Five CSU graduate students are going to central China this summer to teach English as a second language at Xi’an Jiaotong University. For four weeks, they will teach six hours a day five days a week. Their primary duty will be teaching language skills to Chinese college students, including reading, writing and verbal communication in English. The program flyer describes the school and its location this way:

Xi’an Jiaotong University (XJTU), one of the country’s oldest higher education institutions, is a national key university under the direct jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education. Currently, XJTU has 26 schools offering undergraduate and postgraduate programs in science, engineering, medicine, economics, management, art, law and education, with an enrollment of about 30,000 full-time students, including over 14,697 masters and doctoral candidates.

Xi’an is located in the central China. As a city with over 3000 years of history, Xi’an is proud of its historic sites and relics including the Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Emperor, one of the eight wonders of the world, the City Wall, the Bell Tower and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

In the weeks before they go, we’ll be profiling some of these students on the blog as part of our Student Success Stories series, and a few of them have agreed to send us updates and pictures while they are there. Our first profile is Joni Hayward.


Joni Hayward
MA English: Literature
1st year

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve lived in Colorado my entire life; I’m from the Boulder area. When I’m not working on school or teaching CO150 (which barely ever happens, but nonetheless) I like to eat delicious food, go geocaching, go for walks and bike rides, play piano and listen to music.

What brought you to CSU?
I came to CSU after taking one year off post-BA. I moved to Fort Collins after graduating from CU Boulder and learned about the MA program here, and it sounded like a perfect fit. Things worked out really well! After getting out of undergrad I still felt like I had “unfinished business” academically, and I wanted to pursue my interests in Literature further.

Favorite English class? Favorite English teacher? Favorite assignment or project?
I don’t want to list favorites! But I have enjoyed my classes this semester in particular. I took Major Authors: Charles Dickens, Historicisms, and a Film Class on International Cinema. Ellen Brinks is my advisor and teaches the Dickens class, and she has been a huge help to me in numerous ways during my time here thus far. My favorite project thus far is the one I am currently working on, which is about the pastoral mode in Michael Drayton’s 1606 poem To The Virginian Voyage and how the pastoral mode operates when applied to a colonial setting as opposed to a traditional English setting.

Why is it important to study English, the Humanities?

It’s important to study English and the Humanities because, well—the name says it all. We are humans, hence, humanities. Learning about the humanities teaches us about ourselves, and teaches us to think creatively but also critically. I think those skills are of vital importance.

How did you find out about the opportunity to teach English in China over the summer?
I found out about the teaching opportunity in an department-wide e-mail that Dr. Brinks forwarded to all the graduate students, which had been passed along to her from the Coordinator from CU Boulder, Anne Bliss.

Why did you apply?
I applied for a few reasons; first I didn’t have any solid summer plans yet, so I had the freedom to apply. Second, I want to do something during the summer to further myself in my career as an academic, and something that will help me grow as a teacher. I want to get a variety of different experiences in the classroom, and I’ve never taught abroad, so it sounded very exciting. I’ve also always wanted to visit China in particular. As an undergraduate I took Chinese History, Geography of China, and Art History of China. China is so diverse and I’ve wanted to go there ever since learning so much about it in classes.

What do you expect it to be like?
I expect it to be hectic—we are going to be in Xi’an, which is a city of 5 million people (just a tad bigger than Fort Collins…) but also very fun. We teach during the week in the program and on the weekends we go on cultural excursions to sites like the Terra Cotta Army, which dates back more than 2,000 years.

When do you leave? How long will you be gone?
We leave on June 23rd and return on July 27th, so it’s a little over a month.

What sort of preparation have you had to do? What do you think you’ll miss most while you are gone?
The most preparation so far has been applying to the visa—it’s quite a process. Aside from that, not a whole lot until finals are over! Then I plan to review the teaching materials before we leave. I will miss my loved ones and my apartment. I’m a homebody and love being in my own space, so I’m sure I’ll miss it while I’m away!

Joni at this year’s Graduate Student Showcase
Joni at this year’s Graduate Student Showcase

What advice do you have for current students?

My advice for current students is to take opportunities. If it’s something that sounds outside of your comfort zone, do it. The worst case scenario is you learned from it. The best case scenario is that you not only learn, but you find a new passion or niche you didn’t know you would find. Other than that, focus on what is important in the moment. Dedicate yourself to your work and it can really take you places (maybe even to China!)

What do you want to say to prospective students about the CSU English department?

The English department at CSU is so welcoming and supportive. If you can, go to department events in advance of arriving, and accepted student days. The community in this department is here to help and wants us to succeed, and it’s a wonderful place to be.

What are you looking forward to most about moving back into a remodeled Eddy Hall?
The graduate student lounge! And fancy classrooms.

Where will we find you in five years?
Hopefully teaching and writing my doctoral dissertation in another English Department somewhere!