Marshall student teaches in China

PARKERSBURG – A Parkersburg student attending Marshall University spent a month in China this summer as part of a program to teach English to students in China.

In addition to the English language, Paige Rabatin said she also talked about attending high school in America, along with some culture and history, including West Virginia history.

“Every single student in that school now knows how to sing ‘Country Roads,'” she said with a laugh.

Rabatin, a 2010 Parkersburg South High School graduate, was among seven students from West Virginia traveling as part of a larger student group from several states participating in the 2013 Summer Service in Learning Program through International Student Exchange Programs in Arlington, Va.

Rabatin will be a senior at Marshall this year, where she is pursuing a psychology major with a criminal justice minor. She is also interested in going to grad school and eventually do criminal profiling work, either from the treatment aspect or through law enforcement.

Rabatin is part of the honors program at Marshall and was contacted this spring about the opportunity to study abroad in China through a service learning program through ISEP.

“We would be teaching English to students and in the meantime we would also get to travel around to different locations. I love to travel and I’ve gone to several different countries. I thought it would be an amazing opportunity because I’ve never been anywhere in Asia before,” she said.

She has also been to Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Mexico, although those trips were on her own time and money, not educational programs.

Rabatin applied for the China program and went through the preparation process quickly. Due to her other trips, she already had an up-to-date passport so getting a visa and an international student ID to travel to China was the main step.

In China, the teaching program is coordinated by Tsinghua University in Beijing, the most prominent university in China. Rabatin said the students who regularly attend Tsinghua University are among the top college students in the country and it is the most sought-after school among Chinese students.

“I was told before going that I would be studying with the future leaders of China,” she said of the Tsinghua students who participated along with the American students in the teaching program.

She left for China on July 8 and returned to the U.S. on Aug. 5. Part of the time spent in China involved traveling to various locations and cultural landmarks, primarily to sightsee and learn more about China, she said.

“I think the most exciting thing is they took us to the Great Wall and we got to hike up to the highest point of the Great Wall of China,” she said.

The rest of the time, Rabatin and the other Americans taught English classes to high school-level students in different communities in China. Rabatin’s group visited some rural communities fairly close to Beijing, while other groups traveled by train for up to two days to reach their teaching locations.

“The Chinese students are used to a very formal classroom setting. If I asked a question and someone wanted to answer it, they had to stand up at their seat and they are not allowed to sit back down until I tell them to sit down. I wasn’t used to that so there would be kids standing up for five minutes at a time until my interpreter would be like ‘You need to tell him he’s allowed to sit down,'” she said.

Rabatin said she had no experience with the Chinese language before the trip, going along primarily to teach English to Chinese students with varying experience in the language. She made several friends from China during the trip who worked to teach her some of the basics, but she said it is a highly complex language.

Rabatin said she is interested in participating in the program next year and may apply to teach again next year, if circumstances permit. She is extremely interested in returning to China to visit in the future, if she can.

“I definitely want to go back and visit,” she said.