Chongqing skyline at night

Creative Globetrotter in China, Ni Hao Chongqing

I’m on the road again. China. It is a totally different experience from last year’s. Last year I kept going, this year I will be staying put. Last year was about taking, this year is about giving back.

For the next couple of months, I will be a guest teacher within MIADA, the Modern International Arts & Design Academy at the Chongqing Technology & Business University (CTBU). I will be teaching Art, Design and Advertising to all student years (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th/graduation students). It is humbling, it is inspiring, and it is badass…

The Campus almost feels like an enclave, a small village inside the larger community of 23 million people in Chongqing. Roughly 40,000 people study at the CTBU, some of them within the MIADA. One of the main selling points of the University towards its students is its international guest teacher program that I am now part of. The MIADA also offers classes in Visual Communication, Graphic Design, Fashion, yeah, nice, whatever, but most importantly, it offers my favorite class: Advertising

To make sure I don’t have to rely on the three words of Chinese I know so far, I armed myself with translators for my classes, and Hubert. Hubert has been showing me around campus and will be my contact person during my stay. So, it will be very important to stay friends with this guy, even through the hot flashes caused by the meal choices he recommended so far.

My first week on campus has flown by and I realized within the first few days that the teaching experience will be mutual. It is so incredibly interesting to be exposed to the educational system inside a culture that is so different from my own, a culture that even stands out in general, on the cultural world map.

There is arguably a significant difference in the academic level between the Asian countries and European ones, but that is hugely compensated for with the enthusiasm and willingness to learn that the students here all show.

Teachers are greeted with a collective “ZaoShanghao/Good morning” when entering the class and students are taught to stand up when spoken to. The respect that students have for their teachers is tangible. This fascinates and worries me at the same time. Discipline and drive are good treats to have, separately, but when your drive is to be disciplined, you will not get far in Advertising.

However, my worldwide backpacking experience gave me enough insights to factor in the cultural differences into my syllabus. I came well prepared but, to be honest, I will eventually act on my feeling based on my day to day experience on campus. And that is – in a nutshell – what I would like to teach my students as well: that you have to learn the rules and then completely forget them, and create from within you. And do your research, because it would be a shame if you think you came up with something genius, just to discover somebody else already thought of it.

On Monday, I gave everyone the assignment to make as many versions of a logo as possible, as opposed to working on the same version for hours on end. Students are open to the new experience, and I like that. We energize each other. We dialogue. We will get to the point where we will openly question and challenge each other. Maybe in Chinese! (I will start my language course on Monday).

It’s exciting.

Stay tuned to find out not if but when I will get into trouble for my unruly teaching manners, and if I will survive my next extreme attempt at Chinese cuisine.

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