Visiting 7 Kings

7 kings cropped

Dear reader, I hope you’ve been keeping well. You may have noticed that the flow of posts has been slow on my blog this year. As I’m not one for excuses I will just say that I’ve been wrapped up in some personal things and therefore have not been as efficient in managing my dedication to this site. I cannot guarantee that I will be back to frequent uploads immediately, but I do hope to share more content with you soon. The post I hinted at previously is on the top of my list but I’ve been hesitant to get deep into composing it as I hold the topic in high regard, 不过 I’ll follow my own advice and take it in small steps~

I don’t think I am aware of so many as 7 Kings being in existence, are you? I finished my year abroad at Peking University (Beijing, China) in June, and recently I came back to England after some short travels. Two weeks ago I was invited by a former Mandarin teacher of mine to visit him at the school he now teaches in, Seven Kings. He invited me to meet some of his current students and told me that I could possibly inspire them by my own academic achievements.

My visit was timed to coincide with a trip by a class of Beijing high school students who came to England to experience British schooling. This had me fortunate enough to experience the day from a few more cultural perspectives. For instance in one class where students were prompted to guess my age most of the British students assumed I was either 15 or maybe even 17, whilst the Chinese students thought I was 23 or 25. I revealed that I’m actually 20 years young, and told my teacher I was once almost denied entry to a 15 rated film because the usher thought I was 12 (until we showed her photos from my at the time ‘recent’ 18th birthday celebrations😅😑).

I experienced a lot in a short day~ I first met my teacher’s colleague and sat in on a meeting with the visiting Chinese teachers. After a brief tour through sections of the school we met some of the students taking a “D&T” class (Design and Technology), and I must say the display of some of the students’ creations were most impressive. I then joined a few of my teacher’s lessons (more on that soon), and afterwards was brought to have lunch in the staff room. Who knew that teachers have their own hot food served to them by a singular lunch lady!? It was a strange privilege to have found out through experience haha!

Whilst having lunch a member of staff who had been eager to talk to me when she saw me during the morning tour approached me. In the morning she thought I was the Translator for the Chinese group and couldn’t think of an excuse to chat. I was humbled by her eagerness to meet me and by the things we spoke about. As a fellow Muslim wearing a headscarf she told me she was proud that I could speak Chinese and that I attend Oxford. I told her a bit about the year in Beijing that I had just completed, and how my experience seemed quite different to those around me as it was to an extent seen through the veil of my headscarf. Just as I told her, this is something I hope to share with you at greater length in due time. Whilst I was humbled to see how our conversation made her so happy, it also felt a bit strange. Perhaps I felt undeserved of the extent to which I was complimented throughout the day; however I discovered that whilst my achievements may not be so special in my own eyes, at the very least they have certainly inspired a lot of people, including those whom I don’t know personally. After introducing myself to one of the classes I met, a teacher explained to me that the students were especially excited that a ‘brown person could speak Chinese’. So what I’ve come to realize is that whilst it might not mean much to myself, some of my accomplishments have motivated people who don’t necessarily have ‘blonde hair and blue eyes’ to dream outside their comfort zone. I can’t see anything wrong with that. In fact I just recalled that on our way back home from the airport our taxi driver happened to be talking about me at one point, not realizing I was sitting at the back seat of his car. I won’t go in to what he said, but what I learnt from that strange experience was that our stories reach people without us realizing, and we can inspire people without intending to. This isn’t just about me, you should know that there are people out there who recognize the things that you have done and probably look up to you in ways that might even seem small. Just keep trying to try your best and let the rest happen naturally~

After lunch I headed back to my teacher’s class to assist with a few more lessons. The lessons I came to were mostly Mandarin, with the exception of one French class. The students were from Year 8 to 10, roughly aged 12-15, and each year group came with a different vibe 😛 I forgot what it was like to be taking my GCSEs (end of High School qualification in the UK) so whilst joining the Mandarin classes, it was quite refreshing to revisit vocabulary and sentence structures from when I first started to learn Chinese.

All the lessons I assisted in involved introducing myself to the class, opening the floor to questions, and helping the students with their work. For Mandarin, the students were revising the exam topic of ‘jobs’ before commencing their summer holidays. In one class as part of a class exercise, the Chinese visiting students asked the British student they were sitting with about their ideal jobs. My teacher also got a student to test me from across the classroom. They asked “你想做商人吗?”/ “Do you want to be a business person?”. I said no. “In my opinion earning lots of money is not what’s most important; I would like to take opportunities that will make me the happiest”. I’m sure I’ve said this before and of course this opinion will differ from person to person, but I myself am on the pursuit of happiness.

The day was filled with memorable moments, like the year 8 class’ reaction to my self introduction 😂, and also some of the questions I was asked by students. Something that stood out was a girl asking me “Can someone who’s stupid but works really hard get into a posh University?”. It’s sad because she clearly wasn’t ‘asking for a friend’, and I’m sure I asked myself something similar in the past. I told the class that no one is ‘stupid’, and no matter where you’re from or where you are all that counts is hard work. To another student who had ample compliments for my so called intellect I said; “we’re both students, we just have different textbooks”. It’s true isn’t it?

I don’t think there’s an exact ‘moral’ to this whole story, I would just like to remind you that you are only limited by your mindset. Oxford is one of the best academic institutions in the world, of course its amazing, but at the same time it’s just a name. Many things are just names with ideas attached to them by different people with mindsets shaped by their experiences of the world. I hope you can follow what I’m saying. The area you’re from, a stereotype that may be attached to you, you’re dream destination; when you get down to it they’re all just names. All that is important is working hard, and the extent to which you can achieve this is based on the mindset you choose to adopt. It’s not always easy, but that’s why I’ll repeat what I said earlier. You just need to sincerely try to try your best, for yourself; and leave the rest to fate. 💜

If you become an assistant teacher for a day, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Xinyan.

The picture I included at the start is from one of the group photos taken with one of the classes of British and Chinese students. I chose to edit the photo, as it felt more sensible to cover people’s faces for Internet safety, rather than share a photo of a group of children without their individual consent. I’m sure you can understand this~