Shiqi Li is studying Msc Translation and Technology (with interpreting) in Centre for Multidisciplinary and Intercultural Inquiry. She is volunteering at Training Link as an Adult Literacy Volunteer. Read more to find out about her experience!
Tell us a little about your volunteering
I am an English teacher at Training Link, where I help adults improve their English ability, concerning writing, listening, reading and speaking. I usually work with local people whose native language is not English.
The project helps a lot of people from all over the world, who really need to learn English to make a better life here in London. A lot of people that I'm teaching right now come from different circumstances.
I volunteer weekly. During term time, I go to the training center once a week and each session is about one or one and a half hour long.
How did you find out about the role?
I visited the Volunteering Fair last year where I found Chris who promoted the program to us and as teaching English is one of the things that I did before as an intern back in China, but not in an English-speaking country, I thought it would be a really fresh and interesting experience to me. So later on, I just contacted him through e-mail, we arranged a meeting, and then I started volunteering.
Why did you want to become a volunteer?
I'm a big fan of volunteering. I’ve done a lot of volunteering since high school.
I like volunteering because it helps me make social impacts. It’s not a big impact in general, but the feeling of helping people makes me grow and makes me have bigger perspectives. It moves me out of my daily routine, and it’s about a stronger sense of community and connecting with people with specific values. For example, Chris, the project coordinator of Training Link, he gave me loads of suggestions and support. For example, I'm not very familiar with the city, but last year, when I first joined the Training Link, he gave me a lot of advice and suggestions of places to visit in London.
Sometimes something unexpected will happen. Probably you just want to do the volunteering job and help people initially, but at the end you gain more than that. You get connections in London and get to know people from different backgrounds.
What impact has volunteering had on you?
The project helped me connect with the local community. This is important to me especially as an international student, having been here only since last September. It was also an opportunity where I could give back to society, and was a very valuable teaching experience.
Volunteering makes me feel more grateful in a sense, because I’m doing my one-year masters degree, and it's just I feel like I have all these reasources being at a bigger university, and I really want to help them out using these resources. It makes me feel really happy to do that.
Also, the volunteering job gives me a lot of English teaching experience, teaching non-native speakers English. Although I am also not a native speaker, this gives me more of an advantage, as it requires me to do more research into English teaching. The role offers me skills that can be used for my career development, as I really want a career that has a social impact, so working at NGOs or teaching in an international high school back in China someday. I'm interested in things bigger than ourselves and this role gives me a lot of insights into the industry.
What’s the best thing about volunteering?
The most important thing to me to gain knowledge and understanding of other ways of life. I am working with people from Bangladesh and Ukraine, and I always feel like I can learn about cultures and ways of life that are different from my upbringing. It also increases my social flexibility and expands my worldview in different kinds of ways, and raises my awareness of issues that my tutees were dealing with.
And the most challenging?
I think the most challenging thing is that I'm not a very experienced teacher. Also, my tutees are at different levels of the language, so I need to tailor the curriculum for them and to get them involved, which is also very difficult. Sometimes it takes a patience as well because some of their listening is not advanced, and I need to repeat things for several times for them to understand and also to think of ways that they can accept the knowledge more easily. I always try to select topics that are more interesting and appealing for them, such as choose topics that are culture related: I encourage them to introduce their cultures to me and in exchange I will also teach them something in relation to my culture.
Tell us about something memorable that’s happened to you whilst volunteering
My current tutee is from Ukraine. She used to major in English like 20 years ago, and she moved to London a month ago. The most memorable thing is that she has this notebook where she takes loads of notes in. No matter what I teach her, she would just note it down and then practice it by herself after class. She also has a really good memory. Sometimes when I do listening exercises with her, she doesn't even need to take notes and then she can just repeat the whole thing for me based on her memory. She’s very keen, intelligent, and dedicated.
This somehow becomes my motivation to do the volunteering role as well, because when you see how your tutee progresses, although they are in difficult circumstances, that makes me want to help them more.
We also have great conversations about culture as well. As an atheist, coming from China, I am really interested to learn more about religions in the West and she introduced me to Muslim and Christian cultures. This is a compensation for me, as I don’t have this knowledge from my country. I’m not only teaching them but the same time I'm constantly learning something as well.
Would you recommend volunteering? If so, why?
Yes! I think it's a very meaningful thing to do alongside studying. I'm doing a one-year Masters degree and most of the time my study schedule will be super intense, but alongside, I really want to have something meaningful to do. In many years, when I look back at my time in London, I don't want to only think about studying, but life in London.