Why Tokyo, why ELT?

Almost three years ago, after a dear friend’s wedding, a Japanese friend asked if I would like to join her in this salsa bar in London Bridge. It was this Peruvian place that I had been a couple of times before. It was there I had met the person who would change my life forever. Although it took me another 6 months to realise that.

Living in Tokyo, having been here for two years, my students still ask me how I became an English teacher. Well, let’s start from the very beginning.

Born in Hong Kong, I was sent to a boarding school in North Wales when I was 14. It was a bit of a shock moving from Hong Kong to a seaside retirement town even though I was one of those rare village girls who has never lived in an apartment block. Came UCAS time, undecided about which subject in science I wanted to do, I applied to all the universities that offered the broad natural science course. Cambridge was one of them. “Don’t be ridiculous!” I said to mum when she encouraged me to apply there. To this day, I still think I was very lucky to have made it. Perhaps it was a cultural diversity quota thing? I still remembered that grey winter day I went for my interview. I saw the others, a few of them, were accompanied by their mums. It was not until that moment that I thought I had gotten pretty far. A village girl from Hong Kong. Not bad! Today I still couldn’t tell if I had heard it right when my professor who interviewed me said to me, ‘See you in October!’

Cambridge was where I had met a lot of my wonderful friends. After that, I was about to start a PhD in Cold Spring Harbour the same year that 9/11 happened. I don’t know how my life would have been liked if I had gone that way. I remembered it was James Watson who surprised me a bit when he just kept on talking about a certain gorgeous Russian tennis star during out little chat. I wasn’t sure if that place was really for me. So London it was and it happened to be where my love was.

I ended up doing a PhD in London on the geneticist’s classic favourite, Drosophila. I had some good and bad time but I gradually realised tackling one problem at a time and for a long time might not be my thing. Some bad things happened. One day, I walked out of the lab and decided never look back. It turned out to be how I had missed the 7/7 London attack as I decided to stay home instead of turning up at the lab not far from where the bus had exploded!

I was in pretty bad states. Depression is a funny thing, you really don’t know it when you are in it. That’s when I started dancing salsa.

I was lucky to get a job in science publishing and for having worked for one of hardest working and fair women I had ever met. Before I took that job, I thought I would never work under another female boss, but she was worth it every bit. Agency work was fun but something was missing in me. I was getting tired of the city.

It was then I had to make the decision to quit and follow my heart. That was how I ended up living in Japan and started my life as a teacher. I never would have imagined how much I would enjoy getting to know my students. But science is always in my heart. I am still the same curious person who always ask too many questions.

13 Responses to Why Tokyo, why ELT?

  1. Chikki says:

    Wonderful story,Connie 🙂
    It’s very unusual to me to discover enjoyment reading someone’s blog!
    And i didn’t know i like your writing style!!! It’s YOU!!
    Keep going, girl!! And have a secret girls talk at cafe :)) hehehe

  2. Zoe says:

    “To this day, I still think I was very lucky to have made it. Perhaps it was a cultural diversity quota thing? ”
    I also think I was very lucky to get into Cambridge. We all were, considering there are lots of people who are good enough to get in who are turned down every year. However, I do NOT think you were let in for cultural diversity (Illegal in the UK anyhow)! You are really smart and deserved to get in on merit.
    Good luck in Japan. I enjoy reading your blog
    -Zoe from NH

  3. Zoe says:

    Of course, if you want to. There are lots of exams but mostly I enjoy it.

  4. amy says:

    did you go to Clare? I think your name rings a bell. We should have met somewhere on campus (I was a grad student) but I don’t think you have any memory of me! the only reason I remember your name was ‘cos it was my first time living in UK and there were not many chinese around.

    • Connieay says:

      Hi Amy,
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Yes indeed, I went to Clare. You were right, there weren’t so many Chinese in our college. What are you doing now?

      • amy says:

        preparing for the bar exam in the US and moving on to become a lawyer..
        I remember there were very very few….at clare, although the percentage was higher at other colleges. about graduate students in my year, there were only 2 chinese.

  5. Connieay says:

    Good luck with that Amy. I hope all goes well. Changes for everyone.

  6. amy says:

    do write about Japan (I love japanese food and hello kitty!) and hopefully relate it a little to your experience in UK.
    it’s a long time ago but it also seems like yesterday. nostalgic….

    • Connieay says:

      Will try. Do check out my other blog as I can do more on that over there.

      • amy says:

        I sort of miss the porter’s lodge … everything …. on the clare campus (new one across the river). I recall that I moved to graduate housing north of the river in my second year and so did not spend time at all on the clare campus. I’ve probably missed out a lot.

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