Jeremy Rubinstein ’14 in his classroom at Beijing Normal University
"My language teachers this semester were incredible scholars, many of whom are invited to universities around the world as guest instructors. Their vast experience and pride in their profession was not only valuable to me as a student, but also as a teacher of my own English classes."
— Joycelyn Eby, Fellow to Beijing Normal University, 2010-2011
Beijing, the political and cultural center of China, is the setting for the one-year position at Beijing Normal University (BNU). The Fellow at this site has the opportunity to take a deep dive into Chinese language, politics, and cultural studies at the highest levels while also teaching English to motivated graduate students. For Oberlin graduates interested in entering business, academia, or government, this Fellowship is an invitation to your future.
Beijing is both proudly traditional and vibrantly modern with a wealth of historical sites, hutongs, microbreweries, and jazz clubs all just a subway, bus, or taxi ride away. China's sprawling capital city is home to roughly 21 million people, and attracts citizens from all over the country for both travel and business. BNU is situated in the city's northwest district near Jishuitan, jam-packed with little restaurants, cafe, and stores. There is also a large and welcoming community of Oberlin alumni in Beijing who can provide helpful advice and resources to those who are new to the city.
About Beijing Normal University
Founded in 1902, Beijing Normal University is one of the leading universities in China. It has historically emphasized teacher education, but it now offers degrees in a wide array of academic departments to approximately 20,000 students, both Chinese and international. Since 2009, a graduate student from BNU has come to Oberlin each year to teach Mandarin Chinese, complementing the Shansi Fellow going to BNU.
The BNU Fellow is both a teacher and a student and is responsible for teaching eight hours of oral English classes each week to graduate-level students, who are themselves studying to be Chinese teachers both in China and abroad. The students possess advanced English abilities and are highly motivated learners with strong interests in foreign language teaching pedagogy. The Fellow is also a student in the College of Chinese Language and Culture, taking classes in Chinese language, politics, literature, and cultural studies for 4-6 hours a day. In addition, the Fellows assist in occasional editing and translation work for the Office of International Exchange and Cooperation, or may serve as Teaching Assistants in other English classes when needed. In their spare time, Fellows have volunteered with NGOs, learned how to dance, and traveled around China.
What does a strong candidate for the Fellowship to BNU look like?
For this Fellowship, a strong candidate will have a passion for Chinese language and culture and will have well-developed Chinese language skills comparable to the 400-level language class at Oberlin. Many applicants have already studied in China for a summer or a semester. Strong listening and speaking skills are needed immediately on arrival, as the individual's communications with the administration and other teachers will be primarily in Mandarin.
Shansi is seeking applicants who have a thirst for knowledge and are able to successfully balance a homework load with teaching, class preparation, and a packed daily schedule. Successful BNU Fellows sincerely care about making connections with their students and strive to offer them fresh perspectives on culture, communication, and conversation.
The position at BNU has enabled past Fellows to make connections and begin careers in Beijing and abroad. Former Fellows have gone on to work in the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, enter a Peking University graduate program in international politics, interview Jackie Chan as a journalist for Reuters, and pursue graduate studies in education and international business in the United States.
Language ability and training
The Fellow must have a high level of Chinese language proficiency and experience living in China before the Fellowship begins. The Oberlin College East Asian Studies Program will approve the Fellow’s language proficiency. This Fellowship does not offer summer language training prior to the beginning of the fellowship. The Shansi Fellow will enroll in a full course of language classes at BNU during the school year. This means about 4-6 hours a day of language class.
The Fellow at BNU will live in the university's dormitory for international faculty and visitors, and will be provided with a furnished room with a private bathroom and kitchen.
The Fellow at BNU arrives on site in late August. There is usually a break for Chinese New Year, and the spring semester ends in late June.