Studying and Teaching Abroad: Anthony Freeman

Anthony Freeman graduated in the fall of 2017 with a degree in English, concentrating on linguistics. 

Anthony in May Fourth Square in Qingdao, China

Making it through college can (and should) be difficult. But it’s just one part of a much bigger challenge: finding your path in life. Ideally, your college years will launch you onto that path as you explore your interests, select a major, and work closely with your academic adviser and instructors.

Is that what my years at Millersville did for me? Yes — although in unexpected and surprising ways! During my time at college, and in the past year and a half since I graduated, my path in life has looked less like a straight line and more like the bouncing white square from Pong. But it’s a path that has been incredibly fulfilling, distinctly my own, and which is leading me toward the realization of my academic and professional dreams.

My time at Millersville didn’t start the same way as it did for many other students. In the fall of 2014, I came in as a transfer student at the beginning of my sophomore year. Having lived most of my life five minutes from campus, the drive on my first day lasted just long enough to listen to one inspirational track on my favorite playlist.

I sat down nervously in a classroom in McComsey Hall with other English major transferees. There, Dr. Craven explained the various academic concentrations within Millersville’s English Department that we, as English majors, could study.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of a total shift in my life direction.

One and a half years later, I was receiving another orientation — this time, in a little college classroom in St. Petersburg, Russia. Why Russia? Well, after learning about the variety of concentrations within Millersville’s English program, I’d explored multiple options and finally settled on linguistics. And as I learned how language works, my dormant interest in the Russian language — which I’d briefly studied in high school —  reawakened.

Millersville was able to hook me up with Russian language classes through nearby Franklin & Marshall College. And after quite a few meetings at Millersville’s Office of International Programs and Services, I was ready to spend the spring semester of my junior year in St. Petersburg, Russia, studying language, literature, and Soviet history.

Some memories are like treasures that you perennially love to take out of storage, hold in your hands, and admire. Studying abroad increased my confidence and left me with a trove of memories that remind me why I’m doing what I’m doing. Those months in Russia not only improved my language skills, but also forced me to reexamine my identity. I learned to make decisions independently and think on my feet. I also made friends that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Skip ahead to the fall of 2017. I graduated (thanks in large part to my amazing professors) and was now a teacher in a private school, teaching English composition and Russian language to high schoolers. As it turned out, my time abroad was a significant factor in getting the job!

But there’s one more twist to my story: Not long before graduation, I found that my personal reading habits were shifting. One day in the stacks, I picked up a copy of The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry, translated by Burton Watson. I opened it up to a random page, read a few poems by Tang dynasty poet Wang Wei, and suddenly felt like the sky had opened up.

I haven’t had many epiphanies, but I felt like this was one. I knew a little bit about translation theory, and poetry had always been of interest to me. I had also studied Chinese the year before I got to Millersville. I was soon checking out books on Chinese literary and cultural history, several different translations of the same poems by Du Fu, and an old Chinese 101 textbook.

That was the beginning of another surprising curve in my life’s path. Today, I am a teacher of English as a Foreign Language in Qingdao, China. I’ve tested into upper intermediate Chinese, and I’m loving the job and my students.

The main reason I’m in China is to improve my understanding of Chinese language and culture. My plan is to study comparative literature at the graduate level. This will allow me to continue pursuing my interest in both Russian and Chinese literature, as well as that of the English-speaking world.

None of this would have been possible without faculty and friends telling me that I could dare to chase my dreams, wherever they took me. I’m lucky that I had so many voices in my life telling me that. So now I’ll be that voice for you: Dare to explore your options. Your enthusiasm for learning should know no bounds!

Anthony Freeman