Opinion / Specials

Dream big, work hard

By Joey K ( Updated: 2015-07-22 10:08

Dream big, work hard

Joey K and her students pose for a photo in Thailand.[Provided to]

If there is one thing I have learned about my students in the past two months it is that they really enjoy taking photos. Sometimes it is quite amusing watching them push each other away just to get a shot.

This is Thailand and I arrived in May as a volunteer Chinese teacher. We are on a program organized by the headquarters of the Confucius Institute or “Hanban”,aiming to promote Chinese language and culture around the world. I am a graduate student at the China Foreign Affairs University, majoring in English interpreting.

I was due to graduate next year, find a job and start life as an interpreter. Now, everything has changed and that plan will have to wait another year, or 10 months to be precise.

When the “Volunteers wanted” notice arrived, I didn’t give it any serious consideration before suggesting to some classmates that we should do this. As we were waiting for the results, it gradually dawned on me that I made this decision in an instant because it is something I have always wanted to do.

I didn’t tell my mother before I signed up as I was not sure whether I would get in or not. On the other hand, I knew that she’s always on my side. When I told her and my sisters they were all for it, just as I expected.

One of my best friends, the mother of a one-year-old baby, with whom we had made big plans of seeing the world in our juniors, was happy for me. “At least one of us is still free to do whatever we want,” she told me. This is not sad, just different life choices.

Then I got the good news and was ready to take the training program. But this was also the time when my worst fears came. There were rumors saying that graduate students might not be able to go based on the job descriptions of Thai schools, but there was no official clarification. I wasn’t confident of myself as I’m not a Chinese major. I was at a disadvantage as I’m also a graduate. So I worked really hard all through the training. I volunteered for the first trial teaching when none of the Chinese majors did. I wrote down all of our instructors’ comments and advice and went through them again and again to avoid further mistakes as well as improve my skills. I stayed up late every day to prepare for power point presentations. I went in for the teaching contest to challenge and motivate myself. All of this was to make sure I could stand out a little so that they may think it would be a pity to turn me down. I guess it worked. The time was rewarding and interesting. I was learning things and making new friends.

I went back to my university to await further notice and sort out my things. It is a pity that I won’t be able to graduate with my current classmates. I have to say goodbye to them, some of whom I have developed close ties with. I will be joining a new class when I come back in 2016. But as it is said: you win some, you lose some.

The first week in Thailand was really “eye-opening” or shocking. The students are nothing like those in China. They don’t seem to care about study or exams. They are too active in class. You can see all those “crazy” scenes while in the middle of the class: shouting, running around, throwing paper balls, braiding their hair, beating and kicking each other, lying there doing nothing, singing and dancing, anything you can think of. Teachers are just teachers. They are not frightening.

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