Cultural Exchange and Study Tour to Brisbane, Australia

Two-week English Immersion Programme

8-22, June 2014
Tour Co-ordinators: Ms. BoBo LEE, Mr. Eric HO

A group of 45 Associate Degree students joined a tour to Brisbane, Australia for a two-week English Immersion Programme jointly organized by CIE and The University of Queensland (UQ) with the aim of brushing up students’ ability to communicate in English while enriching their cultural experience. Students found tremendous joy in interacting with seasoned instructors and making new friends through conversation classes and exchange activities. Apart from that, they were also placed in local homestay accommodations, took part in a variety of excursions and faculty visits that enabled them to gain exposure to the Australian cultural landscape, natural environment, as well as study options in the region.

Tang Yan Lin, Year 2 AD student from Creative Communication said, “I realized that the beauty of English learning doesn’t only focus on having a perfect accent, but also develop the competence to understand each other, that’s the most powerful function of language—communication, the fundamentals of human civilization. We might not be able to establish perfect fluency in two weeks, but the experience was a good start to becoming an eloquent English speaker.”

Encounter The Beauty of English

TANG Yan Lin, Penney (Creative Communication, Year 2)

The beauty of English lies in its capability for universal communication. Despite different skin colors, languages and nationalities, we can share and unite through this language. That’s the reason why it is essential for us to be proficient in English. That’s exactly what I came to realize after the English Immersion Program to Australia.

The most unforgettable experience was interviewing students at the St. Lucia Campus of the university. Strolling around the campus, we had to look for native English speaking students to be our interviewees. It’s definitely a breakthrough for me. I went from totally reluctant to start a conversation in English to boldly initiate a conversation with random Aussie students. The process required a great deal of courage but we all managed. This task made me understand that the essence of English learning isn’t accurate pronunciation or beautiful accent, but the ability to understand each other, that’s the most powerful function of language—communication, the fundamental of human civilization. We might not be able to establish perfect fluency in two weeks, but the experience was a good start to becoming an eloquent English speaker.

The lessons we had at University of Queensland helped us to acquire local colloquial expressions and slangs, such as ‘togs’, which means ‘swimming suits’. We also used English proactively to communicate with our homestay families, international students and locals outside classes. The involvement we had with the homestay families was the most valuable. I learnt a lot of everyday language from them on the dining table. I asked them for a dish one time and they thought I would like to have more food. They told me that they actually use the word ‘plate’, instead of ‘dish’, to describe an ‘empty dish’. The Brooks, my homestay family, are really nice. We have built up a good relationship with their children, Helena and Felix. They are only three and two years old respectively. The words they babbled were hardly comprehensible to me. However, if you could understand what they were talking about, having conversations with the grown-ups would be just a piece of cake. My listening skills have greatly improved after talking to them repeatedly. The kids were eager to tell me about their nursery class. In return, I taught them how to say ‘cute’ in Cantonese. We had a wonderful time engaging in this kind of ‘cross-generational’ cultural exchange.

All in all, this experience has not only made me appreciate the beauty of English, but also given me motivation to sharpen my English skills.


Diving into Brisbane’s life

CHICK Wing Kei, Koey (Creative Communication, Year 2)

If the rural and wild landscape in Brisbane is a heaven, the urban area of this Queensland capital would be an old and silent town several hundred years ago. There are no high-rise buildings. You can’t find giant shopping complexes and international brand-name stores. You wouldn’t see shops with their lights on late at night. In fact, most shops close at 5 pm. The city of Brisbane is in stark contrast with Hong Kong, where you can get everything at the doorstep round the clock. You may wonder why people in Brisbane don’t extend business hours to earn more money. Money or life? Brisbane citizens would no doubt choose the latter. Garry, one of the language instructors from University of Queensland, told us that people in Brisbane treasure family and friends more than making money.

Garry’s comment on people of Brisbane was proven to be correct after I started living with the couple in my homestay family, Judy and Greg. This is the first time I left my own family and stayed with strangers. During the first few days of the trip, I felt a little depressed as I missed my family too much. I also worried if I could get along with Judy and Greg. Fortunately, after getting to know Judy and Grey, I knew that all my worries were unnecessary. They are very kind and nice. They treated me like their family member. And just like what Garry had said before, Judy and Greg would return home right after work and make dinner together. While cooking, they would share with each other their daily happenings. During dinner, we would chatter on everything - from cultural difference, school life to family issues.

Judy and Greg said that if I wanted to know more about the culture of Brisbane, museum is the place I must visit. Apart from photography displays on key historical events, the exhibition also featured stories told from the perspective of a digger – about invasion from other tribes, about the integration of different ethnic groups. I was deeply impressed by the digger’s voice. It reminded me of the situation in Hong Kong. There have been endless conflicts among different nationalities and races. The painful process of disputes gradually gave birth to a new culture and identity. Although our civilization has leaped forward, it seems that what happens in most parts of the world today is just a repetition of history.

In Brisbane, you can easily find how man and nature, history and modernity co-exist in harmony.


