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Benton Summer Profile Series- Mae Martel ’22

By Brent Fujioka on September 24, 2018

Mae Martel, Class of 2022

Mae working with her students in Hefei, China

This summer, Mae worked as a teacher at two different language immersion camps: one in America and one in Hefei, China. She was able to teach Chinese language and culture in America, and then lead English language and STEAM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Art and Math) projects in China. She reflected on her experience, “In America, I was highly discouraged from speaking English to the students, and in China, I was told not to speak Chinese to the children, yet in both camps the children knew next to nothing about the other language.” Because the goal of each camp was complete language immersion, Mae had to challenge herself and her students to overcome these significant initial language barriers.

What inspired you to work at two different language immersion camps this summer?

I love the Chinese language and culture, so both of my teaching jobs were the ideal outlets for me to share my passions for STEM and Chinese with others. Since my sophomore year of high school, I have been bringing STEM projects to children across Central New York, in schools, libraries, refugee resettlement centers, and community events. I saw the Hefei job as a great opportunity to combine my passion for Chinese with my previous volunteer work, as well as a way to travel to China and immerse myself in a new environment. Both jobs were also wonderful chances for me to practice my own Chinese skills, stay active (since I also taught Chinese ethnic dancing, along with tea-making, paper cutting and wrapping Baozi) and have an income over the summer.

What is one lesson you feel you learned after this experience?

From these experiences, I was able to witness the genuine appreciation young children have for other cultures, and their enthusiasm to do all that they can to keep trying in the face of challenges. Many times, children would become frustrated if they could not understand my instructions, or were struggling in the immersive environment, yet their persistence and gradual improvement taught me that a passion for learning can surpass any obstacle.


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