Teach in Macau: The Summer Internship You Didn't Think Of

 

Have you dreamed of going abroad? Do you search for a way to go abroad while also being funded by a program? Perhaps you have looked into scholarships or volunteering for a charity organization. I found a way to do it differently, through teaching in Macau, Asia’s Las Vegas — while also gaining amazing friends. It is an experience I will never forget. Here’s my story:

How It All Began

Finding a summer internship was a constant nag in my mind. I was desperate to find something to bolster my CV, and the yearn to travel whispered in my ear as I sat for hours grinding my way through my second, increasingly daunting semester of grad school.

As if sent by my fairy godmother, in popped an email advertising an “exciting internship” to be a programme assistant for the University of Macau’s Summer Immersion English Program. I didn’t care that I had no idea where Macau was. It offered flight compensation, complementary housing, a living subsidy, and a chance to teach English! My application was quickly filled, and I waited and waited for an interview. A fellow graduate student in my department got an interview for the position, and in a moment of despair I thought of myself as waste cast aside — not even good enough for an interview.

Life went on and on one unsuspecting day I received an email asking for an online group interview. They gave less than 24 hours notice, and the interview was held with another applicant and two representatives from UMAC. I smiled, gave the best answers I could and tried not to say similar answers as the other girl interviewing. I then waited for a response. The day that email saying congratulations came in and I immediately packed my bags for five weeks in Macau, which I had found out was actually a Special Administrative Region of China. If you want to learn more about Macau, I wrote an article on it, which you can read here.

 
 The beautiful UMAC campus

The beautiful UMAC campus

 

The Program’s Daily Routine

For all of those aspiring teachers of English who want to teach abroad, or for perhaps those who have no idea of what they want to do after graduating and have considered teaching abroad as an option, let me give you the rundown of what teaching in Macau and the program assistant (PA) position is like.

The program was designed for students who were tentatively admitted to UMAC but had to improve their English scores before being fully admitted. This is because UMAC is an English medium school, which means most of the classes are taught in English. Over the course of four weeks, students went to class from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for official English lessons. These sessions were taught by another teacher with Teaching English As A Second Language (TESOL), or TESOL-like, qualifications. At 11 a.m., PAs come in to assist the teacher. This was where the PA work began. During this time, PAs helped with students’ projects until 12. From 1:30 to 3:50, Talk Time was held. Led by a team of 2 PAs, one ‘local’ and one ‘international,’ Talk Time consisted of 40-minute small group speaking practice activities. There were three 40-minute sessions, and in that time the PA team would interact with all of the students in a particular session. The lessons were focused on improving speaking fluency, confidence and knowledge of topics through fun role-plays, discussions and other activities.

 

Left: A photo of Rocky and Laura. Right: Rocky and Laura acting as a fortune teller and customer for a role play.

 

I’ll take a moment to brag that my PA partner — shout out to Laura! — and I were exceptionally engaging with our class. We made an effort to draw on the board, act out the example role plays and create an open atmosphere.

 
 Laura and Rocky on their last day together.

Laura and Rocky on their last day together.

 

After Talk Time, groups of PAs would lead club activities twice a week. I lead  movie club, which had a disheartening, dwindling attendance. The other clubs varied from sports clubs to a board game club and would last from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. You would think this is the end of the day, but you’d be wrong. From 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. were Evening Activities with your whole class, lead by the PA pair. Evening Activities were designed to be a session for students to play games in English and prep vocabulary for the next day’s lesson.

 
 A picture of Rocky's class.

A picture of Rocky's class.

 

Essentially, being a PA meant being a speaking and listening teacher while also using English in a fun and interactive way with a partner. I will admit, sometimes the lesson plans were confusing, the directions of our daily activities miscommunicated, and the general outline of the program vague, especially during our first week of training.

Now I feel I should tell you about my personal experience during the program, so you understand what teaching in Macau is like emotionally as well as practically.

My Experience

From the very first moment stepping out of the taxi, I wondered if I would regret my experience. The heat and humidity had me sweating bullets within minutes, and when I tried to get into my room, my roommate had the door locked. However, from the second I met my roommate and onwards I never regretting anything. My lovely roommate was a constant and thoughtful guide in Macau, as were all of the local PAs. The international PAs were fodder for endless stories of travels, tribulations, and hilarious episodes out exploring Macau. Weekends spent in Hong Kong with great friends have left an impression on me that I hope to never forget.

I cannot express how much affection I garnered towards my partner in crime, Laura, and the teacher of my section, Eric. Together we went on a journey with 19 students. Although there were occasions when the curriculum was confusing or the time we had to commit was demanding, the people I met and hopefully the lives I impacted made it all worth it.

 
 

When I came back to Hawaii, a dear friend of mine asked, “Was it life changing?”

At the time, I said no. Thinking on it more, however, it was. It was life changing in a way I never expected because of the people I met while in Macau.


If you are considering going to another country, whether it be for a job or study abroad, Macau, South Korea, or an unknown destination, perhaps the thing that will impact you most is the people and the moments, rather than the travel itself. To all HKC readers and viewers, I encourage you to spread your wings and seek out connections with those whose life is unfamiliar to your own. When you meet people while abroad, you may truly discover the beauty of human beings and friendship.


 
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Rocky is a graduate assistant; MA in Second Language Studies candidate at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; and former president of Hanwoori Hawaiʻi.