Homestay and Inspiration

LEE Cheuk Ming, Ming (Bilingual Language and Literature Studies, Year 1)

Staying with my host family is a rewarding experience. George, a retired builder, is proud of his achievements in building houses. With a strong passion in construction, he has built a wide variety of houses throughout his career, including the house he is currently residing in. He is a confident and happy person who aspires to pursue a relaxing life. His laidback lifestyle is an inspiration to Nick, my flat mate, and me. ‘Boys, RELAX! Don’t be too tense. You’ve come here to relax. Treat this as your home, explore Brisbane!’ George happily remarked on the first day we met. If George is anything to go by, Nick and I need to adopt a more balanced life. To borrow George’s words, we need to ‘have a life’. Upon returning my hometown Hong Kong, I have set aside several days just for leisure activities. I went to Big Wave Bay for a refreshing swim, indulged myself in delicacies and delved into the world of books at the public library. Learning how to take a break from the stressful life, I can feel that my sense of well-being is improving.

George’s wife, Fiona, is a good cook – although she believes ‘a second spent on cooking is a second wasted’. I loved her cooking. I was touched by how she designed gourmet recipes for us. She made some local dishes food for us, including pumpkin pie, kangaroo steak and pavlova. She spared no effort to make sure that we could have a thorough taste of the Australia culture. I was deeply impressed by her conscientious attitude. Her dual role of being an Indonesian teacher and a nurse epitomizes her burning desire to live life to the full. I believe we can learn something from every person we interact with. This lovely couple inspired me in multiple perspectives. Cultural exchange becomes rewarding when differences bring about positive changes. I am very glad to have the precious opportunity to stay in this homestay family! This memory is like a diamond.


Cultivated a deeper friendship

WONG Chi Him, Chester (Psychology, Year 2)

I didn’t know most schoolmates in this study tour before departure as we were all from different Concentration Studies. This tour has enabled me to make amazing friends from both CIE and University of Queensland (UQ). The most special one is Dominic, my homestay partner. Although we had already known each other for one semester, it wasn’t until this trip that we cultivated a deeper friendship. After living together in the same house for two weeks, our mutual understanding grew rapidly. We started to support each other – when we got lost in the suburbs, when we explored the tourist destinations, when we engaged in English learning activities. We could always count on each other because there was trust between us. We had to take a one-hour bus ride to UQ on weekdays, but this journey was never long and lonely, because Dominic, my brotherly buddy, was beside me. He is the person who have faith in me and whom I have faith in. Dominic was like a Wi-Fi router, providing our group with signals and information. His role was crucial and irreplaceable.

I will miss BoBo and Eric, our lecturers and tour leaders. Without them, we would not have received such timely assistance and useful advice on transport arrangement and weekend activities. Their kindness, patience and responsible acts had played a key role in making this trip a huge success. For example, they took students who felt unwell to the clinic and stayed with them during the entire medical consultation. Their presence gave the sick and injured a sense of security, which is vital when encountering emergency issues overseas. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Bobo and Eric for their hard work, guidance and coordination.

Two weeks ago, we were strangers. Two weeks later, we became friends. Time flies, but memories stay. There is no better way to end my two-year study in CIE than joining this study tour. It was my pleasure to have met 46 lovely gentlemen and ladies.


Experiencing the harmony of Nature

YIP Yee Man, Emily (Bilingual Language and Literature Studies, Year 2)

I was fascinated by the visit to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. I am an animal lover so I had huge expectations on this excursion. I used to learn about animals on television. I might know how they look like, what they eat, where they live, but I remained ignorant of how they interact with human beings.

It’s only until my visit to Lone Pine that I realized kangaroos are such affectionate creatures. While I was walking towards the kangaroos, they did not hop away. They remained lain or seated on the grass, totally unthreatened by my approach. After I sat beside the kangaroos, a baby joey suddenly jumped on me and searched for food. The joey acted like I was its mother. When I fed the kangaroos, the joeys looked like human beings. They gripped my hand. When I tried to touch them, they rested their heads on my palms like cute puppies. If I had not joined the trip, I would not have experienced the kangaroos’ friendliness.

This trip has not only brought me tons of fun, but also valuable learning opportunities that will stay in my mind forever.


Cooperation builds mutual trust

JIANG Ting, Jade (Journalism, Year 1)

Taking part in this study tour is not just about learning a language, it’s also about how you bridge differences and build new relationships.

In the beginning of the trip, I was mostly on my own as I barely knew the other participants. Thanks to the team building workshop organized by University of Queensland, I had made new friends and realized the importance of trust.

At first I found the workshop boring, but of course the truth turned out to be the opposite. The workshop featured a series of activities that couldn’t be accomplished without genuine cooperation among teammates. For example, one activity involved having one person swinging back and forth without bending his or her body like a pendulum. There were two teammates standing in front of and at the back of the ‘pendulum’ respectively. These two teammates were responsible for catching the ‘pendulum’ and pushing him/her back to the center. As the person acting as the ‘pendulum’ couldn’t see what’s on the back, the ‘pendulum’ could be injured easily if no one offered him/her a hand when swinging backwards. The only one way to ensure the safety of everybody is to trust one another. I learnt an important lesson from this activity - you have to trust people if you want to make friends with them. Don’t be afraid of getting hurt, because true friends will never hurt you. I managed to make new friends and got along with them amazingly well after this workshop.