and agreed to answer some questions for us about her trip when she first arrived.
How did you prepare for your trip to Vietnam?
Before I left, I talked with two other CSU professors who had done the same teaching exchange that I am now (teaching a version of the class they teach at CSU at VFU). They were able to give me a lot of advice about student language level, living in Xuan Mai, and traveling in Vietnam. I also modified a lot of my lesson plans before I left, but I’m finding I need to do even more modification now that I’m here.
How does teaching in Vietnam compare to teaching at CSU?
I’m not sure I can make a comparison; they are such different contexts. Students are excited to work with a native speaker of English and seem enthusiastic, but for some of them, their level of English is a lot lower than international students at CSU so I’m not always sure how much they’re actually getting out of the class.
What do you miss about Colorado?
At this point, I’m not sure I’ve been gone long enough to really miss anything, but I’d take the cooler weather for running. At 5:30 in the morning when I go for my runs here, it’s already in the 80s and humid.
What surprises you about Vietnam?
So far, I’d have to say the traffic. It’s kind of controlled chaos with motor bikes, cars, and trucks. One person I talked to described it as “aggressive defensive driving” and I definitely think that fits. To me, there don’t seem to be many rules (sometimes you’ll see people going the wrong way down the road and this doesn’t seem to bother anyone else), but it all seems to work.
What do you enjoy most about your work as a teacher?
Most of my work as a teacher has been in teaching ESL, so I really enjoy the opportunity to meet and work with students from different countries. Most students who are learning and studying English are motivated and eager to learn, which makes teaching incredibly rewarding.
What brought you to CSU?
I came to CSU for my Master’s in English, specifically in Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language. As someone coming from the sciences (a B.A. and M.S. in geology), I liked the program’s focus on research and was given the opportunity to teach while I was in the program as well. I’m glad I’ve been able to stay and continue teaching.
What are your goals for your time in Vietnam?
On a professional level, one of the goals I have while I’m in Vietnam is to provide students and professors with what may be a different way of teaching. Much of their class time is lecture and I include a lot of group work and class discussions to get students engaged with the material we cover in class. One of the instructors in the university, who has been observing some of my classes, has already commented on how much more involved some of the students are in my class compared with other classes.
On a personal level, I’d like to travel in Vietnam and also plan to run a half marathon in June, after I finish teaching.