From Computers to Chinese

Teaching ESL English as a Computer Scientist

Posted by Jonathan Sekela on August 15, 2017

When I started my college career, I knew I liked kids. I also knew I liked explaining things to other people. I get to talk, they listen to me, and then they do what I tell them to do. I get to see their progress as something I helped create, and that makes me happy. And, bonus, they learn something in the process. Win-win! These qualities, I should hope, are essential in an English teacher.

However, when I entered college, I also knew that I have problems with person-to-person communication. I have a mild form of Asperger’s that can hinder my ability to communicate with people, especially when not given time to prepare or forced out of my element. I’m sure you’ve already guessed that I did not major in Education, amazing though the field is. I never even considered it. Computers, on the other hand, are something I can work on all day.

It’s great! Problem-solving is integral in every part of the school day. As a CS Major, you get to:

  • Figure out why you can’t login
  • Figure out why your code is doing something today that it wasn’t doing yesterday, when you literally haven’t touched it AT ALL
  • Spend 36 hours with your Professor poring over the 3 documents of C++ code of your final High-Performance Computing project with a fine-tooth comb to figure out why your code, which was written the EXACT SAME WAY AS HIS, isn’t working (I had a parenthesis where I needed a bracket)

Every single day! It’s the greatest thing ever!!

Frothing insanity aside, I sincerely enjoyed every minute in the CS department at High Point University. Everyone was nice, everyone was hard-working, and there’s always a solution, even if you’re not smart enough to figure it out. Things are predictable, and that’s nice in today’s raging, thermonuclear pasta-bowl of a world.

So of course, in anticipation of graduating from this amazing establishment, I chose to apply to EnglishFirst China and teach kids ESL English next to Hong Kong.

Your Adventure

Why? No, really. Why? It’s simple. I’ve loved China since I was three years old. Yes, I love kids. Yes, teaching and education fulfill me. If I didn’t love it in some form or another, I would never presume to try education as a job in the first place. But at the end of the day, I just really really really wanted to go to China. I need this adventure to happen in my life, or I know I’ll regret it.

That’s my main point, everyone. I want to do this, so I will. It doesn't matter if it looks like a smart decision or not. In fact, you could very easily argue against the trip. It’s pretty obvious that what I’m doing is not only a literal 3,000 miles out of my comfort zone, but more than a little bit dangerous. China and the US don’t have the warmest of relationships these days. I will technically be closer to North Korea. I will be in Shenzhen, across the bay from Hong Kong, where tensions between Beijing and Hong Kong have been simmering for a while now and we don’t know what the next year could bring.

I care immensely about these situations. At the same time, I don’t. There will always be international crises. An opportunity for me to do what I’ve wanted to do since literally before I can remember has presented itself to me, and no one is going to stop me from taking it. I hope that, when you find your adventure, you can pursue it the same way.