Rachel sets off for a brief last trip in Southeast Asia before returning to the UK after 6 months as a Bath University Placement Student at the BBBB project.
My name is Rachel and I study International Development with Economics at the University of Bath. I chose to do my placement in Malaysia as it was a perfect opportunity to work with and experience different cultures, while learning more about the refugee community which is something I was interested in. As I finish my 6 months, I’m reflecting on what I’ve gained as well as how the kids have benefitted from my teaching. I’ve learnt so much more than I ever thought I would and have really made the most of my experience here.
Having no prior teaching experience, it was challenging and daunting at first but the kids are really friendly and just so excited to see you that it becomes much easier as you get comfortable with them. Planning lessons can be time consuming but it increasingly becomes easier and quite fun as you develop more interesting and creative ways to teach over time! From panicking in my first week and creating dull PowerPoints to creating engaging and interactive lessons by the end (my favourite being an escape room using clues from topics we had covered!), I can not only see how the kids have progressed but I have become much more flexible, confident and knowledgeable myself. I settled into the role and becoming much more confident in my lessons, I felt at ease and enjoyed myself, something which resides with the kids, as the more you enjoy teaching your lessons, the more the kids will also.
Volunteering can be lonely if there are no other volunteers with you, something which I experienced for 4 of my 6 months, however building relationships and getting to know the kids made the experience a lot easier. The youngest kids are always excited to see you and will greet you with lots of hugs, making you feel welcome instantly and in my classes of 15 – 19 year olds, they become your friend and want to chat with you about life as you would with your friends back home!
The city itself is so vibrant and constantly changing so there’s always lots to do/ see whether its exploring the tourist hotspots or just walking around one of the many malls, I was always able to keep myself busy at the weekends and in the evenings. Of course, Malaysia is a beautiful country and being here for so long I have been lucky to travel around the country to places like Penang and Malacca. Also, I was able to visit many neighbouring countries during my time including Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience and have learnt so much from the kids as I hope they have equally learnt from me! While it can be challenging moving to a new country so far from home, I believe that it was worth it and very rewarding.
Therefore if you are considering a volunteering teaching experience, I would say to break out of your comfort zone and go for it, you never know what you will learn while also supporting a wonderful cause!