Alumni

Alumni profile - Heidi Cheng

I grew up in a city that puts a lot of emphasis on English and where there is a great demand for English teachers. When I visited London for the first time as a tourist at 16, I was hosted by a local British family. Being able to be understood by native English speakers was such a cool feeling and it really fueled my interest in English learning and teaching further. 

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Why did you choose to study an MA in Applied Linguistics for English Language Teaching at Queen Mary?

I have always been a firm believer in learning languages with/in their associated cultures. Although my education in Hong Kong had sufficiently provided me with a solid understanding of the English language and English education, I aspired to put my English into practical everyday use and to exchange ideas regarding language teaching and learning from people with different backgrounds, all of which I could not achieve by staying in Hong Kong. Therefore, when I was about to finish my BA in Language Studies, I started looking for overseas opportunities to further my education.

London is insanely multi-cultural so you literally get to know people from all over the globe. You learn from people’s stories and share your own. You study hard, and stay up late in the library, which is open 24/7, while you also get to relax and enjoy yourselves in the big, charming city.

I remember I researched quite a few masters programmes in London, but the MA offered at Queen Mary was the only one that included both my passions, i.e., linguistics and teaching. I applied for the programme and was thrilled that my application got accepted.

How did you first become interested in English Language Teaching?

My passion for ELT started very early on. I grew up in a city that puts a lot of emphasis on English and where there is a great demand for English teachers. When I visited London for the first time as a tourist at 16, I was hosted by a local British family. Being able to be understood by native English speakers was such a cool feeling and it really fueled my interest in English learning and teaching further.

What aspects of your degree did you find most enjoyable and was there anything that surprised you in your studies?

I loved that there was a lot of chances for discussion in class. We were constantly asked to explore and express our opinions on the assigned readings, and I was surprised that we, as a small class, always came up with interesting perspectives and were able to respect one another even when we might not agree with one another.

What did you enjoy most about studying in London?

I guess any foreign students who have studied or are studying in London would share my thoughts. London is insanely multi-cultural so you literally get to know people from all over the globe. You learn from people’s stories and share your own. You study hard, and stay up late in the library, which is open 24/7, while you also get to relax and enjoy yourselves in the big, charming city. There are a lot of resources for your studies but there is also a lot of entertainment available outside of your studies.

You now work as an Assistant Lecturer at The Open University of Hong Kong. Can you describe what your role entails?

My role entails teaching English and communication related modules to post-secondary students in Hong Kong. I am also coordinating a course this semester which requires working in close liaison with the administration and our part-time teaching staff. In addition, I am responsible for organising language-enhancing activities for students. Lastly, my colleagues and I are currently trying to get our paper completed and properly published.

Which aspects of your MA do you feel have helped you professionally?

What I did not expect was to also acquire my CELTA qualification during my studies, and I think it, along with my MA, really has helped certify me as an ELT professional.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love that I am putting what I learned into practice every day. I consider it a privilege to be able to teach.

Were there any academics that had a strong influence on shaping your time and studies at Queen Mary?

As the course representative of the MA in my cohort, I got to meet with Professor Kathryn Richardson regularly to discuss matters about the programme. On top of that, she was also assigned as my mentor. I was and am still thankful for her time guiding me through my options and encouraging me not to give up when I could not stay in London after my graduation and had to go back to Hong Kong. Also, Dr. Agnieszka Lyons, who taught Second Language Acquisition, encouraged and supported me to write on a difficult topic for my term paper. It was a challenging but rewarding experience and I learned a lot from that essay.

What did you love most about your time as a student at Queen Mary?

I loved that other than studying just as a student is supposed to, I was also able to take advantage of other arrangements that the university provided, e.g., the accommodation. I was assigned a flat which I shared with other postgraduate students at Queen Mary. We supported one another through our masters and shared lots of memories outside the campus. Without my flat mates, my life and study in London would not have been as fruitful and unforgettable.

What advice would you offer to undergrads interested in studying an MA in Applied Linguistics for English Language Teaching at Queen Mary?

I would say if you are passionate about both linguistics and education like me, go for it.

Note: The MA in Applied Linguistics for English Language Teaching is now the MA in English Language Teaching.

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey. If you would like to get in touch with Heidi or engage her in your work, please contact Nathalie at n.grey@qmul.ac.uk.