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KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee faculty, staff and students are being sought to participate in the 2007 English Summer Camp at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.
Tentative dates for the camp are July 5-27.

This is the fourth year for the camp — the largest of its kind in the world — where upwards of 3,200 freshman Chinese students take part in an intensive three-week English learning experience. Tsinghua University requires all of its students to be proficient in conversational English by the time they graduate.

This is the third year UT has been invited to participate with a select group of other colleges and universities from the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom. UT’s Center for International Education administers this cross-cultural program which provides an opportunity for UT faculty, staff and students to travel to China and immerse themselves in the culture.

Such events play a key role in UT’s groundbreaking initiative, Ready for the World. The goal of Ready for the World is to increase international and intercultural aspects of the university, and to ensure all UT undergraduates gain the knowledge, perspectives and skills needed to succeed in today’s complex, pluralistic world.

Last year, UT sent 10 faculty and staff to serve as teachers and 18 student volunteers to facilitate learning activities at the camp. UT sent the largest contingent of the participating U.S. colleges and universities.

“I presented lessons on everything from slang words to the dating styles of Americans,” said Janine Al-Aseer, 22, a senior in communication studies who went on the 2006 trip. “The students were very interested in hearing about traditional American lifestyles. I had to explain that not everyone lives like the characters in the movies and on television shows like ‘Friends.'”

Al-Aseer said the experience left her with a passion for teaching. She said she made lasting friendships with her students and her fellow travelers. She enjoyed exploring China, and encourages others to apply for the Tsinghua trip.

“I can’t emphasize enough how truly phenomenal this experience can be. If you feel that you are a flexible, outgoing individual who would love to test your abilities to travel and teach abroad through an outstanding, safe, and relatively cheap program then I highly suggest applying to the Tsinghua program this year.”

Kurt Butefish, coordinator of the Tennessee Geographic Alliance, also went on the 2006 trip. He presented lessons about music and geography, automobiles and Olympic paddling events.

“The trip allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and experience a totally different culture. I got to experience being a minority and an outsider and was forced to function in an environment that I had little or no control over.”

He said he learned that Chinese students place great value having the opportunity to go to college.

“They and their parents make unbelievable sacrifices to ensure success. The pressure on these kids is enormous. They don’t get second or third chances like many American college students. The Chinese culture has great respect for educators and the educational system.”

Faculty, staff and students interested in being part of UT’s group at this year’s summer camp must fill out applications that are forwarded to Tsinghua University officials who select the participants. Faculty and staff applications are due Feb. 15 and student applications are due Feb. 28.

Teacher applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree. At the camp, they work with Chinese teachers and Tsinghua graduate students to conduct classes between 8:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. Monday through Friday. They also assist with activities from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. each day and with evening activities once a week.

Student volunteers teach classes, as well as lead games, discussions and competitions designed to promote the use of English.

Applicants should be flexible, outgoing, able to adapt to new situations, comfortable speaking to large groups and willing to work long days. Public speaking, music and leadership skills are pluses. Applicants should be in good physical condition. No knowledge of the Chinese language is needed.

Teachers and volunteers receive free housing in air-conditioned, western-style lodging, meals and 80 hours of Internet connection during their stays. Teachers receive stipends of about $1,240 for the program; volunteers get about $124. Participants must pay their own airfare.

Teachers and volunteers will have weekends free for travel, shopping and sightseeing.
Tsinghua is one of the top universities in China, often compared to Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford. Many of China’s current leaders, including China’s President Hu Jintao, are Tsinghua graduates. The campus is on the grounds of the Imperial Summer Palace of the Qing Dynasty in northwest Beijing.

Interested individuals have several opportunities to learn more about the Tsinghua University program.

The Programs Abroad Office, located in the Center for International Education at 1620 Melrose Ave., will hold informational meetings about the Tsinghua Summer Camp program at the following times: noon, today; 4 p.m. on Jan. 11; 4 p.m. on Jan. 17; noon on Jan. 18; 2 p.m. on Jan. 22; 3 p.m. on Jan. 24; noon on Jan. 25; 3 p.m. on Jan. 29; noon on Jan. 30; and 3 p.m. on Jan. 31. Representatives from Tsinghua University will be at UT for an informational session at noon Feb. 20 at the I-House.

For more information also see the Programs Abroad Web site:

Amy Blakely, Media Relations, (865) 974-5034,
Todd Steed, Programs Abroad Office, (865) 974-3177,