My Site Southwest University in Chongqing China

It’s been a little while since my last post. I got my site placement, final language exam, said goodbye to my Chengdu host family, swore in as a volunteer, moved to Chongqing, and started to get settled. I begin teaching on Monday. I teach mainly oral English to freshman and audio-visual English to juniors this semester. Bellow are some photos from the past few weeks. I am looking forward to the next two years at SWU in Chongqing.

All the volunteers who trained at Chengdu University with our TEFL trainer and are amazing language trainers.

All the volunteers serving in the Chongqing area. Plus our program manager mama Peng and assistant manager. I think 18 volunteers total.

All the China 22s volunteers with our Peace Corps country director, the US ambassador to China Max Baucus, and the Chengdu consulate consolr general Raymond Green. I think 83 volunteers total.

Me, my CDU training site manager the wonderful Zhang Yupei or Chloe, and my friend Skip now a volunteer in the province of Guazhou.

Me and US ambassador to China Max Baucus.

My language class at CDU. Garret, Jacob, me, Stephen, and Oscar

My sitemate CC and I’s luggage on its way to site via express service. It could not fit on the fast train from Chengdu to Chongqing.

Some photos of Southwest University where I teach

Photos of me and my homestay host dad in Chengdu, Liu Xiao Ping. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and friendship. Also community basketball game with out host families at CDU. Saying goodbye to CDU group photo.

Peace Corps training weeks 4 and 5, model school

During the fourth and fifth week, of the ten week Peace Corps service training (PST), volunteers co-teach and oral English class to Chinese university students. While many at my training site including me have taught before it always good to get new experience especially with students similar to those we will be teaching for the next two years. This was just a two week class so my co-teacher, Megan and I, decided to focus in improving out students situational oral English skills. We lead off with introductions then taught students about using English while traveling, at schools including university, shopping, holidays, parties, and popular culture in United states like sports music and movies. Overall I think the classes seemed to go well both the ones we individually taught and co-taught as well. The students even claimed to learn a thing or two from us and improve their speaking ability of English as well. While many in China learn English there is greater emphasis on listening and writing, which is why we focused on actually speaking English. I really appreciate the students coming to spend their free time over summer break working on speaking English when they could have been doing other things.

From left to right Flora, Chris, Ki Ki, Megan, Me, Edith, Lisa, and Reagan. I can only hope my students at my permanent site are as eager and willing to engage as they were.

Next in training we continue language work, interviews with site mangers, and have some TEFL classes before we find out our permanent site in week seven. Then have site visits in week eight. Site specific training in week nine and officially swear in as volunteers in week ten. Side note I have done a little traveling I hope to post those photos in the future when I am not so busy with training.


First two weeks of PST

What is PST. That is peace corps service training. In the China program it consist of the first 10 weeks of service prior to swearing in as a Peace Corps volunteer and teaching at a university in China for two year. The first two weeks all 83 volunteers of the China 22 were at a hotel in the center of the city of Chengdu prior to staying with host families around the Chengdu area for the next 8 weeks. My training site is at Chengdu University on eastern side of  Chengdu with another 20 some volunteers with in walking distance of Chengdu University.

The first two weeks of training at the hotel was a lot of administrative training mainly medical work, safety and security, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), and language and cultural training. I was also able to visit the Chengdu panda research center and a Buddhist monastery in the city of Chengdu as well.

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Group of Volunteers visiting the Panda Research Center

Panda Life


Red Panda Life


Hanging in a Tree



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Baby Panda Life

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Buddhist dragon and a temple in the background

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Outside view of one of the Buddhist temples
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 Buddha or a cast of Buddhist monk that reached enlightenment not entirely sure.

Before the Peace Corps

Hello thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I’m Nathan Corso a soon to be Peace Corps volunteer serving in China from 2016-2018. I will be part 22nd Peace Corps group to serve in China and part of the last group of Peace Corps Masters International program in conjunction with Virginia Tech’s Masters of Public and International Affairs. I will likely have to due research and write a thesis or major paper related to my time in China to help me complete my masters degree. What will I be doing in Peace Corps China? After training this summer I will be teaching at a later to be revealed university in China. I will most likely be teaching English or possibly, American or English literature, US history, or classes on American culture. The job specifics and location wont be revealed until late into training. This first blog will mainly be informative about China and the Peace Corps. After this first post hope the blog will have more of a narrative feel and I can be more reflective about time life and times in China.


