OSCA Hong Kong 2013


On 8th July 2013, 28 Oxbridge students boarded planes heading halfway across the world, and little did we know that we were about to have the summer of a lifetime.

We landed in Hong Kong, all slightly nervous about the challenge ahead of us: six weeks running summer camps, teaching English to young students. Typically we taught kids aged between 8 and 13, but it does vary. After spending the first day shrugging off the jet lag, moving into our student accommodation, and getting to know one another, we got started with Prep Week. We spent the first week preparing our lessons, making sure we had all the teaching equipment we needed for the camps and our lesson plans were up to scratch. This definitely helped calm our nerves!

We also met our teaching assistants (TAs), all local HK students. The TAs played a huge role in our enjoyment of our time there: they showed us the city, the best places to eat, the classiest places to go out and the thriftiest places to shop. We all became good friends with the TAs; thankfully, they were a massive help in the classroom when things got hairy!

Once Prep Week had finished it was time for the real thing – running the summer camps. The 28 of us split up into 4 teams of 7, each team led by a Director who had been on OSCA HK the previous year. Each team runs a different camp each week and it’s entirely up to each team as to how they want to run the camp and the lessons they teach. But the OSCA-style of teaching English isn’t like how we might learn French or Spanish here in the UK. We don’t do grammar and we don’t do vocab. Instead, we have fun. We wanted the students to use their knowledge of English actively, so in lessons we got them writing poems, role-playing and improvising. There was lots of drama, too. At the camp’s Closing Ceremony, each class had to perform a play that they’ve written and directed to the whole camp. The plays they came up with were hilariously quirky, and almost always involved a dance to One Direction or Lady Gaga. Each afternoon we would also run a whole camp activity such as a murder mystery, a mini-Olympics, or a catwalk competition. These weren’t easy to organise but it was the part of the day the kids were most enthusiastic about and we always looked forward to it after teaching all morning. Because our style of teaching is so active and engaging, the days can be very tiring and long. At first it’s quite tough, especially when kids misbehave. But there wasn’t a day when we felt like we were actually working, because we were too busy enjoying ourselves! It was so good to see the students grow more confident of communicating in English with us and even among themselves as the week progressed.

One week, my team worked in a pre-university camp, so instead of playing games and drawing, we engaged them in debates and short lectures on feminism, national identity, and the global food crisis. We ran a model UN session, as well as providing them with interview practice and tips on writing a personal statement. It was very demanding, but also rewarding to help out teenagers in the process of applying to university.

But we didn’t just work all the time there! OSCA is quite “work hard, play hard”, and Hong Kong is a city that lives up to all its preconceptions. We expected a 24/7 urban jungle: a city teeming with frenetic commuters and cars in the morning, and crammed with the young and beautiful partying through until the early hours at night; men and women power striding down the avenues in expensive suits on their way to their glistening skyscraper offices; endless tiny lanes packed with restaurants churning out to-die-for cuisine; street markets packed with unusual and exotic goods. And of course, this is exactly what we got. It’s the Hong Kong everyone knows, and we loved it, too.

But there’s a whole other aspect to Hong Kong that we did not see coming. From pristine seas and secluded beaches, to dense jungles and verdant mountains, Hong Kong is not so much a city as a microcosm of South Asia. We spent our weekends hiking through rainforests to find refreshing waterfalls, and taking boat rides across to one of the islands that comprise this tropical archipelago, where life is still rustic, traditional, and quiet. HK is full of surprises, and even though we spent six-weeks there, there’s still so much of the territory we didn’t have time to explore. We all fell in love with HK as much as we did with teaching.

It was all over too quickly. We were sad to leave when the time came just six weeks later, but we’d all made such good friends with one another that we knew it wouldn’t really matter. Many of us went travelling together around places like Vietnam, Korea, Japan, China, or Malaysia, and we now see each other regularly back at university. We all agree it was a “once in a lifetime experience”, and the memories we made will stay with us forever.