Ed.D. in Educational Administration, 2011
School of Education
January 1, 2010
Translating for CNN and National Academies Among U.S. Experiences of Doctoral Student from Xi’an
Xiaoqing Chen spent the first 29 years of her life in the city of Xi’an, well-known as the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) capital of ancient China, and the starting point of the Silk Road. She went to one of the few Chinese institutions specializing in foreign language training, Xi’an Foreign Languages University, and earned her BA in English Language and Literature in 1993. Graduating at the top of her class, she was offered a teaching position and became a young instructor teaching students who were almost her own age. She was scared to death the first time she stepped into the classroom, anxious that her young age and lack of teaching experience would not be accepted. Yet after the first day of class, she received such a warm reception from her students she was hooked on teaching for the next eight years.
During her career as an ESL instructor, Xiaoqing earned her master’s degree in Translation Studies at the same university and collaborated with her colleagues in developing teaching materials. One of her publications was a voluminous Chinese-English dictionary, which is to date one of the most popular on the market in China. She was also involved in interpreting at various conferences and diplomatic occasions, including translating for CNN when President Clinton visited Xi’an in 1998. Her outstanding translation skills qualified her for an opportunity to go to EU headquarters in Brussels to study simultaneous interpretation in 2001.
Life took an unexpected turn for Xiaoqing shortly afterwards: she got married and moved to California. She never dreamed of living in the U.S. before, even though she had visited California on a debate tour representing her university in 1998. She spent the first couple of years discovering a new culture, travelling, learning to drive, and adapting to a world she had only known in books and on TV.
In search of a new identity and to fit into this new context, Xiaoqing decided to go to graduate school to pursue an advanced degree. She set her eyes on education because of her strong passion for teaching and working with young people. The UCI/UCLA Ed.D. program opened up a whole new world for Xiaoqing. With her many years of background in learning English and teaching ESL, she didn’t face the usual language barriers that many other foreign students do when they first arrive in the U.S. Yet she found most of her prior assumptions about education were frequently challenged.
Learning about the US educational system, the philosophies behind educational theories, and the politics involved in educational practices, I attained a fresh perspective for reflecting on the Chinese educational context, practices, and issues.
Xiaoqing felt the best parts of her educational experience came from studying under the talented and dedicated professors in the Department of Education and interacting with a diverse group of cohorts from educational institutions of all levels. An equally important part of her education has been the work she did as a teaching assistant for five different courses. This experience exposed her to classroom teaching in front of different groups of students from diverse language and cultural backgrounds. She also enjoyed teaching Chinese language classes at Soka University before she went back to China for her dissertation research. She has found great satisfaction in utilizing her translation skills on several occasions, including an U.S.-China math teacher development workshop sponsored by the National Academies this past summer.
Since she moved to California, Xiaoqing has travelled back to China many times, assisting her husband in bringing debate training to Chinese universities. Most recently, she spent the 2007-08 academic year in China doing dissertation research. She interviewed over 40 administrators, teachers, and student focus groups at three private universities in three different cities. Her dissertation examines the developmental challenges private institutions of higher education encounter in the changing Chinese environment. Her study explores the effect of the social and economic factors, including government policies, on the administration, operation, and survival of institutions outside the state-owned sector. Xiaoqing hopes through her dissertation, the U.S. audience will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the current conditions of higher education in China.
Xiaoqing plans to defend her dissertation before heading back to China where she will be teaching ESL writing in the upcoming spring semester at Beijing Foreign Studies University. This, to Xiaoqing, will be a full circle, but this time around she feels she is armed with a new pedagogical arsenal that she has acquired during her doctoral program. She hopes to bring a wealth of new ideas to the classes she is going to teach. Xiaoqing believes the experience of living in two cultures gives her an edge in providing comparative insights in both classroom teaching and researching educational issues in the two countries she calls home.