Bursary funded my life-changing experience in Hong Kong

After countless hours spent practising my lesson plans, and 24 hours of travelling, the moment had arrived. I was standing in a classroom in Tang King Po College, Hong Kong, waiting for my very first Cantonese-speaking pupils to arrive for their English lesson.

The next seven weeks were a whirlwind of lessons, cultural exchange, sightseeing and friendship. My stay in Hong Kong in July 2015 and my travels afterwards through Vietnam and Cambodia were certainly life-changing. The whole expedition was only possible because of a £350 travel bursary from OUS Dorset – one of the 220 groups in the worldwide Oxford alumni network.

I taught English at two different schools in Hong Kong as part of three one-week camps run by the charity Oxbridge Summer Camps Abroad. The children’s ages ranged from 11 to 14 at Tang King Po College to 16 to 18 at the Ko Lui Secondary School.

The first day of each camp was always tough. The students were, in general, shy and cautious about their new teacher from England, but this shyness soon gave way to their unique personalities and an exciting day of teaching. A typical day consisted of three one-hour lessons in the morning, an hour of drama, and an afternoon event (such as a Dragons’ Den-style activity or sports day). Each summer camp was run by volunteer students from Oxford and Cambridge, and teaching assistants from universities in Hong Kong.

As a medical student, I could not resist teaching about the human body. My favourite lesson involved asking the children to describe the physical features and characteristics of superheroes, and they then drew their own. I encouraged the children to only speak English to boost their confidence about speaking in a foreign language. Some of them were also interested in my experiences studying at Oxford.

We taught every weekday and spent the evenings planning the next day’s lessons based on how the children had responded to previous classes. This meant our weekends were free, and the teaching assistants acted as our comprehensive guides to Hong Kong. They showed us many amazing islands, including Lantau Island famous for the Po Lin monastery and its giant Buddha, and the best off-the-map attractions. One of my favourite evenings was eating dinner at a teaching assistant’s apartment.

I have no doubt that the skills I have learned from this experience will benefit me hugely during my remaining time at Oxford, as well as during my career as a doctor and in my life in general. In addition to public speaking, I feel my ability to communicate effectively with children and young adults has improved – an essential skill for my medical career. I am also determined to encourage other Oxford students to volunteer for OSCA.

As I come from Dorset, I look forward to becoming a member of OUS Dorset when I finish my studies.

Nicholas Turner (St Hilda’s, 2013)
3rd year medical student