Cultural and Language Immersion Scheme 2015 is a 4-week summer programme, which is jointly organized by the Department of Computer Science and the Division of Building Science and Technology. Throughout the 4-week summer school experience, participating students are expected to improve in both communication skills and global perspectives. The scheme includes intensive IELTS preparation courses at Middlesex University London, cultural activities and community services designed by the partner institution. During our stay we are accompanied by Student Ambassors, from Middlesex University, who guide us during activities and excursions.
Students live with local homestay families and were encouraged to interact with the host families in order to improve their communication skills and get exposure to a multi-cultural environment. This also gives students the opportunity to communicate in English with increased confidence and gain a greater awareness of English culture. At the end of the programme all students take the IELTS examination in order to determine their English ability.
Learning to improve our English at Middlesex!
The program is hosted by Middlesex University in London. We attend classes with English instructors at the University's Hendon campus every weekday morning.
The classes aim at improving our English language skills in listening, reading, speaking and writing. In the classes we mainly focus in our weakest parts, such as reading and writing. The instructors also teach us some specific skills for the IELTS test that is different from the general English skills that we have learnt before. This is very useful in the final test.
The instructors gave us exercises to practice in class and homework, but they also provided some interactive activities like group discussion, individual presentation and debating. These kind of activities are interesting and was helpful for our learning as they make us thoroughly understand and apply the concepts we are learning.
We are also required to submit a journal about our experience in London, which makes us write a recap of what we have seen and visited in London.
Finally, we undertook the official IELTS test at the end of the program. The instructors are very friendly and are happy to answer any of our questions about the test and gave us further detail on it beforehand.
In brief, we have learnt much about English language and also the local culture in England. We all had a fruitful time at Middlesex University. It was definitely a special and unforgettable experience in our life.
Our student ambassadors from Middlesex University who spent much time with us!
Where did we live?
Students lived with different families in different communities in north London. Some families were close to the campus in Hendon, while a small number of families were further away from Middlesex University. All students traveled to the University using public transport, and even though some of us needed to make a longer journey by bus or Underground this gave realistic view of life in London. In most cases one student would live with each host family, but there were a few cases where two students settled in with the same family. Even if the student was the only one living with a family, there was no problems settling in as the host families are welcoming, warm-hearted and easy-going.
The host families were from many cultural backgrounds, and reflect London's diversity. Some of use stayed with families who originally came (or whose ancestors came) from India, Carribean, Africa or other parts of Europe to live in the UK. These selected host families were well-experienced, and were all very friendly and helpful. The host family would provide students with breakfast and dinner, with students taking care of their own lunch when they were at school. Students had many different experiences staying with the local families, and left with a lot of enjoyable memories.
What we did when not in class.
Although the schedule was tight, Middlesex University managed to arrange different extra-curricular activities after school and during weekends. Some of them were as follows:
We visited London Eye, Borough Market, Tower of London, Greenwich, Cambridge, Stonehenge, Bath and stayed overnight at Bristol...
During our trip, we avisited Wembley Stadium and the Olympic Park. We also did some very British sports activities, which were horse riding and cricket.
Even though our schedules were packed with various activities, we took advantage of the activities to gain deeper understanding of lives and places in England. This al made for a wonderful month of June in London.
They are ... CALIS 2015 participants!
This summer, I joined CALIS and took the IELTS preparation course in Middlesex University, London. The university was located in Hendon, northwest London, England, and the closest tube station was Hendon Central station. It was the first time that I went to the UK, so there were a lot of culture differences that raised my awareness. And because the university was in outer zone of London, I was able to experience the lives and fresh air which was different from the busy and crowded central London.
When I first got to Heathrow Airport, I was alone and unfamiliar with the new environment, but the student ambassadors were very warm-hearted and quickly approached me to know whether I am one of the students from Hong Kong. Unlike other people that I had encountered who picked me up at the airport, the two student ambassadors were always cheerful and smiling at me, and they also chatted with me as if we had known each other for a long time. I was happy because they made me feel secured and a sense of belong, and I was also surprised because people in Hong Kong never treated me like this if we just met for the first time.
