Meet Silvina Rubiano (’22), a native Argentinian, who followed God’s leading to teach in China, and is now preparing to start a new chapter back in the United States.
What started as a gap year adventure in China turned into something very different for Silvina Rubiano (’22). It was long. It was unexpected. It wasn’t entirely her choice. But it was also pretty amazing—and just what God had in mind for her all along.
It started five years ago, when her son, Tyler, had the idea of taking a year off after high school. And he thought it would be awesome if his mom came with him. So they went to China together. After a year, Tyler went back home and enrolled in college. Silvina, who had taken a job teaching elementary students at the Concordia International School in Shanghai, decided to stay a little longer. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit—and she ended up staying even longer.
Far from home
Silvina first came to the United States at the age of 17, but then went back to her native Argentina to go to college. After getting a teaching degree there, returned to the U.S. to be with her American fiancé. They got married, but then she found it difficult to find someone willing to hire a young teacher whose native language was not English.
“So for 15, 16 years I couldn’t even find an assistant teaching job,” she explains. “It was very challenging. I was overqualified, but nobody wanted to hire me because of my accent. So later on, after 15 years, I finally I decided to go back to school and get the same degree in the United States.”
It was a big risk, and a big investment of time and money. But she also felt strongly that it was what God was leading her to do. It paid off when she finally found a job as a public school teacher in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, where she stayed for nine years.
It was then that Tyler had the idea of a gap year. They ended up in China, where Silvina got a job teaching Spanish at the Concordia International School in Shanghai. By the time Tyler returned to college in the U.S. (he is now a student at UW-Milwaukee), she had fallen in love with China, the people, and the culture. So she decided to stay longer.
“I knew that this was where God wanted me to be,” she explains. “I really felt called to be here and to serve and show God’s love to the Shanghai community.”
When the pandemic hit, her fate for the next few years was sealed, as China allowed very little travel in and out of the country.
God’s plan, not hers
But again, God had a plan that was better than hers. After much prayer and consideration, Silvina decided to enroll in an online program at Concordia University Wisconsin and work toward earning a Master of Science in Educational Administration (with principal licensure).
“I prayed about it, but I also was very fearful,” she recalls. “English is still my second language and I know that learning online is very difficult and challenging for me. I like to learn in a group. I like to go to class, listen to lecture. And so everything being independent and online, it created a lot of fear for me.”
That’s not even considering the challenges that distance and time-zone differences would raise. Shanghai is 14 hours ahead of Milwaukee, which can make it difficult to find opportunities to connect directly with people at Concordia. Fortunately, she found the people at CUW extremely helpful.
She has been a wonderful addition to our program as we all learned a great deal about Chinese schools, family structure, and educational expectations from her.”Dr. Christine Scudella
“The way the program is set up, they’re very flexible,” Silvina explains. “And Dr. [Christine] Scudella does an amazing job of listening your needs, and finding ways to support you. It’s been a completely successful experience, and I have grown so much a professionally and personally through this program.”
Scudella, assistant professor of education and director of graduate educational administration at CUW, is impressed by all the work Silvina has put in and the challenges she has overcome. She also appreciates what Silvina has taught her and others at CUW about life in China.
“She has worked through many school closures due to the government shutdowns in China,” says Scudella says. “Despite this and English not being her native language she persevered. She has been a wonderful addition to our program as we all learned a great deal about Chinese schools, family structure, and educational expectations from her.”
Mind, body, and spirit
Even in China, there were a lot of options for continuing her education online. Silvina chose Concordia because she didn’t want to go to a school “where you are only a number, and they only care about you academically,” she says. She believed strongly in the mission and the vision of CUW and knew she would get the personally attention she needed.
“I really wanted a more spiritual, holistic experience. And I knew that Concordia is committed to developing the mind, body, and spirit. That’s ingrained in all the studies, and that’s what I like.”
Now that she’s graduating, she’s eager to find out what God has in store for her next. She’ll be leaving Concordia International School (where she now teaches Spanish) and returning to the U.S. in June, hoping to find a job as a school administrator, with an eye toward becoming a principal.
“I’m just praying that God will help me to find whatever is needed or a leadership position I would love to step into,” Silvina say. “I’m very grateful with Concordia because I really was able to develop my leadership skills and become more confident.”
Whatever is next, she’s confident it’s going to be great. “I believe that God calls us to our vocations, to where He wants us,” she says. “And I will embrace the opportunity. Wherever He takes me, I’m open.”
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