ASHLAND – Like most college students, Danae Welling questioned her choice of major. She wasn’t sure if teaching was what she wanted to do for a career.
But a five-week teaching assignment in China over the summer changed all that.
“I learned that I can be a teacher, I chose the right major,” said Welling.
A 2016 Ashland-Greenwood High School graduate, Welling is a senior at Concordia University in Seward. She went to China with Concordia Nebraska’s Global Opportunity Center program.
Welling taught in at the Buena Vista Concordia International School in Shen Zhen June 28 to Aug. 4. The school is sponsored by the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod.
Her time in China was split between two sessions. In the first session, which they called Camp A, she taught first grade with another teacher for two weeks. In the second session (Camp B), she was the lead teacher for a group of second graders for three weeks.
The students spoke English, but some were more skilled in the language than others. Welling said the students in Camp A were previously enrolled at the Buena Vista Concordia International School, where they teach all subjects in English, so they their knowledge of the language was very good. Some of the students in the other classes were public school-educated, so they were not as proficient.
“I was lucky because all five weeks I had kids who spoke pretty good English,” she said.
Welling taught grammar, pronunciation, colors, shapes and other basic subjects. As a part of a Christian-based program, she also had an opportunity to expose the students to religious holidays like Christmas and Easter, she said.
“We just introduced those things to the kids,” she said.
Welling is studying music education in college, so she used those skills during music time.
“I taught them American songs and played rhythm games and got them to start singing scales, and I introduced harmony at the end,” she said.
She helped her students put on a play in Camp A and a puppet show in Camp B, where they made the puppets and the backdrops.
Welling enjoyed the young students in her classroom.
“I just love second graders!” she said.
The program gave Welling an opportunity to use teaching methods she learned at Concordia while working in the classroom in China.
“It was cool to test out classroom management techniques with them,” she said.
Welling also got the chance to lead a classroom by herself, another new aspect to teaching for her.
“I also learned how to be more independent, because you have to do all these things on your own,” she said.
There was always someone to turn to when Welling needed assistance, however.
“I also learned it was okay to ask for help,” she said.
All 11 teachers and their sponsors lived in a high-rise apartment in Shen Zhen. They learned to ride the subway to navigate their way across the city of 15 million people.
They learned first-hand about authentic Chinese food while ate breakfast and lunch at the school.
“We got to experience the Chinese style of eating,” said Welling.
For dinner the teachers were on their own. The roommates coordinated when they would go out to eat, get take out or cook for themselves. They made dishes from home like pancakes and other American favorites.
“Grilled cheese was one of our first meals,” Welling said.
There was time for sightseeing, and Welling was able to visit nearby Hong Kong before the protests broke out there this summer.
Welling’s apartment was right next to a Walmart, so the teachers were able to see what the big box store looks in China.
“It was really interesting to see,” said Welling.
There was an “English corner” near their apartment, a place where they could sit and converse with local residents in English. Here they learned more about the Chinese culture.
“I learned they work very, very hard,” she said.
Welling said she enjoyed experiencing China as a resident, rather than a tourist. She had experience with the latter, as her family traveled to Bejing and Thailand in 2018.
“For me, it was kind of like coming back to something that was pretty familiar,” she said.
Both trips have ignited in Welling a desire to continue to explore the world.
“I just have always had a passion for the international community,” she said.
With a focus on Asia, Welling said she may someday live and teach in China or another country in the Asian continent.
“This was testing the waters,” she said.
Welling will graduate from Concordia next May. Wherever she finds a job, whether it is in the U.S. or in Asia, she would like to work with elementary-age students.
“Giving them a foundation of music, I think, is the most important thing you can do,” she said.