With the recent events celebrating the 10th anniversary of the cooperation between Leeds and GDUFS, we felt honored to invite Paul and Claire to an interview. Both interviewees received their Master’s Degrees from Leeds University in the fields of TESOL and Education. Now, Paul is lecturing in the International College of GDUFS and Claire works at the British School of Guangzhou. What do they think of their teaching experience and lives at Leeds? What are their opinions on the cultural differences they found while living in China? Let's have a talk with them and find out.
Leeds University Business School
Masters of Arts at Leeds University
Q: Thank you for coming to this interview! We know that you both have received MAs from Leeds University. Could you tell us more about Leeds University’s MA (Master of Arts) programmes?Are they different from those in China?
Paul: Yes. They’re probably very different. I think postgraduates in China study for three years, while in the UK, most postgraduates only study for one year. But within that one year, we do a lot of studying, which can be quite labor-intensive. When you study there, teachers will just give you direction and then mostly it’s up to you. They expect you to do more than what they will do for you. What’s more, for most Masters Degrees, such as language, there are no exams. The entire course was essay-based. But that doesn’t mean there’s no assessment. The end-of-term assessments are usually based on essays and class performance like presentations or group work. And also, teachers are always watching during class time, so they surely know whether you are contributing to the class. However, if you do a Master's Degree in Science or Mathematics, surely you will have exams.
Journalist: Well, that’s quite different form Masters Degrees in China.
Life and Study in Leeds University
Q: What were your lives like when you studied at Leeds University?
Claire: In order to do the Masters’, we had to do a lot of essays. Generally we had classes two or three times a week, and then after that we just stayed in the library most of the time, sometimes even ten hours a day. We were expected to do lots of reading and writing essays, and we got feedback from our mentors.
Journalist: Wow, you did study an intense course, and you both studied really hard.
The Brotherton Library at Leeds University
Cultural Differences Between Leeds and GDUFS
Q: Now you have been in China for about two years, teaching and living here. What do you think is different between Leeds University and GDUFS?
Paul: Well, compared with GDUFS, Leeds has several libraries, and probably each of them is larger than GDUFS’, with more access to more resources. Some of the libraries have a history of hundreds of years. So if you would like to, you can get into the very deep dark corners of the libraries and find books that have not been touched for about twenty years.
Q: It sounds great! We are also looking forward to building more libraries with richer collections of books at GDUFS. What can you tell us about the differences between British students and Chinese students?
Paul: I’ve been teaching in the International College. Generally speaking, Chinese students are much quieter but interesting. Sometimes they would prefer to talk to me after classes, because they are afraid of making mistakes during the class and being judged by others. If you do that in British classrooms, it would be chaos. People like to raise their voices and have themselves heard. And that is the initial difference I spotted. I believe being quiet is not good for learning language because students who are not willing to speak are less likely to make progress in speaking classes. I want them to really come up with their own answers to my questions.
Claire: I think maybe it’s due to different educational styles. In Asian countries, teachers just tell us the answer to the question, but in western countries, students are expected to develop critical thinking and to solve problems on their own. And I think what I learned here is that in China I can have very diverse life, because there are so many different kinds of people. So we can’t just stereotype Chinese people.
Paul: Right. By the way, one thing that did surprise me is that, although it is more difficult for Chinese students to learn English than the European students given that they don’t really have much access to English, some of the Chinese students can speak English very well. That’s impressive.
Journalist: Maybe they practise speaking English frequently after class.
Journalist: So before you came to China, how much did you know about this country, Guangzhou, as well as GDUFS?
Paul: To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about China and Guangzhou at that time, just a few basic things, and I knew nothing about GDUFS. But my first introduction to China was Kung Fu. I loved Jacky Chan’smovies when I was a kid. I still remember when I first came to GDUFS, I found it was rather dark at night since at that time there were fewer streetlights on the campus, but it’s much better since renovations that took place for the 50th anniversary ceremony.
Paul and Claire’s graduation ceremony
Q:Alright. Do you like it here now you’ve been living in China? Can you speak Chinese?
Paul: Yes, we love Chinese food so much because we can always find something we have never tasted before. This is really an excellent experience. As for speaking Chinese, just a little. Last year I attended some courses but I just cannot carry on because I’m pretty full-scheduled during the week.
Claire: I’m trying to learn more. Last year I took Mandarin classes but it didn’t last long. But now I think language is really important, and so I’ve started picking it up again. I think I’m doing much better now.
Journalist: We are glad that you enjoy your lives here.
Q: Claire, you are Korean.Why did you decide to do a Master’s degree at Leeds University? How has it helped in your later life and work?
Claire: As a matter of fact, I used to be an English teacher in Korea. As a language teacher, I wanted to learn more about improving my teaching from an academic point of view. I taught for four or five years in Korea before, and I met so many students with different personalities, and I wanted to give them a better education so that I would approach them in an individual way and taught children with emotional and behavioral problems, which in Korea is usually neglected. Thus then I took courses in Leeds focusing on special education there. I learned lots of theories and then at the end of the term I went to actual primary schools in the UK to practise what I’ve learned. It was an interesting and memorial experience which was of great help in developing my ideas about the field of special education.
Journalist: Special education sounds quite novel and interesting! And you really spent much time and energy on your studiesand work.
A group photo of two interviewees and five journalists
Paul and Claire are always trying to learn and experience life. They both agree that their study experience and life in Britain and in China are treasures to them. They are always ready to enrich their knowledge and life experience, in order to lead a colorful and meaningful life.
We exchanged many ideas during the interview and finally reached an agreement that, although there are distinguished differences between Leeds and GDUFS, we also share many areasin common in terms of education. We believe that cultural differences should not be the obstacle to our cooperation; it ought to be an opportunity for us to learn from each other. This year witnesses the 10th anniversary of cooperation between Leeds University and GDUFS on their joint MA TESOL Programme, and we are sincerely looking forward to further cooperation betweenthe two universities in the future.