When my younger sister Mary learned I was being sent to interview a professor of the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Language Studies programme offered by the Faculty of Humanities at The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK), she rolled her eyes to show she was less than impressed.
However, I had always had butterflies in my stomach before seeing professors during my university years, and this time was no exception. I felt an anxiety attack and could barely utter a sound, but the interview was scheduled and had to go ahead.
I sent a few questions in advance and, unexpectedly, received an email in reply. Since I couldn’t find a picture of the professor on the university website, I had assumed he was a senior scholar, not unlike Einstein.
So when his email asked whether I had read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, I was a little shocked.
The message said: “If you want to know the answer to your first question, please read the book (again)!”
My question had been: “Could you tell us about the uniqueness of the BA (Lang Studies) programme?”
I was embarrassed to think I had never read the book before, so I sought help from my little sister, whose face lit up immediately. I had found the right person to ask. She paused for a moment and then quoted from the book: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Bingo! I went to the university website and searched for a video about the programme, and that quotation was included. To my surprise, I found that the major aim of the BA (Lang Studies) is not to train future school teachers. The bilingual programme (Chinese and English) focuses more on developing students’ language proficiency, as well as their critical, analytical and creative thinking skills.
I wondered aloud what future roles that could lead to, but once again my sister was ready with an answer. She pointed out that, in the old days, all the kings, queens and state officials studied languages and literature as a good basis for learning how to govern.
I sent my “answer” to the professor immediately and, next day, received a reply: “Bravo! Now you can find the answer to your second question in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.”
My second question had been: “Could you tell us more about the Intensive Language Summer Camp?”
Again, I hadn’t read the books or even watched the film adaptations. Fortunately, though, my sister was in the know and quick to explain. “Harry Potter and his friends go to study witchcraft and wizardry at Hogwarts School,” she said. “I guess the professor is comparing the three-week language summer camp with the training at Hogwarts.”
She added that during the summer camp, there would be themed workshops, cultural activities, and drama performances to let students practise using English and Putonghua. After completing the camp, participants would have more confidence in speaking and expressing their own ideas. When I asked how my sister knew, she simply put it down to “doing the necessary research”.
One day before the interview, a message from the professor said: “Your second answer is perfect! I will answer all your other questions when we meet. By the way, please find my picture attached, so you can recognise me.”
That was another surprise. The professor was, in fact, a woman – something else my sister had already figured out, but not yet troubled to tell me!
Find out more about programmes on offer at www.eduhk.hk/degree