Our Stories @ ENG: A series in which teaching staff and students share their memories of the ENG Department to coincide with the 60th Anniversary of the department. [Read all entries.] [Revisit the “Pride of Place” series.] [Revisit the “Pet Sounds” series.] [Revisit the “Headspace” series.] [Revisit the “Ongoing” series.] [Revisit the “Interrogative” series.]
The Same But Different
by Lui Ling Isabelle
How many of you have found out who you are as a person?
I can confidently, unashamedly, say I have.
During my short one and a half years with the Department of English Language and Literature at HKBU (plus half a year in the USA for an exchange semester), I have gained three things out of the teachings of the professors there: critical thinking, a craving for knowledge, and future insights. Three most crucial, valuable, yet not so easily earned virtues that have benefited me in a lot of aspects of life throughout the past few years.
I remember I experienced my first ‘mind-spark’ when Lian-Hee threw us a question in the middle of a phonology lesson. Let me put that question in my own words: in a room where there’s an accountant, a mathematician, a linguist etc., why should a company choose you, over all the other equally qualified candidates? Exactly. Apparently he teaches not only phonology, but also life lessons.
From that point onward I couldn’t stop pondering the same question. What exactly do I have tomorrow that other people don’t, that makes me a more desirable candidate or, in general, a better person? It didn’t take long for me to realise that the English courses I had been taking, be it literature or linguistics, have given me an open mind for different opinions, a heart always longing for wisdom, and an appetite for all the knowledge in the world. I have learnt not to judge people before seeing the whole picture, and to criticise everything people out there are trying to feed us. I have a clearer perception of what is right and what is wrong. All these have made me a valuable addition to any institution in this modern world, where personality is more important than mere knowledge and hard skills.
In Ruth’s literature class I’ve had a taste of philosophy (Plato’s Allegory of the Cave) and have started to doubt everything more extensively since. I question life; ask ‘how’ and ‘why’ all the time; and never stop seeking an answer. Then I enrolled in a couple of philosophy classes that have totally changed my views towards life, religion, and happiness, and today I am still grateful I have developed such an appetite that goes way beyond imagination, all because of that one particular English literature class.
There were always aspects of a course I was less interested in. For instance, I’ve been very much into cultures and history, but not very good at creative writing and phonology (which, bizarrely enough, happened to be the basis of my honours project). Initially I had absolutely no clue how I could complete JSP’s course. I believed I could never understand or do anything with dystopian writings, until one day we were told to create a found poem, using the reading materials we had been analysing throughout the course. I was in fact impressed by my own piece of article that was attempted to mirror the ‘revolution’ in 2014 Hong Kong. I could actually write a dystopian poem! Such a creative and fun way to produce a poem with bits and pieces of some famous literary work whilst also unveiling expressive ideas of my own. There, I found unlimited possibilities in one’s creative mind. It’s much like life. You don’t know what the future will bring, but that actually means you can reach wherever your heart leads you to, and even do what you didn’t think you can.
Isabelle Lui is a graduate of the Department of English Language and Literature (Class of 2016).