Our Stories @ ENG: Nicole Lai

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.]

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One More Light
by Nicole Lai

I didn’t expect myself I would end up missing the ENG Department when I first started here two years ago. Rushing to campus after work, getting packs of dim sum noodles from the food machine with Gladys, three hours of lectures… I thought it would be just another two years of studies. I was wrong.

I still remember how lucky I was to have passed the course by just reading “Kubla Khan” and “A Dissertation on Oriental Gardening” not to mention what a risk I had taken. After finishing the programme now, I have no idea why am I still reading the most ‘boring’ Derrida, which I used to hate the most. Perhaps this is the magic here. Apart from many unforgettable literary works and enlightening discussions, the teachers are brilliant. They are super-supportive.

She (who?) brought me into another world of poetry, and I did my favourite presentation on “Shooting an Elephant” in her course. I won’t forget how she encouraged me to keep creating new works and not to give up. She said, ‘We must be strong.’

He (who?) has never taught me in any course before, but I’m lucky to have him as my MA project supervisor. I was scared before I really met him because my friends said his thoughts and standards are peculiar. Yet, he taught me how to be bold and never hesitate to work in a creative way. I guess I made it.

Although she (who?) gave us lots of discussion questions, we would always find going to her lectures so relaxing after a long week. We would feel so guilty if we didn’t respond to her upbeat voice. I won’t forget how I cried in her room right after she asked me what I was going to do with my essay.  Her gentle voice (and a box of tissue) did calm me down.

He (who?) introduced me to the world of Ecocriticism. None of the others really liked his teaching, but he inspired me right away in the first semester here. Yet, I still have no idea why I ended up being his class representative (just to help him to get markers from the classroom next to us, distribute handouts, and find our shuttle bus after a field trip to the Kadoorie Farm).

I have lost count of how many times I’ve cried in front of my teachers. It could be during a consultation session while we were just talking about my essay, or even just in a lecture when I started to slow things up.

I am so broken inside. Two teachers here literally saved my life.

He taught me most of the courses in these two years. After literally saving me from falling, cracking a few jokes to cheer me up, we had long chats. He always says I’m stubborn. I guess that makes me difficult to handle, and people gave up on me. Sometimes, I’d still have a throwback to some good conversations.

He has never taught me during these two years and I didn’t expect him to be the one who saved one more light from going out this summer. He tried his best to tell me a hopeless joke of the precipice, moon, flute, silent copter, and beer. Well, that really worked. I still can’t believe we actually spent hours with acrylic paints and Asahi. And thanks for introducing me to the wonton noodles at 六合小館 (Six Up Inn), I wish I knew it two years ago. Keep my ‘burning paper boat’, and I will remember to be a candle (but not those harsh lights the police used against us).

I’m so glad to be part of this ENG department in which I believe each of us, like a candle, will light up the dark.


Nicole LaiNicole Lai believes in the power of poetry and especially Sylvia Plath’s. As a Hongkonger, writing poems is her escape when nobody hears her. Her poetry has been published in Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine. She is a graduate (MA in Literary and Comparative Studies, 2018) of the Department of English. [Read all entries by Nicole here.]

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