When Lisa and I decided that spending some time in China was what we wanted as our next adventure in life, we began the application process to be “accepted” by the International Language Programs organization as teachers. As I mentioned in “Some background on our trip to China“, we were seeking positions as paid teachers at a school in Wuxi that contracted with ILP to provide teachers for their English program. The application process involved writing essays about our background and experience, emphasizing the qualifications we had that would predict our being successful English teachers. Soon after we submitted our applications to ILP, we were accepted. We were told by the ILP administration that the Chinese government required that teachers entering the country have college degrees. I met this requirement with an Associate of Science degree from Snow College that I had earned years before. Lisa had enough credits to be considered a junior at BYU, but the school didn’t offer two-year degrees, so we had to figure out another means for obtaining some kind of college degree for her.
After some research into the various two-year programs in Utah, including UVSC, Snow College, the University of Utah, Utah State University, Southern Utah University, and Weber State University, we determined that Weber State’s program would be the best option. The difficulty we faced was this: Weber State required (as do most schools) that at least 20 credit hours towards their AA degree be taken through their school, and Lisa had to finish those credits by the end of the Spring Term in order to receive her diploma in time to apply for a Chinese Visa. That meant we only had six weeks to get Lisa through Weber State’s general studies AA program. At least two of Weber State’s counselors strongly recommended that we not even attempt such a feat. One of them had the nerve to tell Lisa that the date by which all grades had to be turned in was two weeks before what we later discovered to be the actual deadline. Despite the resistance from Weber State, we pushed forward with our plan. Six weeks later, after many (literally) sleepless nights and countless hours dedicated to the busy work that is typical of most undergraduate degrees, Lisa finished the twenty credit hours. She was then an official Weber State Wildcat. Sadly, we erringly thought her graduation ceremony was a week later than it was actually scheduled, so we missed the opportunity to officially relish her accomplishment. At least we had put behind us a task that had occupied so much of our time and attention that we were glad to be finished with it.
Upon our arrival in China, it quickly became evident that the college degree requirement was much more flexible than was let on to us by ILP. At the school where we eventually became teachers, there were teaching recruits whose qualifications didn’t amount to any more than a high school diploma. Because we didn’t speak Chinese, we missed large parts of the discussions held by our Chinese employer and our teaching assistants during which they discussed our credentials as teachers. On one occasion during lunch, I remember catching on to their discussion of how they made the GED (or whatever it’s called in Canada) held by one of the Canadian teachers appear to be a more advanced certificate so that he could come to their school. Ultimately we realized that the main requirement for teaching at a school in China is to appear like an American. I’ll talk more about that later.