This summer I had the privilege to travel alongside a group of students from the University of Edinburgh to Macau, China, to partake in the Macau Edinburgh Exchange Tour (MEET). MEET is an international exchange programme which aims to provide international experiences for those who would otherwise not have such opportunities. Groups of volunteers from Edinburgh, Cambodia, India and Portugal gathered worked together to create a three-week educational programme. MEET is a platform on which knowledge, culture and experiences can be shared. As well as increasing cross-cultural understanding MEET takes small but critical steps towards equality in educational opportunities.
During the programme I worked as a student mentor. This entailed planning and delivering an educational programme of my choosing for children aged 12-18 with the aim to provide opportunity for those from less wealthy backgrounds to develop and practice their English language skills. I worked alongside another volunteer and created a programme based upon cuisine from around the world. We discussed the different foods from across the globe, the history of food and it’s cultural importance. Our programme also aimed to educate about healthy eating and nutrition. Most importantly, it provided a relaxed and fun environment in which our students could work in a group and support each other whilst improving their language skills.
Although this experience was without a doubt a unique and incredibly enjoyable, it did not come without its challenges. Not speaking Chinese myself, communicating with our students (especially at the beginning of our programme when they especially shy), was at times challenging. My partner and I took a crash-course in perseverance, patience and creativity, developing numerous games and activities to engage and encourage our students. The hard work paid off and three weeks later our students were standing in front of parents, volunteers, students and government officials proudly presenting in English restaurants they had designed from around the world. The transformation was incredible to watch and one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever had.
China is an area of the world that I had not before visited and I felt privileged to have the opportunity to meet and work with individuals of widely different backgrounds, values and beliefs. I am extremely grateful to the Go Abroad Fund for enabling me to have this opportunity. This summer has been filled with challenges, laughs and memories. I have learned so much from all those I have met and will cherish this experience for years to come.
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