Fifteen students took their maiden trip to Myanmar and spent the entire June in this South East Asian nation engaging themselves in the International Community Service Learning Programme organised by the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS). They returned home with inspiring experiences and new discoveries of themselves, the country and the people there.
In collaboration with the Phaung Daw Oo Monastic Education School (PDO), CLASS has been running the service learning internship programme in Myanmar for three consecutive summers. To help students get well equipped for the month-long internship, the College arranged pre-trip training sessions to familiarise students with the local culture and customs, as well as to cultivate team building and teamwork spirit. Divided into different workgroups, each student had a specific role to contribute to the programme from designing banner, T-shirt and logbook, arranging photo and video shooting, to preparing teaching materials, and planning for teaching and culture excursion. The group set off their discovery journey with excitement and enthusiasm.
After 9 to 10 hours of travelling, they arrived Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar where to stay for four weeks. As first-time visitors to the country, soon the students discovered that they had to acclimate themselves to a new environment and new life style. They needed to learn to support each other to overcome challenges, to provide each other with encouragement, and set goals for tasks and activities to work together with.
Photo 2: CLASS students receive certificates from the principal of PDO in recognition of their dedicated service. (Photo courtesy of Michelle KWOK and Harley NG)
A key component of the service learning internship programme was conducting classroom teaching at the PDO school. Each teaching team worked hard and put in the effort to teach the PDO students Chinese language, English language, mathematics or general studies. The job of being a teacher and working with a large group of local Burmese children in the classroom was never easy. Yet, it could be rewarding and fulfilling!
“Even though the PDO children are not familiar with Chinese pronunciation, they keep practicing with their classmates and asking me how to pronounce different Chinese words. I was impressed by their passionate and active learning attitude,” shared Jessica WONG, a year 4 student from the Department Asian and International Studies (AIS). “It was a sweet moment when they said ‘wo ai ni ’ (‘I love you’ in Chinese) to me!”
“I would never forget Burmese pupils’ enthusiasm, diligence and curiosity. Their passion for learning is commendable,” said Karen KAN, who is a Year 2 student from the Department of Linguistics and Translation (LT). During her teaching, Karen came to realise that each learner has his/her own needs, and she had to adjust her pace and learn to be patient to cater to individual child in her class.
Apart from teaching, CLASS students had the opportunity to explore the beautiful scenery and rich culture of Myanmar through excursion tours. They visited the city of Bagan, a UNESCO world heritage site and home to numerous huge temples and pagodas. They also travelled to the town Mingun, U Bein Bridge -- the longest teak bridge in the world, explored national museums and some other attractions, including a lacquer workshop about local handicraft.
”This trip was definitely a once in a lifetime experience!” exclaimed Cassie CHAN, a year 3 student in Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences (SS). “Myanmar is more than a developing country. It contains numerous monuments that are worth exploring,” said Carson POON, another SS student. “It is also a country filled with human touches. The Burmese are very passionate and willing to help others.”
“The month-long service learning internship programme in Myanmar has brought to our students long-lasting experiences,” said Professor Dennis WONG, Acting Dean of CLASS and course leader of the College’s professional internship course. “Yes the students have encountered problems of different kinds during the trip, but after we have communicated, they learn to tackle problems in a responsible way. I am also very thankful to the great support and help offered by PDO teachers to our students in teaching,” he said. Professor Wong is glad that the students have developed skills in problem solving, leadership, decision making, collaboration and communication; they have also discovered a deeper understanding of themselves and learnt to respect for others.
The CLASS International Community Service Learning Programme 2019 – Myanmar was supported by CityU’s Global Experience for ALL Funding Scheme (GEAFS) and with donations for student-related activities from the University.
Cover photo: CLASS students gain inspiring experiences from teaching in the Phaung Daw Oo Monastic Education School. Photo taken in front of the school building. (Photo courtesy of Michelle KWOK and Harley NG)
Photo 3: SS student Cassie CHAN enjoys the interaction with local kids very much.
Photo 4: AIS student Jessica WONG is deeply impressed with the positive learning attitude of the PDO children in learning Chinese.
Photo 5: To cultivate students’ understanding of different cultures, visits to picturesque places and heritage sites such as the Mingun Pagoda, the largest unfinished pagoda in the world, were arranged outside of teaching time.