Foreigners in Hainan | Eddie Mills:the first Overseas Communications Officer of HIMC

Mr. Eddie S. Mills came to Hainan from the State of Alabama of the U.S. with his wife and four children in 1993. He worked as an English teacher at Hainan College of Foreign Studies.

In 2000, Mr. Mills founded the International Education Exchange Association (IEEA) .

In 2004, Mr. Mills became the first cultural and educational expert in Hainan Province to win the National Friendship Award.

In 2006, Mr. Mills became one of the first group of foreigners in Hainan Province to obtain China's Permanent Residence Permit.

On July 31, 2019, and Hainan College of Foreign Studies signed a strategic cooperation agreement for international communication. The two sides will jointly build the Hainan International Media Center (HIMC). Eddie Mills was appointed as the first Overseas Communications Officer of HIMC. He will publish the most updated news about Hainan on his Facebook, Twitter and other overseas social media platforms, to tell the stories of Hainan and convey the voice of Hainan to the world.

Eddie Mills:  working in Hainan for 26 years, I’m very proud of recommending nearly hundred foreign experts to this place.

In 2000, Eddie Stephen Mills joined in the poverty alleviation project for villages which organized by China Education Association for International Exchange, CEAIE. The project provided chairs, desks and better English education resources for schools in Liugong Village, Baisha Autonomous County of Li ethnic group in Hainan. Eddie communicated with the local teachers and children. [Photo remake/ Lihao, Hinews ]

My name is Eddie Mills and I am from Alabama, U.S. I love China and Chinese people. In 1993, I came to China with my wife and my four children and taught at Hainan Foreign Language Normal School. I have been working in Hainan for 26 years, and I love this land deeply.

I remember that when I first arrived at the Hainan Foreign Language Normal School, only one teaching building stood inside, but now the campus has tripled in size, and it is well designed and beautiful. It’s amazing to see the changes in the past two decades. My children also like Hainan. When we arrived here, my oldest daughter was 13 years old, the second daughter was 11 years old, the third daughter was 9 years old, and the youngest son was 4 years old. All the students on campus wanted to play with them. My children made almost 1000 friends there within a week.

In 2000, Eddie Mills brought chairs and desks to the school in Liugong Village, Baisha Autonomous County of Li ethnic group in Hainan. [Photo remake/ Lihao, Hinews ]

The local students are very similar to the ones in other parts of China. They are shy, so my teaching approach was not strict while Chinese teachers usually tend to be stricter, and I tried to bring a little humor to class. Sometimes school leaders even stuck to hear the wall of classroom and asked if we were having a party. I tried to encourage all the students to speak English and let them discuss different things. I find that every student is shy, no matter they are from Hainan or Beijing, but once they overcome it, they would like to speak English boldly.

I also find that students don't realize how smart their teachers are for couple of times until I talk with their teachers in English in classroom. They are amazed and say “Wow, look at my teacher, he is speaking with a westerner”. Therefore, I usually pay attention to communicating with local teachers so as to enhance their confidence in learning English. In my memory, when I was teaching at Hainan Foreign Languages Normal School, I attended classes for thousands of students. They have been contributing to Hainan's English education and social development till now.

In 1999, Eddie gained the Hainan Coconut Island Friendship Award. [Photo remake/ Lihao, Hinews]

When teaching, I realized that I couldn’t manage to educate too many students on my own. The development of Hainan’s English education requires more high-level foreign language teachers, and it is necessary to improve teachers’ abilities. In addition, I also realized that we need to convince more foreign experts to support the development of English education here. Since 1993, I have recommended nearly 100 foreign experts to Hainan to be engaged in English teaching. To some extent, it will promote the development of the local English education and also make a demonstration to more foreign experts. This is one of the proud things I have done in my life.

In 2000, I founded the IEEA International Education Exchange Association (USA), a non-profit educational institution, hoping to build a larger platform for Sino-US cultural exchanges. The IEEA recruits international students and encourages them to visit Hainan. We also encourage them to help the local students to improve their English. In the past few years, more than 300 international students have come to Hainan through IEEA. They like to work in Hainan, taste local food and enjoy the environment. They also like to interact with local teachers and students.

Eddie Mills conducts summer school of English training for the local ethnic groups every year. The group photo of a training class was shot in 2003. Eddie saves photos of the calss every year. [Photo remake/ Lihao, Hinews ]

I find that English education in local minority areas lags behind other places, so I used all the money raised by IEEA to support English education in the areas. From 2000 to 2003, I donated nearly 600 sets of desks and chairs and students' urgent needs to four primary schools in Baisha and Baoting. I also helped a primary school of Li minority to repair the school building in Qiongzhong.

When I was teaching at Hainan Foreign Languages Normal School, I always drove more than 200 kilometers to the mountainous areas where ethnic minorities lived and offered English lessons for the students there. I have established a deep friendship with the teachers and students there. Therefore, when the Hainan education department asked me to form a minority English workshop in 2003, I immediately agreed. Although we had some difficulties, it was one of the most interesting workshops we have participated in. All the teachers were excited about this English project that was designed for the minority areas. From that year on, I will organize foreign experts from the United States every summer to come to Hainan, and jointly hold the Minority Summer English Workshop of Hainan Province with the Hainan Provincial Department of Education, which has been held for seven times.

In 1993, when Eddie came to Wenchang with his wife, only general middle schools can be found in the place. This photo shows an opening ceremony held in the first foreign language normal secondary school in Wenchang, and Eddie was invited to deliver a speech. [Photo remake/ Lihao, Hinews ]

In 1998, I was awarded the model teacher of Hainan Province; in 1999, I was awarded the Coconut Island Friendship Award which is the highest honor for foreign experts by the Hainan Provincial Government. In September 2004, I was awarded the National Friendship Award which was established by the State Bureau of Foreign Experts Administration, and was invited to participate in the National Day event that year. These honors have greatly enhanced my confidence in supporting the English education of Hainan minority. On January 9, 2007, I became one of the first foreign experts in Hainan to obtain a permanent residence permit. In July 2019, I was appointed as the first Overseas Communications Officer of Hainan International Media Center.

I still remember when the plane that I took landed in Hainan 26 years ago. Today the runway has been changed into Guoxing Boulevard. We have witnessed the changes of the airport, the construction of bullet trains and highway. Now many international routes have been opened in Hainan and we have more convenient international contact ways. We witness all of these changes.

Nowadays, Eddie is living with his wife in Hainan, China. [Photo remake/ Lihao, Hinews ]

People in Hainan remind me of my hometown and people there. They are quite friendly and they would invite us to their home. My wife also made an apple pie for them as return. We’ve made plenty of friends over the past few years.

Currently, Hainan Pilot Free Trade Zone and Free Trade Port with Chinese characteristics are in progress. Preferential policies designed for foreigners are introduced, providing a longer time of staying for those foreigners who work in Hainan. It also creates opportunities for excellent international students to innovate and start business here.


This picture means a lot to Eddie,  these people in Hainan College of Foreign Studies were the first group of students he taught in Hainan, China. When they graduated, Eddie took the precious group picture with them and his family members in 1993. [Photo remake/ Lihao, Hinews ]

In the future, the number of foreigners who visit, work and live in Hainan will grow. Therefore, it requires foreign teachers to have higher qualification in terms of English education. I’m willing to make contributions to this educational career.

Narrator: Eddie Stephen Mills

Responsible editor: 石一涵
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