OSCA Hong Kong 2014

 

A volunteer’s first-hand account:

 

Despite a long and challenging journey there, my time in Hong Kong was fun, exciting and six of the most enjoyable weeks of my life.

 

Prep week

The morning after I arrived prep week began and we were caught up in a tornado of activities! There were lots of people to meet (in total 28 teachers and 24 TA’s), and within five minutes of being introduced, we were making fools of ourselves in icebreakers and drama games. But we would soon learn that enthusiasm and a readiness to look an idiot, despite lack of sleep, is the remedy for a normal Monday morning on OSCA. Or any morning in fact.

The preparation week was our time to tweak and perfect our lesson plans, to get ideas for the drama sessions and come up with our opening ceremony play, but also to get to know each other and Hong Kong.

 

Camps

We had four teaching teams. Each team had six teachers plus a director, who’d taught the year before, and six TA’s. Each team went to a different school each week (although there were a couple of weeks where schools were shared) and each teacher had their own class. The children we taught ranged from 7-17, which made for a very unpredictable five weeks! The range of students kept the whole experience fresh and interesting; some were more difficult than others, of course, but by the end of the week I always loved them, and was sad to say goodbye.

In the mornings we taught three different classes (on rotation). We taught English, but not in the way that it would be taught in schools. Forget boring grammar exercises, OSCA is all about developing the children’s confidence and creativity in using English. I usually gave them one writing or drawing activity which they could take home, but spent a lot of the lessons playing games which involved them having to speak English and engage with the topic.  In the afternoons we held events, each organised and run by a different teacher and ranging from fashion shows, to sports days, from dance competitions to a murder mystery. These were a great opportunity for the students to practice their casual English in a non-classroom setting, and also to work as a team.

But my favourite part of the day was the drama session. Across the week, each class had to put together a play from scratch, which they would perform at the end of the week, in front of the whole school. It was the most miraculous journey to watch – at the beginning of a week they would hardly want to speak to you in English, but by Friday every single one would be on stage, performing. Many of the plays were completely nonsensical but every week, without fail, I was too proud for words.

Free time

The teaching was amazing, but that’s not all OSCA is about. After school, and at the weekends, we made the most of the opportunity to explore Hong Kong, which we soon realised had much more to it than we first assumed. We all expected the chaotic cosmopolitan business centre teeming with people from all corners of the earth; we all expected the towering skyscrapers and crowded street markets below; we all expected a city that is alive with activity at all hours of the day and night and we were not disappointed; we found all that and more.

Our accommodation was in Sham Shui Po, which is a very genuine area of the city and stands in stark contrast to the more touristy areas like TST and Central. This area, which we came to know and love, is full of tiny bakeries and restaurants which provided us endlessly with delicious food throughout our stay - although more often than not we had no idea what we were eating! This was the local Hong Kong, usually untouched by visitors, but a gem in its own right. The modern skyscrapers and metro sitting alongside ancient temples and beautiful parks was an incredible sight to see!

But this, still, we had expected. What we hadn’t expected was the Hong Kong that lies beyond the city. There we found natural beauty in all its forms. Our weekends usually consisted lying on beautiful beaches, exploring the smaller islands, wandering fishing villages, eating delicious seafood by the harbour, cycling up into the rustic villages of the new territories, or hiking mountains in the pursuit of waterfalls from which we could gaze into a beautiful sunset. Every weekend we would find another treasure, and as the weeks continued we knew we were seeing more and more of the secret Hong Kong.

OSCA was one of the most amazing and unforgettable experiences of my life. Yes, I got a holiday, I got a tan, and I got CV points. But OSCA is about so much more than that. My confidence grew through the teaching and I learnt the value of education and that enthusiasm can go a long way towards fulfilling a goal. I visited places and saw things that I will never forget. But most importantly I made incredible new friends, adults and children alike, from two different continents. I was sad to say goodbye to those in Hong Kong, but I think about them every day and trust that, however far apart we are, we will always have shared memories that bring us together.

All in all, that complicated journey to Hong Kong was well worth it!