If you are a student of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen (CUHK-SZ), you cannot miss the general education curriculum taught by Dr. Grace Allen.
A tidy classroom with two giant screen projectors and one big lectern is where most students first meet her. Her slender body contains boundless energy for her to give an uninterrupted two-hour lecture. Also, renowned for her extraordinarily clear accent, she is popular among students.
After getting a Ph.D. degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the U.S. in 2017, Dr. Allen was invited from her home country to teach a general education course at CUHK-SZ by her friend.
Reminiscing about the past, Dr. Allen smoothed her blond hair subconsciously, saying: “I never thought I would come to China before. What I knew about Shenzhen at that time was only based on my friends’ description. They said Shenzhen is an interesting place to live. So, here I am.”
In addition to Shenzhen, Dr. Allen had visited other Chinese cities like Beijing and Hangzhou. “As a history buff, I do like those cities with the imprint of times,” she said. “But I think every city is different due to its own personality. Shenzhen is a new city with infinite opportunities. I caught one of those chances to follow the profession I enjoy and settled down in Shenzhen.”
When asked about the most impressive student in the class, she seemed to have struggled for a while. “I was impressed by all the students,” she finally said. “Everyone here is very hardworking. They’re interested in exploring different topics and ideas.”
What’s most surprising is that students in her class can reproduce the hidden history by analyzing a common everyday product. For example, a student dug out the influence of feminist ideology and Christian morality from Barbie dolls in her final paper last semester. Other sociological topics such as class and race are also involved in Dr. Allen’s course.
“I really like teaching general education since it allows students to learn about topics that are always related to their major,” she said. “So, most of them are very intrigued about materials I release in the class. My students always get many meaningful internships during holidays and share their experiences with me.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Allen has made a conclusion about her experiences in teaching in the U.S. and China. “Actually, I found that teaching in the U.S. and teaching in China has been quite similar overall,” she said. She enjoys similar harmonious classroom atmosphere and students’ rigorous attitude in both countries.
She also retorted the misunderstanding that Chinese students lack creativity, saying “to some extent Chinese students are more creative because in my class they talk and write in their second language, but they can achieve the same grades as students in the U.S.”