A member of the community, who has been volunteering to help our Chinese students improve their English, has helped six University of Northampton students in three years.
The Speakeasy scheme, sourced entirely by volunteers helps students to improve both their Spoken English and also their skills in listening. Although students must already have a proven level of English in order to study at the University, here at Northampton we provide an extra unique free resource to give them further exposure to the language. The Speakeasy volunteers, the majority of whom are University staff, spend a minimum of half an hour per week for around six weeks talking with each international student.
Mick Meadows, who lives in Kingsthorpe, has been volunteering with the scheme since February 2012. Now retired, Mick previously worked at an International automotive company in their Foreign Trade office, which is where his passion for the Far East came from. He is currently helping two students and already this year has undertaken 62 hours of face to face communication.
Mick explained: “Wang Cong (Mia), was my very first Speakeasy student and I first met in February 2012. In fact it was my meetings with her that made me realise how important Speakeasy is especially for Chinese students where Northampton is their first experience of ‘Western World’ life and culture, such a contrast from their understandings and preparation in mainland China. It also made me realise how much we take for granted in ‘our world’. I have huge respect for these students and their families for taking the big step to come here.”
Mick continued: “Mia is now a teacher in Singapore. We have kept in contact over recent years – her class were recently awarded distinction in the International dance section of Singapore Youth Festival. Mia is the teacher on the left, second in wearing olive and holding a rose.
“Speakeasy has also woken a talent within me that I never realised I had. They call me ‘Shifu’ which is a respected name for teacher. My informal style relaxes the students and we have open debate and forum on any subject that presents itself. Fun for all but with lots of learning on both sides… the way I like it!”
Linda Davis-Sinclair, Speakeasy spokesperson and Head of Ambassador Engagement and Staff Volunteering commented: “We are delighted that we have members of the community coming in to work with our international students as it not only provides an opportunity to practice their speaking skills it enhances their local knowledge and experiences. It is a two way benefit because our volunteers love to immerse themselves in the rich cultures of our students and also play a part in the life of their University.”
To find out more about volunteering, email firstname.lastname@example.org.