China gave Industrial Technology teacher engineering experience

By Jasmine Fortier, Staff Writer

 Industrial Technology teacher Ashley Esther tells of experiences in China.

   Carroll High School’s current Industrial Technology teacher Ashley Esther was not always a teacher. In the past she also had the chance to travel overseas to China with her father’s business to be a technological design advisor.

   Starting in college, Esther studied to become an engineer. Even with her background in college, Esther went into her overseas job without much knowledge, and that which she did have was more centered on civil engineering which focused on big projects such as skyscrapers, rather than the smaller scale buildings this job focused on.

   Esther’s own father was the one who gave her the opportunity to work in China. After hearing him speak about needing someone to live overseas to work on an engineering project, she offered her help, which allowed her a six month duration on her China business trip.

   “[My biggest obstacle] probably was being away from home in a foreign environment,” Esther said. “It was my first experience being the minority, because over there everybody to a degree looks very similar, so I very much stood out.”

   Before going out of country, Esther decided to take a class on Mandarin, one of the two main dialects spoken in Hong Kong in order to be somewhat prepared for the impending cultural change.  However, it didn’t prepare her as much as she thought it would.

   “I don’t think anything can prepare you for China,” Esther said. “Going into that brand new environment was really strange. After being there six months, I noticed I could pick up certain words and phrases.”

   While in Hong Kong, Esther represented her father’s company in the form of a design engineer. The job entailed taking customers’ designs for what they wanted to be made and, after the company was sure they would be able to build it, taking the designs to the manufacturer to make sure it was built properly.

   The language barrier was not a problem for her job; instead it was the Chinese culture itself. In China, women then were typically seen as beneath men, so the Chinese businessmen did not always take Esther’s words at face value.

   Because of this, customers and fellow employees would usually wait for Esther’s boss to confirm her claims before believing them. In fact, during one of the meetings she attended with another co-worker who had no experience or knowledge of engineering, the Chinese men would often look to him to see if her words were true, even when he explained that she was the expert.
   Esther’s previous job did, in a way, lead up to her current teaching job. She really had enjoyed engineering, so when she had the chance to train to teach engineering, she took the opportunity. While she says that the skills she acquired in China have little use in her life today, the experiences she gained affect her to this day.

   “I think it’s really important as an American and as a young person to think about seeing the world from outside the scope of America,” Esther said. “I think it’s really important to travel to realize your mind set is not the only mind set, to see how other people live.  I think that’s really important for students.”