by Kerry Nesbitt
If you’re in your final year of University right now, perhaps you are getting tired of filling in tedious application forms, attending the odd and intimating interview and receiving numerous soul-destroying rejection letters. This is an experience that I now remember all too well. After receiving another such letter back in 2014 and being dangerously close to giving up on applications all together, I was persuaded by a friend to attend a presentation at my University about living and working in Hong Kong. I went along reluctantly, knowing nothing about Hong Kong or the Chatteris Educational Foundation, the organisation advertising the opportunity. Thank goodness I did; I found myself drawn to a graduate programme that seemed to be offering everything that I wanted – a teaching position, travel opportunities, cultural exchange and the big city experience.
Fast forward six months to August and I found myself in Heathrow, boarding a plane that would transport me to live on the other side of the world. I was feeling apprehensive but also incredibly excited. Growing up in Magherafelt, a small town in Northern Ireland, I had always dreamed of exploring as much of the world as possible and now it was finally going to happen! I was very keen to get started in the job itself as I really enjoy getting to know new people and talking generally- thus working as an English Tutor for Chatteris was the perfect job for me!
I worked as a PC (Programme Coordinator) in a post-secondary vocational college alongside a fellow PC and I absolutely loved it. My job involved planning and delivering activity-based workshops, chat groups and academic tutorials to students aged 17-25. Another big part of my job was promotion; signing up to join our English activities was entirely voluntary for students so we had to make them aware of the opportunities by sticking enticing posters all around campus and by getting to know their interests so we could design our programme accordingly. Chatteris emphasises making English learning fun so our workshops included making scones, pizza, cookies and tacos (the students really loved food!), writing Bucket Lists, making Christmas cards and offering dating advice for Valentine’s Day. We also planned and hosted events such as Halloween and Christmas parties and a very successful International Food Market that was attended by over 200 students. In between classes and events, we took part in something called ELEEP (English Language Environment Enrichment Programme) which involved watching movies, playing board games or simply chatting to students and asking them how their day was going. Sometimes I had to pinch myself to remind myself that this was real life- I was actually being paid to play Jenga and to discuss Harry Potter movies with students, as long as they were developing their English through the activities! Hong Kong students were very friendly and very funny-although they came across as shy at first-and they were always curious to learn more about my culture and where I came from. It was simultaneously both the most enjoyable and the most rewarding job that I have ever had in my life.
Chatteris as a graduate programme also offered a range of other opportunities to me including volunteering in the community programmes, organising my own professional development project, the chance to take part in ‘Chatteris Love’ cultural events and a general feeling of community as I instantly had over sixty new friends when I arrived in the city. I found myself doing things I’d never even heard of before including Dragon-Boat Racing, hiking, kite-flying, teaching cultural events at a local university, Bollywood-style dancing, travelling on the MTR, trying Chinese cookery, sailing on a junk-boat and learning to play the ukulele, to name a few. The school holidays offered me numerous opportunities for travel: I spent Christmas enjoying a Thai massage in Bangkok, Chinese New Year lying on a beach in the Philippines and Easter trekking the Great Wall of China with my best friends. My year abroad gave me so much more confidence in myself as a person and I am now less afraid when it comes to trying something new that is completely out of my comfort zone. I believe that my experience of teaching also helped me immensely when I was applying to Queen’s to do my PGCE as I had so much to talk about in the interview and more importantly, it really helped me to realise that teaching is definitely for me.
Hong Kong itself is a city for all your senses- as you walk around the streets there is so much colour everywhere, you can smell all different types of delicious foods, hear the buzz of people everyone, feel crowds moving past you and talk away to whoever is with you at the same time. You can just never get bored there. Apply to Chatteris and live the Hong Kong experience for yourself.
Chatteris Educational Foundation is a registered non-profit charitable organisation in Hong Kong that places recent University graduates in primary, secondary or post-secondary schools to help students to improve their English. Please check out the website for more information or feel free to contact me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org