Speaking of the friendly people at the airport, I also met a few strangers who helped me when I was in trouble. One of the most memorable moments I experienced was the time when I was in Wimbledon Stadium at the night of the Football Association Challenge Cup Final. I went there to watch the football match with a friend, but after the match we went home on our own. There were a lot of people coming out of the stadium, and the traffic suddenly became extremely crowded. My original plan was to get home by bus, but I waited at the bus stop for a long time, and the bus still had not come. I was worried because my phone was out of battery, so I could not plan another route back home because I could not use my mobile navigating application any longer. I was so frustrated, however, a stranger next to me who was also waiting for the bus started to talk to me. We talked for a few minutes, and he told me that he worked in that area, but he noticed that I kept looking at my phone, so I explained to him my worries. To my surprise, he generously lent me his phone and allowed me to use his cellular data to find another option to get back home. After I found another bus stop, he was so warm-hearted that he decided to take me to that bus stop in case I could not find my way there. I was afraid that he could possibly miss his bus so I refused, but he insisted to help me and said that he could also take a bus there, so we went to another bus stop together. Unfortunately, the bus did not come in a long period, while chatting, we decided to get some beer to keep us warm and finally my bus came first. From our conversation, he got to know more about China, especially Hong Kong, and I also knew that he was from Pakistan and we shared a lot of same hobbies such as football, badminton and hiking. I was moved by this man because we barely know each other but he was willing to help me and spent his time to ensure that I get back home safely.
In addition to the differences in interpersonal relationship between the UK and Hong Kong, I also found that British people had a better environmental awareness. First, I would like to share an interesting story. Like most of my classmates, I took the tube back to my host family every day and the nearest tube station was the second last station of Northern Line. I observed that there were a lot of newspapers left over on the empty seats. At the beginning, I was very angry about this phenomenon because I thought that they were throwing rubbish irresponsibly, so I complained to a teacher in Middlesex University. To my surprise, the teacher explained to me that this was actually an action of sharing, because the people on the tube wanted to give their read newspapers to whoever wanted to read it, so they just put it on the empty seat and we could pick them up freely in order to achieve the goal of recycling.
I also observed that British people had a good waste sorting consciousness. In my host family, the rubbish could be classified as general waste, recyclable waste including paper and cans, and non-recyclable waste, and dangerous items such as broken glass were carefully wrapped and marked so that the garbage collector did not hurt himself when emptying the rubbish bins. In addition, we had a special bin for food waste, it was said that the food waste would be donated to the local community and became fertilizers and be further processed and recycled. In Shanghai, which is where I come from, we also have a similar rubbish classification system, however, unlike the people in London, people in Shanghai are not serious of doing so. Although Shanghai also has rubbish bins for classification, most people do not think carefully whether their rubbish is recyclable or not, but this situation has become better in recent years. I hope that Hong Kong, which is where I live now, can also have a similar rubbish classification system so that our community will become more environmentally friendly.
In Central London, there were also bikes for rent, people could pay a small price and use it to travel. Because there were many rental sites, both renting and returning were convenient. By riding a bike, people could save their time or money on travelling, as well as contributing to the preservation of the environment.
We only spent one month in London, and the schedule was quite tight. Although the time was short in the UK, I still learned a lot of knowledge about the UK, such as the history of waterloo, the tradition of the royal family and some basic rules of cricket and horse riding, etc. I would say that this trip to London was meaningful, memorable and totally worth it.
Arrive at Middlesex University and homestay (28th May 2015) Upon arrival in Heathrow Airport, we were greeted by three very friendly ambassadors and were transported to the Middlesex University in Hendon. Then, we were given a lecture on our tour in London throughout the month and also oyster cards and telephone cards were distributed. There, all the student ambassadors provided much assistance to us and we were really grateful on it as they would not just be our guide throughout our study period, but also our best friends as well. In the evening, we were subsequently transported to our respective host family.
Buckingham Palace and Chinatown (30th May 2015) We were supposed to watch the changing of guard taking place there, but it was cancelled for the rehearsal for the queen’s birthday. Nevertheless, the rehearsal was still quite overwhelming to us as we watched the soldiers and horses marching into the palace. Later, we walked to Chinatown or a lunch and also to enjoy some free time there. After lunch, we walked across the river Thames or a ride in the London eye. It was a wonderful experience for everyone as we were ascending as the whole of London were visible from up there.
Greenwich (31st May 2015) We arrived in Greenwich and proceed to the beautiful campus of the University of Greenwich. We were very delighted to be at the garden of the University as it was the place many movies were filmed. Then, we visited the food market and time museum. Greenwich was an exciting place to visit as it deviated was an historical place and also exuded a country feel as compared to the hustle and bustle of London City.
