Kia Ora! My name is Michelle Elia and I am Shandan Bailie School’s newest English Teacher for the 2016-2017 school year.
Originally from Porirua in the Wellington region, I grew up in a Pacific Island household where my mother migrated from the Cook Islands and my father from Samoa at a young age. My cultural background is something I hold very dearly and I celebrate it every chance I get. I have travelled and worked in New Zealand, Australia, the Cook Islands, and the US over the years… and I’m only 25! I have my Bachelors of Commerce from Victoria University, am a certified personal trainer, and am currently studying towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health (where my papers count towards a Masters in Public Health also) and a Certificate in Pacific Development. I have a great interest in the diaspora of Pacific Peoples over the last thousand years to New Zealand and how epidemics rise as a result of Westernized culture. And would you look at that – China is actually the origin of a good chunk of people living in the Pacific!
Becoming an English teacher in China was always on my bucket list from a young age. When I told a colleague at my workplace in Wellington, she redirected me to the New Zealand China Friendship Society website and recommended that I apply for a teaching role at Shandan Bailie School. I can’t say I was hesitant because I definitely wasn’t and sent a message to Dave, who replied almost instantly! After meeting him and being in direct communication with Ma Guohua, I was on my way to China! My first impression of China was simply – WOW. This is because I have found that a lot of the Chinese culture definitely crosses over into Pacific culture, especially in terms of collectiveness within families, the hospitality (I thought overfeeding was something that originated in the Pacific – boy was I wrong!), and the climate. Shandan is a small county in comparison to many cities in China, however, I think it is absolutely perfect. Coming from Porirua, Shandan feels like home away from home. Everybody is so nice, welcoming, curious, but eager to meet and learn – this is ever so evident from my assistant Jing and her family.
I know that the next year will bring some great memories, and one of my main goals is to definitely be fluent in speaking Mandarin by August 2017! I am eager to teach and influence the students of SBS in a positive way, share my experiences, and also learn from them in the process. I can proudly say that moving to China is one of my greatest accomplishments so far and I hope I am able to share more of my story with you all!