China Teaching Assignment Opens Doors – and Minds

Post a Comment » Written on November 27th, 2009     
Filed under: News
BEIJING, CHINA (November 27, 2009) – Ben Seeberger was already honored to be teaching “oral English” to undergraduate non-English majors at Peking University (PKU) – one of China’s most prestigious academic institutions – just six years after the Covenanter graduated from North Park University in 2003. He also knew that being asked to help judge the English Cup, a speaking contest open to Chinese university students, was a special privilege.

He had no idea how much it would impress others.

“My students are the equivalent of Chinese Harvard and Yale students, and they all gasped in astonishment as if I had suddenly become a national celebrity, even above that of being a teacher at PKU,” Seeberger says. “It was clear then that the program is not only a worldwide televised program, but part of the cultural consciousness of every student across the country.”

SeebergersSeeberger judged the recent semifinals before real “celebrity judges” took over in the finals. But he already has been invited to judge next year’s finals.

Thousands of students from across the country compete in the event. The best speakers from each province are sent to Beijing and eventually whittled down to 23 participants for the finals, which were held this past weekend. China’s official TV station CCTV broadcasts the competition across the world on its international channel, CCTV-9.

“It is not only the most visible presentation of the importance of English in China, but a constant encouragement to every college student desiring to become members of global culture,” says Seeberger.

Competition organizers requested that PKU provide a judge for the contest, and the school asked Seeberger to represent it because he was the youngest foreign teacher at the university. The other judges include lecturers at Stanford, deans of English departments, and publishers of English textbooks.

As an undergraduate, Seeberger never imagined himself teaching oral English in China. He double majored in biblical and theological studies well as English, with a concentration in writing. His college room mate, Mark Roberson, served in China with the English Language Institute/China (ELIC). After Seeberger graduated from North Park, he received an email from a person in China who learned of him through Roberson, asking him to teach English at a school in Harbin Province.

Seeberger went on to earn his Teaching English as a Second Language certificate in 2003, studied for a certificate in international business in 2005, and studied Chinese for two years at a private language institution in Tianjin from 2006-2008. In addition to teaching, he is now working on a master’s in organizational leadership through Azusa Pacific University.

Seeberger, who grew up attending Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City, California, wound up at PKU due to placement through his sending organization, Educational Resources and Referrals – China (ERRC), which specializes in sending Christian intellectuals to key universities in China. After finishing two years of language training in Tianjin, he was immediately placed at a university in Beijing, and the following year, at Peking University.

Seeberger has lived in China a total of five years since 2003 and is thrilled to be working in the country at this point in world history. “China is at the forefront of the world’s focus, being a country that is striving to become developed while also being a major player in global and socio-political consciousness, perhaps more than any other country outside of the United States,” he explains. “I have been given an opportunity to teach and serve my students in China’s best universities, establishing relationships with students who will go on to shape the future of this country, becoming political leaders, enterprising businesspeople, and cultivators of social progress.”

The experience has been personally enriching for Seeberger in other ways as well. He met and married his wife, Lan.

Editor’s note: The accompanying photo shows the Seebergers standing in the Great Hall of the People during a meeting with Vice-Premier Li Keqiang of the Politiburo Standing Committee.

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