Horse Riding (3rd June 2015) This was the activity everyone was longing for as most of us do not have the privilege to experience this kind of activities. Although the actual ride was only a mere 45 minutes, it was still enjoyable and we had learnt some of the fundamentals of horse riding. Besides, we were also given a tour around the stable and was told about everything regarding horses such as the diet and their species. Also, we have a chance to clean them and this inadvertently helped us to interact with the horses.
Tower of London (5th June 2015) The tower of London was actually a castle and prison before being converted into a museum today. It was of medieval architecture and possessed a huge compound divided between a few buildings. There, it housed many precious artefacts and exhibits such as military equipment from the past and also old books. However, the most treasured item was the crown jewels as the entrance and exits are strictly guarded. Overall, the place was a must to visit if interested in knowing British History in depth.
Cambridge (6th June 2015) All of us had an excursion in Cambridge during the first weekend. Cambridge was an old university town surrounded by a lush greenery. We were shown the way in the city by a tour guides which explained very concisely about the place. Then, we went into the famous King's Chapel in King College and was amazed by the architecture especially the colourful windows that adorned the building. Before we went home, we also had the opportunity to experience punting in the river.
Phantom of the Opera (9th June 2015) Among all activities organized or this trip, watching this musical was particularly the highlight of all. The phantom of the Opera was a famous musical here in London and watching a musical was a wonderful cultural activity to do here in London as it was not prevalent in other places. Besides, the combination of different music played during the show on top of the grandeur of the theatre made the overall experience relaxing and also overwhelming.
Olympic Park (11th June 2015) The Olympic Park is located in Stratford and also the place where the 2012 Olympic was held. There, we had a chance to enter ArcelorMittal Orbit which was a 100 meter tall observation tower and the view from the top was stunning. Moreover, we had a guided tour into the National Aquatic Center and able to witness all the training facilities there.
Bath (13th June 2015) Bath was a very interesting place to visit in England as it is the only remaining Roman-built baths in England and the entire is listed as a world heritage site. The architecture of the Bath were especially distinct owning to the material used which were a special kind of yellow marble. The Roman Bath House, with its famous hot spring was a notable feature there as it was the place where ancient romans congregated to discuss important issues at that times.
Glastonbury and Stonehenge (14th June 2015) In Glastonbury, we visited the ruins of Glastonbury abbey which was a monastery and also a grade 1 listed building. Later, the tour took some of use for a hike up a hill and it offered us a fantastic bird's eye view of the entire town. Also, the ruins of the abbey was a great spectacle if view from the top of the hill. Also, there was a church up on the hill and it really fascinated all of us as how the stones were transported up the hill in the past. After lunch, we had gone to visit Stonehenge as it was a prehistoric monument dating back to 3000BC. As explained by the guide, the radius of Stonehenge was similar to that of the Bath circle as it bears a hidden meaning.
Cricket (19th June 2015) For almost all of us, playing cricket is a whole new experience as we are able to learn a new game. All of us had the chance to be a batter and bowler. Then, all of us were separated to three groups and were required to compete among ourselves. Everyone play the game very seriously as we enjoyed the game immensely.
I thought back to the day when I received the promotion information about a summer program called Culture and Language Immersion Scheme, I applied for it without any hesitations since I knew it would be a great chance for me to improve my English and experience different kind of culture. Moreover, the trip was really a good bargain. The one month, I went to London for this summer program was an unforgettable experience.
At first, I felt upset because my first host and I did not get along well . However, when I talked to my professor and the Middlesex program organiser about my situation, they spared no effort to help me find a new host family. And this time, I lived with a very kind family. They provided delicious and sufficient food for me every morning and evening, such as full English breakfast with bubble and squeak, sausage, bacon, grilled tomatoes, fish and chips, roast beef and so on. These typical English food got me the opportunity to learn English culture better.
The host family were always chatting with me when they had spare time to help me had a deep understand in their daily life and culture. When I told them I was preparing for my IELTS test, they even practice the oral part with me. Owing to their help, I got a good grade in the test later and improved my oral English.
