USFSP Alums Embrace Living, Teaching in China

A photo of two women and a man standing by the waterfront in China

From left: Rebecca Pirie and Emily Tanner with another AIA teacher. Photo credit: Emily Tanner.

Two USF St. Petersburg alumnae have been enamored with their teaching abroad experiences this semester at the AMERI-CAN International Academy in China. Since their graduation in December 2016, Rebecca Pirie and Emily Tanner have been living and working in Weifang City, which is located in the Shandong Province.

USFSP alumni can apply to teach overseas for a semester or a year in China with CIBT Education Group, which operates the Academy and provides English language programs throughout China. USFSP applicants can teach K-9 core subjects, or art and music classes at AIA, or they can teach English in Chinese public schools, or at Beihai College or Weifang University. USFSP is entering into a cooperative agreement with Weifang University and two other universities in China to create affordable semester abroad experiences, internship opportunities, exchange programs, and articulated 2+2 programs in some majors.

“It’s a great place for students and faculty to get engaged and to experience China,” said Martin Tadlock, regional vice chancellor of Academic Affairs at USFSP. “It’s not a location like Beijing and Shanghai, cities familiar with an international presence. It’s a great opportunity to become immersed in a local culture.”

At the AMERI-CAN International Academy, alumni will teach classes at a school managed by both American and Chinese principals. They will share a classroom with an experienced Chinese teacher and all of the courses are taught in English.

“It’s a transformational experience, immersing yourself for that length of time in another culture,” said Tadlock. “Living abroad has a huge impact on perspective, and Weifang is a great place for that. The people there are very friendly and accommodating.”

“I really love it here in China so far,” Pirie said in an AIA video interview. Pirie, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education, said teaches reading, writing, science, social studies, and math to third grade students. “This is a great school, and I love everything about it.”

Pirie described the staff and other teachers she works with as being supportive.

“We share things to see how we can help each other and help our students to grow in English and in Chinese to help them do the best they can do,” Pirie said.

Side-by-side photos of Rebecca Pirie with a flag and a close-up photo of Emily Tanner.

From left: Rebecca Pirie and Emily Tanner. Photo credits: AMERI-CAN International Academy and Emily Tanner.

Tanner is a Pinellas County native who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She teaches drama and music classes at AIA and English at a few other area schools due to her strong musical background.

“My time at the AMERI-CAN International Academy has been very good for me, and I have learned a lot from the kids,” said Tanner. In her classes, she introduces the students to a variety of music including classical, jazz, rock-and-roll, and pop music. “I decided to teach music because it is a fun way to get students excited about learning English. They learn songs that they will remember potentially for the rest of their lives.”

“Teaching abroad is an amazing way to grow as a person—to help others and to meet lifelong friends,” said Tanner. “I truly believe every alumnus should consider moving abroad for at least a year before setting down roots.”

To apply for one of the teaching positons, contact Martin Tadlock. He will meet with applicants to make sure they understand what is involved and will connect them with a representative at CIBT to get the application process started.

View more photos in this USFSP Facebook photo gallery.