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China has been amazing. I am constantly surprised by how many new things I am learning and how fun it is to engage yourself in a completely new culture. Although every day has been special in its own way, my favorite day so far was the first day of our camp with the local children. We prepared activities for two days before our first lesson on Friday morning. Nerves quickly turned into excitement when eager campers started showing up (45 minutes early!). By giving the 20 campers English names and introducing ourselves through a talent show, we were able to quickly spark their interest and make them excited to learn more English.

The first challenge we had to overcome was the language barrier; none of the kids spoke English and none of the student athletes spoke Mandarin. With the help of one of our program leaders, Claire (who speaks in Mandarin), we were able to kick off the day. The campers were very excited to receive English names, and we spent most of our morning lesson learning each others English names and teaching the campers how to introduce themselves and greet others in English.

The hardest part about the English lesson was instructing the campers what to do, whether it was explaining a game or transitioning the group into a new activity, because they could not understand us. To work around these minor setbacks, we had to be very expressive and animated in order to help guide the campers and demonstrate what we wanted them to do.

Although there were definitely challenges on the first day, it was really eye-opening to see how little an effect a language barrier can have on the relationships and cohesion within a group where all the participants are eager and open to learning new things.

Although there were definitely challenges on the first day, it was really eye-opening to see how little an effect a language barrier can have on the relationships and cohesion within a group where all the participants are eager and open to learning new things.

In the afternoon we played games indoors. Having learned from our challenges in the morning, I felt the afternoon was more successful and we came away with a stronger bond with the campers. Instead of relying on translation, we led more by example and were thus working closer with the campers to communicate.

The best part of the day was seeing the campers use and respond to the English they were learning. They were all so excited to receive English names and to learn how to introduce themselves in full English. As well, their enthusiasm and excitement when they correctly used an English phrase, won an game, or were praised by one of the student athletes was an indicator of our success as a group.

There was a lot of relief and excitement after the first day because we felt accomplished in our instructing skills and understood how we could improve for the coming days. I am excited to continue to spend time with both the campers and my fellow instructors in the camp. Although there were definitely challenges on the first day, it was really eye-opening to see how little an effect a language barrier can have on the relationships and cohesion within a group where all the participants are eager and open to learning new things. After the first day, I feel much more confident heading into the rest of our camp, and further, into the second week in China with the rest of the ACE athletes.

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