My dear fellow students in the English Department:
Welcome to XMU Tan Kah Kee College, and welcome to the English Department. I was a student in the department and spent 4 years learning English and building up my foundation in English for further study in USA. And theTKK experiences were absolutely rewarding.
Well, I was admitted by San Francisco State University before graduation and now I am now here for a MA degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers to Other Languages). Having been here in this foreign country and a new campus for over a month, I would like to share with you some aspects of my experiences.
To be honest, I was quite confident with my English before I came here. I participated in the national English speech contest twice in my senior year, and I devoted myself to creating an English club Ensanity to assist all students who want with a need to improve their English language skills. I scored 102 on the TOFEL test (28 for reading) and passed the TEM-8, and I thought I would not have any problem studying in an American university. Unfortunately, I was wrong!
The first month was disastrous! I was overwhelmed. It was until I spent The first two weeks here that I realized, in a hard way, the differences in teaching and learning styles between China and the United States. I took only 3 courses this semester and I have to read 3-4 textbooks for these courses. On top of the readings, each week there will also be a lot of additional reading materials such as articles and essays for each of these different classes. What is worse, I found it is hard to understand the content, as they are very academic oriented, and the grammar and vocabulary usages are quite so different from the ones I used to encounter in China.
The teaching style here is also different. For instance, Since the the instructors will always expect their students, to have read and studied the textbook and articles and finished homework assignments before the class. Furthermore, they assume that you have already finished the homework and they will not guide the you to read or ask the you to read some passages of the textbooks or articles in the class. So basically, if you are a student here and you do not finish the homework assignments made up of previewing a good chunk of materials, you are screwed. However, But when I was in China, even if I did not finish the preview in advance before class, I still had time to catch up in the class. Not here in USA! Professors in my university more or less assume a counseling role in leading discussions and answering questions. The instructors here expect their students to learn by themselves. Besides, I could zip through 26 credit hours of course load at TKK, but only about a third of that load now in this university.
As a result, I had a hard time adjusting to the study here, and I wish I had read more in my undergraduate days in China.
After much reflection and contemplation, I would like to offer some suggestions based on my own experiences:
1. Always read the books and materials before the class. Usually the teacher will assign you the homework (what to write or what to read) at the end of each class. When previewing the texts, learn to write marginal notes about what you do not understand and actively raise these questions in the class.(I rarely asked questions in TKK because I thought that it would make me look stupid. In fact, it is always beneficial to ask questions in class, as you will get the answer directly from the teacher, and who knows, maybe your classmates also have the same question, so by asking questions, you help them too! Asking questions can also leave a good impression on your teacher,ha~)
2. Review what you have learned for the day. It can help you to enhance your understanding and consolidate memory of the lectures. And sometimes you can find something that you do not understand. Do not wait until the exam.
3. Besides and beyond the assigned readings, try to read more. You can read novels, news, etc. You will benefit enormously from your readings. The more your read, the better your ability to write well.
4. Reading also increases your mastery of words (vocabulary) and consolidates your grammar foundation.
I hope these tips will not only help you do well in the class, but also can help you build a strong foundation for future study and work of higher expectation and demands..
> Yours sincerely,