Bai Jie has nothing but fond memories of her time in Derry as she prepares to return home to China this weekend.
Jie, a language assistant, has been teaching Mandarin Chinese and Chinese culture at St Columb’s College since September of last year.
A teacher from Yuxi No.3 High School in Yunnan Province - located in south west China - Jie paid tribute to the pupils and staff of St Columb’s who, she says, have made a “deep impression on me”.
In particular, she singled out principal Sean McGinty, and teachers Marion Lübbeke and Noel Finn who, she said, helped “make me feel at home here in Derry.”
She told the ‘Journal’ this week: “The pupils in St Columb’s are very interested and keen to learn Chinese from me. During the year, we had a lot of happy times and great experiences to share with each other.
“My students have learned greetings in Chinese and how to introduce themselves. They have learnted to say where they come from and other useful expressions such as ‘thank you’, ‘you are welcome’, ‘sorry’ and ‘goodbye’. They can now count from 1 to 100, talk about their favourite drink, food, fruit, colours and much more.”
Jie says learning the language through songs is very helpful and useful for beginners.
“That is why I often set the words or phrases into songs,” she says. “In this way, not only do the pupils feel more motivated to learn Chinese but also it is easier for them to remember what they have learned.”
Jie has also spent some time introducing the students to aspects of Chinese culture.
“In my opinion, the achievement for the pupils is not only to obtain the knowledge itself but also the experience they gained in the class. Above all, they got to know their own talents and found confidence.
“On the other hand, I improved my English a lot with their help and gained a lot of different teaching experience which will be of great help in my teaching career when I go back to China.”
Jie, a mother of one, says that, during her year in Derry, she met so many “fantastic friends” not only from the city but also from across Europe.
“I got to know other language assistants from France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and elsewhere.
“This has taught me that, even though we have different colours of skin, different backgrounds, different cultures, what we have in common is friendship.
“The cultural influences narrowed the differences and broadened our minds.”
She added: “All in all, I cannot put into words what I have learned and experienced in my year here at St. Columb’s College. I am leaving with fabulous and unforgettable memories. As the old Chinese saying goes, ‘A close friend afar brings a distant land near’.”