Wednesday, 24 August 2016

MARJON, PLYMOUTH - PART TWO

The Barbican - Image from en.wikipedia.org

Where do I begin....?

I shall start from the beginning. Almost 20 years ago, I got a phone call from the Ministry of Education in KL asking if I would be interested to further my studies in TESL. I was happy at first because that meant I could go to university ( I was considering sixth form ) but the next second I was shocked when I was told that the course was not held in Malaysia, but in Britain! I had to make sure that the call was not a hoax. The officer reassured me that this was a valid offer and if I agreed to go, the formal letter would arrive shortly. As this was not an easy matter, I had requested more time to think it over. He only gave me a day to make my decision.

 At that time, my dad had just retired from his post as a primary school teacher so his pension was his only income. I was also grateful for my eldest sister who helped to support my family by working in Hankyu Jaya before she got the offer to be a policewoman. So, we had an urgent family meeting, which also involved my aunts and uncles since  serious financial matter was involved. At first, my family was reluctant to give permission but after some discussion, my aunts and uncles offered to support me financially as I prepared for the trip. I would be given a scholarship under Bahagian Pendidikan Guru, KPM but the preparation allowance would only come just a few days before I left for England.

The first time I set eyes on my  course mates was in KL where a briefing was held for 30 English Language teacher trainees. I was shy at first, being a small town girl from Kuala Kedah, among the English-speaking KLites.  We had an orientation week at Kuala Keluang, Besut Trengganu with other students bound for UK. They were all smart students under various scholarships like Petronas, TNB and JPA. Seeing them speak and how they carry themselves, made me feel a little out of place. Luckily, we TESLians stood together and helped each other throughout the orientation programme. By the end of it, we had form a special friendship that would last until today...

I said good bye to my family at Subang Airport on September 1st 1991. It would be my first flight experience ever and it was a non-stop, 14-hour flight  to Heathrow Airport in London. Thank you Malaysia Airlines for the warmth and hospitality. I remember feeling very cold and being perplexed with the weather. It was only 5am when we landed but it was as bright as day!

We had a short orientation in London before we split into 2 groups - one headed for Plymouth and another for Sussex. They put us up in a Bed & Breakfast run by a Malaysian-born Chinese and the briefing was held at the Malaysian Student Department by representatives of the colleges and MSD officers. We had a glimpse of London as we rode on the tour bus as part of the orientation. I think we did Oxford Street and Covent Garden. My course mate, Leen had the unfortunate incident of being a victim of snatch theft!

                                                            Image from marjon.ac.uk

We would have like to stay longer but our host families were waiting for us back in Plymouth and Sussex. We said goodbye to our 15 friends and started our 4-hour journey to Devon County in the South West of England. I didn't really know anything about the place or the college to begin with. John Burke, the Director of INTEC, Marjon was there on the bus to accompany us to Plymouth. He came to greet us one by one and asked a few questions. Would I be okay staying in a house where the dog is the pet? No. Would I be okay staying in a house with small children? Yes. Would you be okay with vegetarian food during your stay with the host family? Yes.  They were already waiting for us when we arrived at Marjon. After the introduction and pairing-up, and a short briefing, we left for our new homes. And so that was how I ended up living with Calcidonia Smith's family in Woolwell, Plymouth.

I was happy to meet my host mother Donia, who was originally from Malta,  and her husband Nick, and their small children, Greg and Stephanie. Later, I would babysit them when the parents were out. Today, they are all grown-ups and Stephanie is already a mother to a baby boy, Ethan! How the time flew........

I got my own room, overlooking the main road and the best and most valuable item in the room was a black-and-white 'small' television that lasted until I graduated! I can live without a radio but not without a tv... Hehehehe. That was how I fell in love with British film, drama, music and comedy. The tv was also my window to other European cultures - German, French and Spanish. It also introduced me to the different dialects / accents of UK, like the Queen's English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Cockney, etc....

Marjon was 40 minutes away on foot but only 5 minutes if I took the bus. Since the bus was not frequent I would rather walk all the way to the college. 40 minutes sounds a bit too much but actually, it was a rather pleasant brisk walk in the cool and windy weather. The only challenge was the hilly walk around Marjon. It was quite safe and I did not really experience much trouble except for a few kids speaking gibberishly and thinking that I was a Chinese person. All Asians looked Chinese to them I suppose.... :P

Besides the college and my the house, my other regular hangouts were Tesco, Asda, Plymouth Library, Kurbani Restaurant (where I worked part time), Derriford Hospital, Plymouth Airport (now no more) and of course, Plymouth city centre, Plymouth Hoe and the Barbican...!

