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Borderless Education

by APU Life Staff

She never stepped foot on campus, but Tina Jin, M.A. ’10, earned a prestigious APU degree from her hometown in China. The first APU Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) student ever to complete an entire program online and off site, Jin received more than a degree; she came away with a rich APU experience.

While teaching K–12, she realized that her love for learning and teaching the English language could be more than just a passion. “When I found out about the TESOL master's degree program, I was very excited because it meant that I could do more than teach English to students. I could also help learners become teachers and train other teachers,” said Jin. “I also viewed TESOL as the door to a higher level of teaching English with advanced and evolving methods. To me, TESOL means the connection to the international English teaching platform and cultivates the ability to stand on this platform with a true understanding of the changes and movements in English teaching.”

When a friend told her about APU and its reputation for excellence, it seemed like the perfect fit, but she couldn’t commit to studying abroad. The answer came in 2008 when she met Mary Wong, Ph.D., professor and director of APU’s TESOL program, who visited Beijing while on sabbatical. “I was impressed by the design of the online M.A. in TESOL program and APU’s commitment to the quality of online teaching and learning,” said Jin.

After adjusting to some basic differences between Chinese and American educational systems, Jin quickly transitioned from an isolated student to a fully engaged classmate. She embraced the concept of critical thinking and learned to appreciate and participate in scholarly debate, two concepts not commonly practiced in her culture. However, the most profound impact of her educational experience may have been what she learned about herself. “I immediately recognized the growth in my heart,” said Jin. “I realized that teaching is so much more than a job or a way of making a living—it is God’s plan for me. I believe that with this degree, there are more opportunities ahead of me.”

Even in remote locations, an APU online education not only opens doors around the globe, but it also ensures a comprehensive scholarly experience. The requirement to attend a conference distinguishes APU’s TESOL program from others, and as part of her degree program, Jin traveled to Bangkok where she met a professor and 12 other TESOL cohort members to learn, interact, and discuss the program courses. The event allowed the students and professors to meet in person and participate in a dynamic exchange of ideas and pedagogy. “APU’s online programs use a cohort model which provides a supportive community of learners fostering collaboration and in-depth interaction. Through regular and detailed threaded discussions, I end up knowing my online students just as well or even more intimately than those in my classroom,” said Wong.

Jin met her professors and classmates once again when she made it to Azusa in December 2010 to celebrate in the commencement ceremony. “During the program, although I was far away from my university, I never felt alone,” said Jin. “And at commencement, when I stood in the Felix Event Center, a strong feeling of love filled my heart and surrounded me with peace.”

Photo by Don Milici

“I realized that teaching is so much more than a job or a way of making a living—it is God’s plan for me. I believe that with this degree, there are more opportunities ahead of me.”

Originally published in the Summer '11 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).