In addition to my host family, local people gave a very deep impression and it would be fantastic if could go there second time. People there were so hospitable and every morning, people wave heads and say good morning even we never met each other before. And the most impressing thing was that when I hang out on the street, a couple invited me to join their wedding and have fun. I never come across such warm invitation in both Hong Kong and Mainland China. Furthermore，people in London always say thank you to the bus drivers whenever they get off the bus. I really appreciate this kindness.
In terms of campus life in Middlesex University, we were arranged to take a placement test to identify students’ language level and prepared us a curse at a suitable level. The teaching style in England is quite different from Hong Kong. We only had around 20 students in a small classroom and student had chances to challenge our teachers. While in Hong Kong, most of the time student just keep silent and are busy for taking notes. The teachers were so professional, patient and helpful. When they chatted with us, they intend to talk a little more slowly to make sure we understand. My accent was changed a little bit since I found out the way I spoke was not appropriate and I tried to speak in an England accent. When I came back to Hong Kong, I was surprised to know that I can watch Do without the help of subtitles.
Horse riding was the most of the most anticipated activities in the whole trip. Since I had never ridden a horse before I was excited but nervous once we arrived in the farm. Everyone got a horse that was suitable for his or her height and weight. We were assigned with some trustworthy horsemen who knew how to ride and had been around with horses all the time. When the horseman made sure that the horse was calm and gentle, he helped me get settled on the horse and taught me to firmly squeeze the horse’s side lightly to make him walk. Finally, I learned how to ride a horse properly. It was a wonderful experience and I strongly recommend you to try if you are in London.
We also visit many interested of places in London, Greenwich, Old Royal Naval College, City of London, London eye, Houses of Parliament, Windsor Castle, Eton, Stonehenge, Bath and so on. I want to talk into details about the place where struck me most, British Museum. On first seeing a magnificent building, I feel very excited. It is a museum dedicated to human history, art, and culture and I read lots of interesting stories about it in books. When I walked inside the museum, there were great accounts of collations. There were the world’s largest and most comprehensive collections of antiquities from all over the world. I was so immerse myself in it and want to explore the culture from different kinds of background. The other landmark impressed me is London eye. It was such a romantic place that I would like to bring my girlfriend here one day.
The mot important thing is that I made lots of friends during this trip. At first place, we barely know each other. However, after fours weeks, we just so familiar and close.
This program gave me much more pleasure, excitement and help than I expected. The courses not only enhanced my English ability but also widened my horizons. I lived in an environment that allowed me to improve my oral English. The host family treated me as part of their family and I have been missing them during the last one month. The university also organized some activities that gave us the chance to show the Chinese culture. There were some outdoor activities such as horse riding and playing cricket, which brought us lots of happiness. I highly appreciate the efforts of Computer Science department and Middlesex University. Without their help, we can’t have such wonderful experience. It is a treasure of my whole life and I firmly recommence you to join this program if you have an opportunity.
The Cultural and Language Immersion Scheme 2015 was a cooperation programme conducted jointly by department of computer science and division of building science. The programme offered us a 4-week summer school programme organized by Middlesex University of London. The ultimate goal of this programme was to provide us an opportunity to explore the culture and society of London while improving our English skills. Intensive IELTS classes were offered at Middlesex University by professional English teachers during the working days of each week. During the weekend, student ambassadors would take us to explore the places of interest in London or experience cultural activities including sports activities and service learning.
In conclusion, I have experienced a special and unforgettable journey during the 4 weeks. I want to express my sincere gratitude to the kind hearted ambassadors in the summer school office of Middlesex University, and my lovely host family who have provided me with great food and comfortable accommodation. As for the academic outcomes, thanks to the intensive classes provided by the instructors, I am very pleased with my result in the IELTS test. This is a programmeme that I would recommend to every friends in City University of Hong Kong.
Cultural and Language Immersion Scheme (CALIS) is a programme organized by Division of Building Science and Technology from City University of Hong Kong. Students who join the programme can learn British culture through living in London for a month. In order to enhance academic level of students, the scheme involves IELTS test at the end of the stay and has classes in weekdays to prepare the test. In addition to this, there are other activities such as service learning, playing sports and scenic spots visiting for students to have better learning of British culture. Hence, I am very pleased to be selected to join the programme. In the following, I will divide passage into three parts, which are activities participated, learning experiences and benefits acquired.
