In October 2012, Travis Riggs, a Project HOPE volunteer from Virginia, came to Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine to teach general English communications with an emphasis on oral communication and listening. He taught the first year medical students who were enrolled in the pilot English medical classes. In the first semester, he used the holidays and movies as topics for cultural discussion and taught public speaking and presentation skills. In the second semester, he prepared his class for their trip abroad to Australia where they will be studying pharmacology in English. I observed one of Travis’ classes where he had students prepare an essay to discuss with their classmates. Although the students seem reluctant to speak at first, perhaps self-conscious of their English, he would ask them questions to engage them in a dialogue.
In addition to his English classes, Travis also ran an informal discussion group called “English Corner” which was open to anyone who was interested in practicing their English oral communication. The sessions were held in a room in the library once a week. Travis would give the participants a topic which would be discussed the following week. This forum attracted mostly upperclassmen and graduate students from different disciplines.
During his stay in China, Travis had traveled to Suzhou, Wuyishan (in Fujian province), Xiamen, Gaobei Tulou, Chongqing, Kunming, Lijiang, Beijing, and Zhouzhuang. He enjoyed visiting famous sites and trying local foods and drinks. I had the opportunity to travel with him and our Project HOPE director, Lily Hsu, to Zhouzhuang which is known as the “Venice of the East.”
When asked about his time in China, Travis commented:
“I’ve been really honored to have this chance to work with Project HOPE and the International Department at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine to help with the first year of the new English Language Clinical Medicine program. The students in the program are all very bright, and it was a joy to work with them to help their real-world English communication skills and prepare them for their future classes. I was also glad to have the chance to travel outside of Shanghai to see how different the other parts of the country are from each other, and to enjoy the unique local culture and flavor. I need to thank the many new friends that I made, both at the university and during my travels, for enthusiastically sharing the lifestyle and attractions of their respective hometowns with me. Volunteering in Shanghai has definitely been a memorable experience and an adventure, I’m proud to have been involved and I wish all the best for my students and colleagues in the future”.
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