By Rasami Chaikul
I studied in the Faculty of Humanities, Chiang Mai University, Thailand, majoring in English literature. On the first day, I was really surprised that all of the professors, including Thai professors, were conducting all of their classes in English. We were all confused and frustrated and amazed at the amount of language input we would have to deal with.
At the end of every class, we always talked among ourselves, confirming our homework and asking questions. At the end of the semester, before and during final exam week, we would study together and teach each other to make sure we all understood the content. We had to work very hard to pass the exam. We complained of how tough it was to study in an English major, but helping each other and teaching each other through our university years helped us achieve our goal and deepened our friendships.
At that time, we didn’t quite realize that our teachers were trying to prepare us for what we would have to experience in the future by simulating situations in which English is used in the community, using English as the Medium of Instruction (EMI), and encouraging the use of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) among ourselves and with the teachers themselves. The curriculum was unusual in a national university in northern Thailand, especially several decades back.
Today, many of us are working in airlines, international companies, as English teachers in schools and universities, and some have become entrepreneurs and business owners. Most of us have to use English in everyday life to communicate with both native and non-native speakers of English. We still keep in touch, and whenever we meet, we talk about how we spent our days learning together.
Even though I'm now a teacher, I'm still learning every day. My past experiences help me understand how students learn a language in a university setting. Teaching helps students develop not only in language but also in thoughts, ethics, values, and international understanding. Even as I teach, I also learn a lot every day. I learn about students’ interests, likes and dislikes, their language needs, their values, and of course their languages and cultures (to name a few).
But learning doesn’t stop there, especially when I come back to Tamagawa University after visiting Chiang Mai University, my alma mater, my "nourishing mother". Learning is my passion. Throughout my career, I feel fulfilled when I join learning communities, for example by becoming a member of many research groups and attending research meetings. Attending lectures and academic conferences also helps with our professional development because I bring back new knowledge and fresh ideas to share with other CELF teachers through our faculty development workshops. This helps create a learning community and a professional learning culture, where teachers learn from each other. In brief, the cycle of learning never stops.
Learning is a life-long process, and I’ll keep learning, because I love it.