Before starting to these parts, I would like to share a small story to express my feeling when I just arrived at London. After welcome briefing of Middlesex University of London, taxi driver drove me and other 4 students to our home stay. I was nervous. Along the way, I kept imaging what type of my host is, nice or strict. As my home stay was the farthest, I was the latest student to meet my home stay host among us. I saw other students met their host one by one, there were amiable old man, housewife, etc. Finally, I saw my host and she was a housewife. I got off the taxi and took my baggage. I realized I indeed arrived London and started to have an independent life here.
Activities Participated Various activities were involved in the programme. Therefore, I would like to classify the activities: sports, museums visiting, colleges visiting, service learning, and eating in markets.
To begin with, sports were activities I looked forward to participate as I love sport. Horse riding and cricket were two sports that we could truly took part in. I rode a horse that named Magpie for about 45 minutes. Although I was uncomfortable because of a wrong size helmet, I learnt basic information of how to ride a horse and had a great time with Magpie. Moreover, trainer taught me some knowledge about horse grooming and introduced different grooming tools. In addition to groom a horse by myself, trainer led me to horse fodder room and equipment room, where record all the data of horses so that feeder can take care of diverse horses correctly. At that day, I saw highly seriousness of horsebreaker. They paid close attention to all details in order to take the best care of horses. It was impressive and could remind me to do everything with greatly seriousness after I returned to Hong Kong.
Besides horse riding, cricket was another sport we could engage in. Before the day of playing cricket, I watched a cricket match with my host and he taught me some rules in cricket. It was new to learn sport rules from other country people in English, it also improved a relationship between me and host family. This made me to understand that sport can connect people with different backgrounds. At the day we played cricket, we divided into four groups and played matches. During the competition, I flung myself into that and knew deeper about cricket. I had to be honest and fair when I played cricket. No shortcut in cricket, I had to run a specified distance after I hit the ball, I could not run less, otherwise, I lost marks. As same as school life, there are no shortcut to get a great academic result, I have to spend enough time to study to get this.
Secondly, we visited various museums, where were National Maritime Museum, Bank of England Museum and British Museum, and that may the straightest way to know about British history and culture. The most impressive experience in these visiting was that I left up a genuine London Good Delivery bar, which was approximately 13kg, with one hand. It was interesting as it was my first time to touch it, let alone lift it. However, visiting museums was hard for me. It was because I had to read lots of introduction to know about exhibits and there were many new words there. In order to overcome the difficulty, I always asked our school ambassadors thousands of questions during visiting museums, thereby developed my English level and had better friendship with them.
Thirdly, colleges visiting were important for me to have a better look in British education system and differences between college in United Kingdom and that in Hong Kong. We had a tour in Cambridge, where contained University of Cambridge, one of the famous University in United Kingdom. Before I went there, I thought Cambridge was a university with great academic result only. Nevertheless, I realized that I was wrong. There was no doubt that students from Cambridge had outstanding performance in different areas, for instants, academic, sport, music, etc. Also, learning environment in Cambridge was astonishing, rivers, small bridges and lawns could be seen everywhere. It was unlike universities in Hong Kong. I think students may have better performance with great learning environment.
Another college we had visited was Eton. Frankly, I had never heard about Eton College before the trip. Tour guide told us some information of the college such as only boys are allowed to study in Eton and many of their students got into Oxford and Cambridge. Moreover, school uniform of Eton was introduced as well. It was a uniform of black tailcoat. I had never saw a uniform like this in Hong Kong so it was special. I saw the tradition of Eton College through the uniform. Students who worn the uniform showed their confidence even walking on the street. Apart from learning environment, teaching students to know about the history of the college may be another feasible way to increase their confidence so as to get better academic results.
In addition, service learning was an event that we prepared for a long time. Before we went to London, teachers required us to form some activities for students from primary school and elderly people in order to please them. For the elderly people, we played games, sang two songs from Hong Kong and taught them some treatments, which were convenient to do by themselves in daily life. Moreover, we had lots of conversations with elderly people. I realized that many of them had been to Hong Kong when they were young. Most remarkable was that some elderlies kept a watchful eye on political environment of Hong Kong. It was surprising since Hong Kong was a tiny place but got so much attention from a city for about 6000 miles far. I was ashamed of that as they concerned more about Hong Kong than I, a citizen of Hong Kong, did.