  Image from : http://www.inplymouth.com/





***  Stay tune for Part 3 for more stories about these hangouts....!  ;)








Sunday, 14 August 2016

I MISS BLIMIFF...... PART ONE

MarjonVillage - our comfortable and convenient accommodation
Image from: http://kanggatheren-manogaran.blogspot.my/2010_10_10_archive.html


I feel like going down memory lane today to where I had studied and lived for 6 years.. with my TESL friends. That was almost 20 years ago. I went to further my tertiary education at College of St Mark & St John which  now goes by the name of University of St Mark & St John. We are known locally as Marjon, the teaching and sports college. The city is Plymouth or Blimiff , if pronounced in the Cornish accent. It is the capital of Devon, a south west county of Great Britain.

Let me introduce my friends first. They come from various states in Malaysia and now hold various positions in the public and private sector:

Yana - Perlis (UITM Dungun lecturer)
Amy - Perak (USM lecturer)
Niza - Perak (teacher in Selangor)
Ija - Perak (Penang Matriculation college lecturer)
Nikki - Kelantan (admission officer at Exeter University)
Zeti - Kelantan (ELS senior manager)
Mas - Pahang (teacher in Sabah)
Kecom - Johor (UKM lecturer)
Tara - Negeri Sembilan (UNITEN lecturer)
Za - Selangor (UPM lecturer)
Jida - KL (consultant for PR agency / Public Mutual)
Siti - KL (head of corporate comm. for the Energy Commision) 
Leen - KL (human resource manager in Mauritius)
Yati - KL (MIA) - Yati, where are you...???
- and myself : Cikgu Midad - Kedah (teacher in Kedah)


New Logo from : http://www.marjon.ac.uk/






Old Logo from : https://anglinginthearchives.wordpress.com/


PART ONE:

We started our journey in Malaysia as a group of 30 young English language teacher trainees  but the other 15 went to Sussex University in Bognor Regis. The only two males in the group also went to Sussex. :P

Then, three new friends from Maldives joined our course at INTEC: Tharu, Iku and Fatmah. Tharu is now living in KL... ;)

Besides them, we were also acquainted with B. Ed seniors, our MA and PHD seniors (Kak Jay!) and our Twinning MPIK friends throughout the six years we were there.

We also formed new friendship with Malaysian students  who were studying at Plymouth University (Jue) and Plymouth College of Further Education. (Kak Ema, Azila, Azaharul, Amir, Saiful, Irman)

During the first year, each of us had to stay with a host family. I experienced a lot of culture shock then, coming from a small town like Kuala Kedah. Thank you Calcidonia Smith and family for the warm hospitality that you had shown me. I hope you can visit my home some day so that I can return the hospitality.

We left Malaysia for England in September 1991 and studied  in Matriculation for two years. Then, we continued  our studies in B.Ed. TESL  before graduating in July 1997. As I recall,  a week after we returned home to Malaysia for good, Princess Diana passed away.  Then it was followed by the death of Mother Theresa. A very eventful July I dare say.

Six years is a long time to spend with someone or a bunch of like-minded friends. Of course there were ups and downs but we survived. The friendship that was formed many years ago is still going strong and close, thanks to Whatsapp and Facebook. We had a few mini gatherings so far but I am still waiting for our mega Reunion, guys...!  :)

A special thank you to our lecturers at INTEC, Marjon. Thank you Steve Phillips @ our Bapak, John Burke, Sarah North, Katie Salisbury, Graeme Burn, Tony Wright, Liz Robbins, Jane Spiro, Mike Scholey, Rod Bolitho, Sue Parker, Jocelyn Porter and Steve Ansell, to name a few. Thank you for guiding us and putting up with our 1001 personalities for six years!   :P

Plymouth Hoe  and Smeaton's Tower, overlooking the English Channel
Image from http://www.marjon.ac.uk/courses/student-recruitment--outreach/summer-school/


*** Stay tune for PART TWO of my BLIMIFF adventure!














Pesantren - Pondok Madani - a religious school with a difference.

Image from : http://www.satumedia.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/cinta-pesantren-gontor-indonesia.jpg I have been neglecting this ...