Never in his wildest dreams did Andrew Downard expect to board a plane after graduation from Emory & Henry and leave behind the place he’d called home since enrolling in the school in 2010.
“During my senior year, my dream was to live and work in the Appalachian region,” said Downard, a native of Manassas, Va. “I never thought I’d trade these mountains for a place that was completely foreign to me.”
But, that’s exactly what he did.
During spring semester of his senior year, Downard learned that Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., recruits and places Americans each year to teach English in universities and public and private K-12 schools in China. With assistance from Dr. Celeste Gaia, director of the Office of International Education at E&H, Downard was accepted into the university’s Appalachians Abroad Teach in China Program.
Downard is among an average of 50 Americans who are placed in China each year.
Landing his first job as an English teacher in China, Downard discovered he had not abandoned the things he held close to his heart. “In fact, I realized I carried my experiences at E&H and the Southwest Virginia region with me thousands of miles from home to benefit both myself and my students,” he said.
Downard’s work is supported by Henan Marshall College, located within the Henan Institute of Education in Zhengzhou, China. Henan Marshall College is a joint subsidiary of Marshall University and the Henan Institute of Education.
The E&H graduate teaches approximately 60 students from throughout the Henan Province who are candidates for coming to America to enroll in a two-year program at Marshall University. Downard instructs students between the ages of 18 and 22 in Language Composition 101 and Introduction to English.
“I am one of the first representatives of the Western world my students have seen. I have to make sure they not only understand the English language, but also that they see the Western world as a place that’s not nearly as foreign as they believe it to be.”
A 2014 double major in Public Policy and Community Service (PPCS) and European Studies, Downard credits Emory & Henry for preparing him for this adventure.
“During my education at Emory & Henry, I was constantly challenged to engage my learning inside and outside of the classroom. Courses with service learning components allowed me to use what I was learning in the classroom and put it to use in a real world placement site,” said Downard.
“My academic adviser, Tal Stanley, repeatedly told me I was capable of being an agent of change in society,” he said.
“Emory & Henry taught me to push myself and to relish challenges.”Andrew Downard
Downard said serving the Glade Spring community was among his greatest accomplishments as a senior at E&H. While performing practicum requirements for the Public Policy and Community Service program, Downard served with Glade Spring Town Manager Brian Martin to help implement town planning projects that included writing grants and creating the Glade Spring Fling Charity Race.
“This opportunity showed me that being an active citizen of change is not purely an act of civic engagement. Rather, it requires an individual to open his or her heart and accept and love a place for its beauty and worth.”
Hometown: Manassas, Va.
Major(s): Public Policy and Community Service and European Studies
Extra Curricular Activities: Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity, Emory & Henry Cross Country