For the students from primary school, we taught them life style of Hong Kong people, language we spoke and how to use chopsticks. Children from there were active and concentrated on the lesson. They raised their hands immediately after we asked questions. During a break between lessons, they ran all the time and they were full of energy. I sweated like a boar after had a break with them. They were different from Hong Kong students, who were shy and passive. Besides, there was a rule in London that interested me, which was photos containing children were not allowed to post on the social media since they may wanted to protect their children. I do not think the rule is necessary for Hong Kong as we do not have many cases of children are showed in social media and then get bad influences.
More than that, I had been to Leadenhall Market and Borough Market in London. These markets were wonderful. Especially in Borough Market, there was crowded, various cuisines could be found there. After I bought Thai noodles, I found a large lawn, where lots of people were eating, near the market. I sat on the lawn and had conversations with people nearby while eating. I found that people in London were friendly and communicative, they also interested in Asia. Hong Kong also has some markets, but we do not have enough places for us to enjoy our foods and communicate with other people. I think it is important to have some places like Borough Market so that citizens can release their stress from daily life.
Learning Experiences Apart from learnt and immersed British culture through activities mentioned above, I also did that in Middlesex University and home stay.
I had to go to school in every weekdays morning as there were classes to prepare IELTS test at the end of our stay. Actually, the class was an English lesson. At the beginning of the lesson, teacher had a conversation with us as a preparation for teaching afterwards. Then the tutor gave us some practice papers or had some discussions with us so that we could familiar with speaking in English and the level of IELTS test. There was a little different from my expectation, which was western school provides more lively lesson than eastern school does. The lessons usually start from 9 o’clock to noon. During the lessons, we had a short break for about 20 minutes and I spent the time to play table tennis outside the classroom with my classmates. Sometimes, we played matches with other students from different countries. That was a great method to relax when I felt stressed about study. After morning lessons, we had other activities such as service learning or visiting in the most of the time. On every Tuesday, all students had a speaking test after morning lesson in order to be practiced in speaking part of IELTS test. I thought it was useful for me since it forced me to speak in English.
In addition to learn at school, I got knowledge in home stay as well. My host family always asked me how was the day when I backed to home stay. It was a great chance for me to start a conversation with them. Every day I learnt a lot of new words from the conversation. When we were having dinner, they introduced dishes to me and I took photos for the foods and wrote down the name. Hence, I learnt numerous dishes names after that. Apart from that, I would like to watch television with my host family after having dinner. We always had discussions about TV programmes. My host family played a significant part to create a fantastic English environment for me.
Benefits Acquired Through this programme, I obtained numerous benefits, which positively affected my life when I returned to Hong Kong. There were three main benefits that I acquired from the scheme, which was good academic result, made new friends and good living habits were trained.
Fortunately, I got overall 7.0 in IELTS test and it was obviously the most concrete benefit for my further academic career among three benefits. For example, I may have better chance to go into UGC-funded programmes with that IELTS test result than I go without that. Moreover, since I got an unsatisfactory result from English course called ELC in university in last semester, I can now use the IELTS test result to register another English course called EN in order to enhance my cumulative GPA that reduced by ELC result before.
Also, I made new friends from other countries in UK. I keep in touch with them after I returned to Hong Kong. I made friends with them when I was playing football and studying at school. One of the most amusing friend I made is Hardlk Surve, who is from India and studying master course in Middlesex University of London. We met when I was waiting for a speaking test outside a classroom. After we knew each other, he always gave me a lot of recommendations to have lunch with my classmates. It is glad to make friends with them as they are affable.
Moreover, as London always has a great weather, I went for a run in every morning. I used to go for a run in Hong Kong, but I could not persist it because of unscheduled work and rest. In London, I cultivated a methodic life habit. Thus, doing exercises before I went to school was easy to continue. Even I return to Hong Kong, I am sustaining to have an exercise in every morning.
To conclude, the CALIS programme was an eye-opener and gave me numerous new experiences, which were useful and unforgettable. Through the one month scheme, I have a big progress in either academic career or daily life.
Travelling to Europe countries such as France, Italy and The United Kingdom is always one of my dreams. Also, I do not want to spend my whole summer by just sitting in front of the computer and playing computer games. Instead, I want to do something which is worthwhile and meaningful, that is why I decided to take part in Cultural and Language Immersion Scheme and IELTS Preparation Course in June 2015 held by City University of Hong Kong and Middlesex University London. I joined this tour because it is held in London and we can take the IELTS course and examination during the tour. For me, it is a meaningful tour and it can also make my dream come true.
