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Assayer of Student Opinion.

The Prospector

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An American teaching in China

Photo of Adrian Ortega, teacher and administrator, picture taken in her home. Photo by Victoria Castillo.

A knocking sound echoed from Professor Adrian Ortega’s living room. She began to feel confused by the sound because she did not remember inviting anyone over to her apartment. Ortega mentioned that the knocking sounded as though it would go on forever. The knocks only grew louder, and in the instant she opened the door fear struck her.  

Two Chinese police officers were at her door yelling at her in Chinese, demanding answers from her in a foreign language she had not yet picked up on. Trying to cool the situation she kept insisting, “Let me call someone to get this situated,” feeling as though it was almost impossible for the situation to cool. Not knowing what else to do she allowed the officers to escort her into a police car, thus driving off to a police station. Once they arrived at the police station, they finally allowed her to call someone to translate and she quickly dialed her company’s 24-hour translator. Ortega tried to explain what was happening as calmly and collected as possible, after doing so the translator was on her way.  

The translator immediately asked the officers why they had brought her to the police station and what they needed from Ortega. The situation instantly became calmer when the translator explained to Ortega that she needed to report to her local police stations as to why she was there, when she arrived, and when she would be leaving.  

After the translator explained to Ortega and the officers apologized, they left. This is a common credential in some Chinese cities but even more so in Chinese towns. Checking into police stations was only one of the many social differences Ortega had to integrate herself into. Now this is a situation where anyone would feel discouraged, but she did not let that stop her from embarking on this journey of being an American teacher in China. 

 Ortega said that it was hard to keep going through the discouragement but “if you want to be a leader you have to make up your mind and overcome whatever obstacles come your way” Ortega said. This is something she felt should stick with students as well as staff on the UTEP campus.  

Ortega was a teacher for 38 years, and a principal in the United States for 20 years before she left to China to start her new journey. Chinese culture and the government system is different compared to the United States, but this was something that thrilled her and made her want to take this opportunity. Adrian Ortega worked in China for six years. Not only did she teach students english literature but she also taught them about democracy. 

The decision to move to China came with many debates, but Ortega was motivated by the idea of teaching Chinese students about democracy and encouraging them to attend American universities. Throughout the moving process she always kept in mind the example of her role model, Dr. Petris, a college professor who also spent time teaching in China. 

Not only was she a successful teacher in China but she shortly after became a leader holding the position of an administrator. Playing the role as an administrator requires enticing people to work at the school and giving them a reason to stay. To make this a more attractive option for prospects she began to organize group activities and create friendships, something that is very important when travelling abroad alone.  

For Ortega it is hard to stay motivated and continue with her role as a leader. “Education is about training students to think for themselves, to be leaders, and to have a moral compass,” Ortega said.  

Knowing that future generations relied on her leadership kept her going. Ortega says that being a leader requires patience and the understanding that if you handle each task in the best manner you will be rewarded in the end. 

Professional success is something all college students may wish to accomplish, and Ortega is an example of how to tackle that goal with grace.  

“Work hard, and study,” Ortega stated. 

This is something that UTEP students as well as faculty can take with themselves and practice in order to gain professional success.  Ortega reassures that the overflow of success is worth fighting whenever you are truly passionate about your goals. 

“What you want is worth it. Talk through the problem. Don’t give up, and become a good listener,” Ortega said.  

Listening is the key to understanding and resolving issues that may come your way.  

Life tends to not always go as we would like, but Ortega reminds students that “as long as I keep on growing in my education, in my practice, then I can handle the frustration of having to wait.” She also advises students to take it into consideration that failure comes with a lot of waiting and adjusting. Allow yourself to grow as life continues to move forward.  

Victoria Castillo may be contacted [email protected] 


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An American teaching in China