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. In this profile, we’d like to introduce you to Kathleen Hamel.

Kathleen and her mom, Spring Break 2015


Kathleen Hamel
MA English: Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language (TEFL/TESL)
1st year

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Ohio, where I did my undergrad at The Ohio State University and received my BA in International Studies. Through my program there, I began volunteering as an ESL teacher upon returning home from a study abroad trip to Brazil I took through OSU. From this volunteering experience, I knew that this was the career path for me!

What brought you to CSU?
Since I want to serve in the Peace Corps, I chose CSU so that I could participate in the Peace Corp’s Master’s International program, which is when student’s combine their Master’s degree with their Peace Corps service abroad. In addition to this, I fell in love with Colorado on a previous backpacking trip and wanted to be exposed to more outdoor experiences.

Kathleen on the far left
Last summer, Kathleen was a water-white rafting guide, “an experience that I will never forget!” That’s her on the far left, in the green shirt with the braid.

Favorite English class? Favorite English teacher? Favorite assignment or project?
My favorite English class that I’ve taken at CSU, hands down, is my Practicum course, where my classmates and I “practice” our ESL teaching skills to a class filled with volunteer students. Dr. Tatiana Nekrasova-Beker teaches the course and truly facilitates a comforting and conducive environment for us “Teachers-in-Training.”

Why is it important to study English, the Humanities?
I think it’s important to study English and the Humanities because it allows us to see beyond our own culture, which ultimately leads to a more accepting world view.

How did you find out about the opportunity to teach English in China over the summer? Why did you apply?
I first heard about this opportunity to teach in China from my (now-retired) professor, Dr. Flahive. He highly recommended the people who work for this organization, and as he is a long-time professional in the field, I trusted that input. I decided to apply to the program, so that I can continue my EFL/ESL training, since I have never taught EFL abroad before. I expect that I will continue to learn more ways in which student’s learn and in what ways I can be a better facilitator for them learning a language. It’s imperative as a teacher to be able to ensure that students are learning in their most efficient manor, and to me, various types of experiences enables one to perfect those skills.

What do you expect it to be like?
Since I have never lived in a city so big before, I anticipate that will be the biggest adjustment I’ll have to make, besides the language of course. And as this is considered to be a “mid-sized” city for China, I cannot imagine what Shanghai will be like! I’m excited to be able to see it first-hand.

When do you leave? How long will you be gone?
I will leave at the end of June and will be back by the end of July. So the program itself is about a month long.

What sort of preparation have you had to do? What do you think you’ll miss most while you are gone?
I haven’t had much opportunity to prepare since the semester has been winding down and I’ve been busy focusing all of my effort on ensuring that I finish strong. However, as soon as the school year finishes, I hope to learn as much as I can about the Chinese language, watch documentaries about the region I will be teaching and reaching out to fellow classmates who are familiar with the area.

I think that I’ll most likely miss the food. From my past experience traveling and living abroad, there’s just no food like the food that you grew up on and comforts you.

What advice do you have for current students?

My advice to current students is to put yourself out there to experiences that you might be hesitant to try. More likely times than not, you’ll be enjoying yourself, and if not, life is about learning experiences, and it’s just another one that you have under your belt.

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

To prospective students, I would say that the CSU English department is a close-knit community and there is always someone who is extremely helpful in helping you in the ways that you need. I never quite had this experience as an undergrad since I went so such a large university, so it’s something that I’ve appreciated greatly in my time here.

What are you looking forward to most about moving back into a remodeled Eddy Hall?
The thing I’m looking forward to the most about moving back into Eddy is to see it for the first time ever! When I moved to Colorado, Eddy was already under renovations, so I’ve never actually been in the building!

Where will we find you in five years?
In five years, I anticipate that I will be living and working abroad as an EFL teacher. Hopefully in a place that I’ve never been to before!