Stint in the outback improves cultural awareness and English

Wan Mei-ting, Year 3 and Chan Kin-lai, Year 2, College of Humanities and Social Sciences students

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We joined the English Immersion organised by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, spending our summer living and working in Australia. Our group of 15 students was based in Rockhampton, a small town in the north of the state of Queensland, for nearly a month.

We attended English lessons at CQUniversity (CQU) to improve our language competence, with a focus on writing, speaking and listening. Guest speakers introduced us to Australian culture, which gave us interesting insights into the differences between our respective cultures and nuances of each.

We stayed with host families, who thoughtfully prepared tasty meals for us and drove us to the CQU campus every day. Internet access in Rockhampton is not as readily available as in Hong Kong, so we were encouraged to spend more time with our host families rather than staying in our rooms chatting with friends online.

In addition to English lessons, we participated in voluntary work arranged by CQU and CityU to serve the community. We were assigned to conduct a survey of the audience of a local voluntary community radio station, Radio 4YOU.

Divided into groups, we were to handle different part of the survey, including questionnaire preparation, data collection, data analysis and website construction. All of us took part in the data collection phase so as to ensure we got a sizeable survey sample. We interviewed local people in a shopping mall and at the annual Rockhampton Show, a three-day family carnival that featured dances and bands, game stalls and a ferris wheel. It was an amazing show that brought the entire town together. There was much laughter and joy and the eclectic mix of activities gave us a wonderful opportunity to experience Australian culture.

Residents of Rockhampton found it a bit strange to be approached for an interview by a large group of Asians. Luckily, most of them were very nice and willingly responded to our questionnaires. At first, we had a bit difficulty understanding the Australian accent but eventually we got used to it. We enjoyed long conversations with the respondents, who were interested in what we were doing and where we were from. We grabbed this golden opportunity to discuss Hong Kong and encourage Australians to come for a visit.

Around 500 questionnaires were collected. We collated the data and analysed the results and found the primary audience of Radio 4YOU to be senior citizens with a preference for old-time songs. A website was later constructed to promote the station in a cost-effective manner.

We also visited the Capricorn Caves, an ancient system of above-ground caves set into a limestone ridge. This adventure revealed the power of nature and reminded us of the importance of protecting our environment.

After we returned to Hong Kong, the President of Radio 4YOU wrote a letter to the College, praising our work of research for helping the station to secure renewal of its five-year licence and giving it wider publicity in Rockhampton. We are happy to have done our bit to help the radio in its work.

English Immersion is effective and efficient in improving our communication skills. Our stay at CQU and in Rockhampton has given us a wonderful experience of a world so different from Hong Kong, and has made us more confident about communicating in English.

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