The aim of this tour is to let us know and understand more about the local culture of London. Also, we are expected to improve our English level and get a satisfactory result in the IELTS examination through the tour as we will need to speak much more English than before during the tour. I think the aims of this tour are nice and it is also one of the reasons why I choose to join this tour.
Before the tour, I had several meetings with our professors and other participants of the tour in order to get familiar with each other and have a better understanding of what we are going to do in London during the tour. I would say those meetings help a lot as they made me become well prepared for the tour. During those meetings, we were informed that we will be living with the selected home stay hosts and we will have two service learnings to do in London. Therefore, we all prepared some souvenirs to our hosts and also made plans of the service learnings. After we finished the preparations, the tour was about to start.
On the first day of our tour, 28th of May, we arrived at Heathrow Airport in London and went to Middlesex University London campus in Hendon by a coach. During the two hours ride to the campus, I kept observing the environment in London and I found out that the transportation system and the road signs are more or less the same with those in Hong Kong. However, the buildings and overall environment in London are totally different from Hong Kong. In London, tall buildings are rarely seen; most of the buildings are only two to three storeys high so that we can always enjoy the view of the whole blue sky upon us. It made me feel more relaxing and pleasant than in Hong Kong. After we reached the campus, we met our student ambassadors and they started distribute SIM cards and Oystercard, it is like an Octopuscard in Hong Kong but it can only be used for transportation, to us. They also taught us how to get to the places of our home stay patiently. All of them are very nice and friendly. After that, we were transferred to our home stay family.
I was quite nervous when I was on the way to my home stay family as I did not have any similar experiences before. Although the information of my home stay family was given to me before, I still did not think I know them well and I was afraid I cannot settle well with them. Actually, I got another friend live in the same home stay family with me but I was still afraid and nervous. However, once we arrived the home stay family, they greeted us warmly and nicely and it made me feel much better. They are an old married couple who have two sons and a daughter. They are very nice and caring so that I felt comfortable to live and chat with them. After we had settled down, they started to show us around their home. They also told us more about themselves and something special in London such as the highest building in London which can be seen from their home. We also told them how our life is in Hong Kong and they were interested in it, it was good and enjoyable to have such exchange of our cultures like that. I would really like to give my thanks to them as they really taught me much about the British culture in different aspects such as foods, transports, education system and so on. They told us about some traditional British food such as trifle which is a dessert that made from custard, diced fruit interwoven with sponge fingers and topped with whipped cream usually. The most interesting thing that they have told us is an occupation which is black cabs driver. Black cabs drivers are somehow like taxi drivers in Hong Kong but they need to have certain qualification, they need to pass a test called The Knowledge to demonstrate they have intimate knowledge of the geography of London buildings, streets etc. There are only around 21,000 qualified black cabs driver in London currently. It is interesting to me as I have never thought of being a taxi driver need such high qualification. I think it is better to stay with a home stay family then living in the halls of Middlesex University as it can let us have more chance to know more about the British culture by living and chatting with our home stay family. It can also improve our English level as we can practice our listening and speaking of English when we are communicating with our home stay family.
In order to get a better result in IELTS test, all of us needed to attend IELTS preparation course at 9:00 to 12:00 on every weekdays. At first, I found it quite exhausting to attend the classes since the place that my home stay family lived is quite far from the school campus, it takes around an hour to go to school from the home. I needed to wake up at 7:00 on weekdays and had my breakfast finished before 8:00 and then went to school by bus. The transportation cost is much higher in London then in Hong Kong so that we need to top up our Oystercard frequently in London. Also, I found out that British people used to have cereal as their breakfast instead of bacon, egg and toast.
Another cultural difference is that there are more activities during the lessons in London. The lessons in London are more interactive than Hong Kong, it can make the classes become more interesting and attractive. Therefore, I was quite enjoyed when I was having a class in London. Our teacher also told us many different British cultures which further enrich our insight. Our English levels are also greatly improved as we had many practices and tests of speaking, writing, reading and listening during the classes. It makes the tour become more meaningful. Moreover, I had made some British friends in the university. It was a great experience as I had never had a foreign friend before. We can share our cultures with each other and it can also help to enrich my insight and practice my English. Even I have now gotten back to Hong Kong; I still keep in touch with them by Whatsapp.