Picture of my bags. Wanted only one carry on to free me up during travel i’m not sure if its possible, but i’m still working on it. Also would have liked to bring one of my acoustic guitars, but I saw a few places in the training city Chengdu that sell them. I also heard at most sites have instrument shops, so I decided against bringing a guitar. Could feel a bit naked with out one but I look forward to haggling and getting a good deal on a quality guitar. I saw shops that sell Epiphones, Gibsons, Seagulls, Taylors, and others starting at around couple hundred US dollars so i’m not that worried.  I do wonder if I’ve  packed too much since I decided to bring a lot of winter clothes and a winter jacket as well just in case. Watch me be placed in southern China and never need them, but better safe than sorry I guess.

This first blog is more about the country of China itself more than my pre-service time since there isn’t really much to say on that. I have been studying Chinese as much as my could since returning to St. Louis from Blacksburg in early May. I have been studying mainly using online tools, reading books on china culture and language, listening to podcasts, and using phone apps. I was able to visit with friends and family, spend a weekend at my families’ lake house, swim in my parent’s pool, and mentally prepare for the next two years. I will spend one day of staging in San Francisco on June 17-18 then depart for the city Chengdu the capital of Sichuan province in China where I will spend my first three months in China for Peace Corps Pre-Service Training (PST). I will then be spending the next two years teaching at a Chinese university site location and university TBD.

Some quality basic information on China can be found through the world factbook of the CIA listed here:

East Asaia ImageChina_in_southern_Asia_Map

Some Background information on China

For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the country was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. After World War II, the communists under Mao Zedong established an autocratic socialist system that, while ensuring China’s sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life. After 1978, Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping and other leaders focused on market-oriented economic development and by 2000 output had quadrupled. For much of the population, living standards have improved dramatically and the room for personal choice has expanded, yet political controls remain tight. Since the early 1990s, China has increased its global outreach and participation in international organizations.

Also worth noting that China like other Asian countries are grounded in collective identities due to the philosophies of Confucianism, Taoism, and to a lesser extent Buddhism. Collectivist cultures emphasize family, work, and other group goals above individual needs or desires unlike western civilization that have developed to be grounded in a more individualistic identity.

China Facts of note

  • Fourth largest country in terms of size (slightly smaller than United States)

  • Population over 1.3 billion people (July 2015 est.)

  • Ethnic groups- Majority Han Chinese 91% (Chinese governments recognizes 56 ethnic groups, including Tibetan, Korean, Zhuang, Mancu, Mongol, Uighur, and others

  • Languages- Officially Mandarin learning is required by Chinese government- There are many other languages and often unintelligible dialects of Mandarin spoken throughout the country such as Cantonese, Shanghaiese, Wu, and others

  • Religion-Officially China is Atheist. However there are many practicing Buddhist, various Chinese folk religions, Christians, Muslims, Taoist, and others (52% say they are unaffiliated)

The Food

I think you can also learn a lot about people by how they eat. Unlike the more common Cantonese food found throughout the United States, there is a wide variety of types in China and one style dominates of the rest, that of the province of Sichuan where PST is taking place. The food especially in Sichuan province during training is something I’m really looking forward to. Food in China like elsewhere varies by widely by region what is popular in one province may not be in another. I see a lot of hot and spicy Sichuan dishes and the communal dining of hotpot in my future with various dumplings and noodles as well. What is hotpot? Hotpot also known as Chinese fondue is one of the most popular meals in China. It consists of a simmering metal pot with broth at the center of a table, and all raw ingredients placed beside the metal pot, so people can add and cook whatever they like in the broth. There are several types of hotpot, based on different broths, vegetables, meats, and other ingredients, so Sichuan hot pot suits customers of different preferences: salty, sweet, or sour flavors all are available

Info on Peace Corps

  • Founded- 1961 by JFK

  • Over 220,000 Americans served in over 140 countries since founding

  • Currently around 7,000 serving in 63 countries

  • Service last for 27 months, 3 months of training both language and technical, then 2 years of service.

  • Volunteers work in areas of education, health, environment, community and economic development, youth development, and agriculture

More info on the Peace Corps and the various countries in which people serve can be found at the Peace Corps website

Going forward this blog will focus on my life and times in the middle kingdom over the next two years, teaching, struggles and success of integration, language learning, food and beverage tastings, travel, with maybe some updates on some of other writings notably song and screenplay writing. Time will tell how active I’ll be posting and how short or long post will be, but I hope it becomes a regular activity. Any input or constructive criticisms is always welcome, thanks for reading.

Note: Information in this post can be found through CIA world factbook, Peace Corps website and welcome book for the Peace Corps China.