This summer I travelled as part of a team of Edinburgh, Cork and Portuguese students to teach English in the small, but incredibly densely populated and bustling city of Macau as part of the Macau Edinburgh Exchange Tour (MEET). Macau, previously a Portuguese colony, is a special administrative region (SAR) of China, much like Hong Kong which lies 40 miles away over the Pearl River delta. During my three-week trip I taught a small group of 12 to 16 year-old students, aiming to help them improve their conversational English and encouraging them to consider studying abroad.
Prior to arriving in Macau, we had no idea what level of English the class would speak, and indeed what age the students would be. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that our students already had a good grasp of English, so we could really focus on teaching them conversational, as opposed to formal, English. After discussing with our student’s, we decided to change the focus of our lessons to cover practical English that would be useful when travelling or studying abroad. The students were able to gain confidence by taking part in a role play showcase in front of other classes, and it was rewarding to see the shyer students rise to this task and gain some confidence. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to gain practical teaching skills which will be useful in my future career.
It was a great honour to be invited to one of our student’s family’s home for dinner. This was an incredible opportunity to see life in a different culture. The meal was fantastic, and certainly the best on the trip, and it was very interesting to see the differences and similarities between British and Macanese culture. Both the meal itself, and just generally chatting to our students allowed us to develop a better understanding of local life and culture than would be possible had we been visiting purely as a tourist.
Whilst our teaching experience was very positive, there were some issues initially with group morale. I arrived a couple of days later than the rest of the team and found that there was dissatisfaction with the programme organisation and accommodation. Not wanting to allow this to mar the trip, I asked around the team to identify a couple of key issues, which if addressed, would improve morale, then discussed this with the programme organisers on the behalf of the group. This was a good experience of team working and conflict resolution. As a result, morale started to improve, and I hope the team enjoyed the experience more as a result.
Overall, MEET gave me a unique opportunity to integrate into a city like Macau and interact with local people there, something that can often be challenging as a tourist. It also gave me the opportunity to develop teaching and teamworking skills, which are valuable transferable skills for future employment.