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Anthro Grads Head to China

Department of Sociology/Anthropology News


For 2009 grads Megan Jumago, a sociology-anthropology major, and Courtney Helfrich, an anthropology major with minors in biology and environmental Studies, graduate school is not in the immediate future. Instead, they are headed to China to teach English. Neither wanted to attend graduate school right away, and both are interested in working internationally.

Associate Professor of Sociology Dr. Ming Tsui recommended the program to Jumago and Helfrich. They are not the first Millsaps graduates to participate in a teaching program abroad, either - recent graduates Matt Casteel, Chris Kelly, Meghan Pigott and Ellen Bielmann have all done similar things.

Jumago and Helfrich plan to teach at the same university in Wuhan's education district. Wuhan is an urban area of about 9 million. "It's kind of scary," says Jumago, "but it'll be a really fun adventure."

The two grads, who are both sorority sisters and good friends, began throwing ideas around about what they would do post-graduation starting two years ago. When they both realized they were seriously considering working internationally, they began to combine their plans for an unforgettable abroad experience.

Neither of them knows Chinese, though Jumago says she has Rosetta Stone. "Chinese is difficult because there's no crossover," says Jumago. "You can't connect it to English." Because they will be teaching in a university, students they will interact with will have had prior exposure to the English language. As a result, they will be teaching colloquialisms, conversation styles, business English and will help students prepare resumes. In addition to teaching, Helfrich plans to take classes in Mandarin at the university. She sees her experience as the perfect opportunity to learn another language.

Their temporary employment status requires them to obtain sponsorships from the university in Wuhan, as well as work visas. They will teach from September to June, though are by no means set on what will come next.

Neither Jumago nor Helfrich is interested in returning to the U.S. right after their year abroad - Helfrich would like to continue traveling and Jumago is interested in continuing teaching, working as a translator for an international business or guiding tours for international tour companies. Both will keep their "options and ears open."

Both graduates have traveled abroad several times throughout their four years at Millsaps. Jumago took Dr. George Bey's "Maya Culture and Ecology" course in Yucatan and has also been to Spain. Helfrich took Dr. Bey's "Living in Yucatan" course, participated in a 6-week dig at Kaxil Kiuik in 2008 and served as Dr. Bey's Ceramics Assistant at Kaxil Kiuic this summer.