Apart from making friends in the university, I had also made some friends in the community around the university. As I love playing football very much and British football is famous, so I searched and found a football pitch near the university and I started playing football there from the first week I have arrived London. I made friends with local football players there and we played football on every Tuesday and Thursday in the afternoon. It is a memorable experience to play football with the local people in London. Their football skills are much higher than those in Hong Kong, it was very exciting to play with them. At the last time I played with them, I took a photo with them and it is very valuable to me as it was a really good and interesting experience.
There were usually different places for us to visit after the classes every day. For example, we had been to many historical places such as Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Stonehenge, Bath etc. Actually, there are historical buildings everywhere in London but I am still impressed by them. The environment and buildings in London are much more pleasant and beautiful than in Hong Kong, all of them are attractive. That is the cultural difference between London and Hong Kong, London is large so that they do not have to demolish historical buildings in order to build some residential buildings or commercial buildings. On the other hand, Hong Kong does not have so much land and the population density is high, as a result the protection or conservation of historical or memorable buildings is not that good as London.
Among all the visits, the most valuable and memorable one is the visit to a local primary school. It is actually a service learning, we needed to be teachers and taught the primary school students about the culture on Hong Kong and Chinese. At the beginning, we were afraid that the students may be bored. But once we met them, we found out that they were all very excited about our visiting, it made us feel released. We first introduced ourselves to them and let them read our Chinese names, all of them tried to read our Chinese name loudly and the atmosphere was so well. After that, we taught them our cultures such as some traditional foods and festivals of us, they were not like typical Hong Kong students who would just sit and listen to the teachers quietly. Instead, they were very active and not shy to ask questions. It surprised me as I have never thought of primary school students can be such active, it was totally different from Hong Kong. Then, we did some activities with them such as having a competition of using chopsticks and write and read their name in Chinese, they enjoyed those activities very much. Finally, we gave them some traditional Chinese knots which were made by ourselves to them and all of them were very happy about that. Seeing their smiley faces made me feel great and satisfied; it made me feel all the preparations for them are worthwhile. It was quite touching to see that they are all so excited and happy about our visit. They also gave us some thank you cards to each of us and I will definitely keep them well as it was really memorable.
Another service learning, which is the visit to the centre for elderly people was also very meaningful. We sang and danced for the elderly people and they seemed really enjoyed. My favourite part of the visit to the centre for elderly people is the chatting section with them. They shared the old days of London with us and it made us know more about the old British culture. They were also very interested in our culture too, so that we also told them about how is Hong Kong like nowadays. It is quite interesting that most of them still think Hong Kong is a British colony nowadays. I had learnt more about British culture during the chatting with them, it was very meaningful to me.
At the end of the tour, we needed to take the IELTS test before we leave London. After attending all the IELTS preparation classes and communicating with so many people in English, I found that my English level has notable improvement and the test was not that difficult to me. Finally, my IELTS test result was quite good and I was satisfied about it.
To conclude, I had learnt many new and interesting British cultures that I had never heard of before during the tour by observing the environment around me and communicating with the local British people such as my home stay family and the friends that I made there. My insight is greatly enriched during the tour. Also, my English level improved significantly because of the frequent communication with people by using English and the IELTS preparation classes. I really learnt a lot in this tour and it was definitely one of my most valuable, memorable and meaningful experiences in my life. I would really like to recommend others to take the chance and join tour like this; it is not only about fun, but also about learning and enriching your life during the tour. It is absolutely a meaningful thing to do to explore the world.
We would like to take this opportunity to ...
CALIS 2015 has come to a successful end. We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Middlesex University, London, UK for their warm receptions and thoughtful arrangements. It has been a meaningful and eye-opening experience to stay in a foreign country for a month to immerse ourselves and improve our English standard.
We would also like to extend our hearty thanks to those who were involved and helped directly and indirectly in preparing this programmem, including the cheerful student embassadors from Middlesex University.
Our particular thanks go to Department of Computer Science, Division of Building Science and Technology, College of Science and Engineering and City University of Hong Kong for their kind support and generous sponsorship.
We also thanks for the Hong Kong SAR Government by providing HKSAR Government Scholarship Fund – Talent Development Scholarship & Reaching Out Award.
Last but not least, we especially thank Dr Gerhard HANCKE, Mr Wilbur CHEUNG, Mr Peter WONG, Ms Queenie LAU and Ms Giovanna YAU for their constant and patient guidance throughout the programme.