Luke – teaching practicum in Shanghai

Luke, studying Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge, spent two weeks this summer teaching at a STEM camp in Shanghai to complete the internship part of his 150 hour TEFL qualification!

How was your experience on your teaching placement?

I was teaching Biochemistry to students who had just finished their GCSE’s in order to prepare them for their applications to university. This was quite a different experience to those in other camps since the students had a slightly stronger grasp of English and I had to produce class notes and slides for biology/chemistry lessons. The camp was held in a brand new international school in Shanghai so the facilities were second to none! 

There were only 4 in my class so we managed to bond together really well. I decided to split the course up into two halves – one half teaching scientific content and the other half where the students were to research and write their own scientific report. Since their scientific knowledge was quite basic, I spent 1 day teaching introductory chemistry and report writing, 4 days teaching AS/A-Level content (with some extended information into university content) and then one day dedicated to a topic which interested them of university level.

Between the two weeks of teaching, we had one day where we were taken around Shanghai by one of the teaching assistants from Shanghai and the other day we went to Disneyland with the students.

Would you recommend the program to a friend and why?

100% – the opportunity to teach in China was invaluable for me whilst pursuing an international career. 

I really wanted to teach in China, so I applied to Abridge Academy since they were more aware of my other commitments compared to other organisations. They also didn’t require expensive course fees and it was great to have paid flights and accommodation.

What did you learn from taking part in a teaching practicum?

I developed my communication skills through teaching advanced scientific content to second-language English speakers. The program also helped consolidate the work that I’d studied at university and helped me remember how much I love helping others. 

As a student I’m quite used to lay ins so I’d forgotten how early people get up for school – I guess it’s good preparation for when I’ll need to wake up early for a job! In the future, I want to work in the field of international relations. The international exposure and experience gained from the program will be very useful.

What was your favourite/ most memorable moment?

I was very lucky with such a small class since it gave me the opportunity to bond with my students. They’d offer me bubble tea or KFC when they were getting a delivery, we went out for food together and they bought me gifts to thank me. 

Also, since I can’t speak Mandarin, I was really grateful when they helped me book some activities over the phone for my onwards travel.

Where did you travel after your placement?

After the camp, I travelled around China for a few weeks alone. I went to some really rural areas to see the scenery and to a lot of the major cities. I wanted to do this on a budget so I had planned to stay in hostels, but after first going to hostels in the rural areas and seeing their standards, I stayed in hotels for the rest of my trip. One piece of advice – stick to the hostels in Beijing/Shanghai and go for the hotels in the rural areas! 

Once I’d travelled around China, I decided to go on a trip to North Korea – something that I’d never have dreamed possible. It was crazy being in a country shrouded in secrecy and with its unique, insulated culture. I had no contact with anyone outside North Korea and I could actually see for my own eyes the statues, monuments and places that the military marches are performed on TV. I went in secret to avoid worrying friends and family and I had the best experience of my life. 

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