A letter from Leo: Two years after my trip to Fiji

Leo Xie was a final year mechanical engineering student when he joined us on the trip to Sabeto in 2013. Together with his team members – Jeremy Varendorff and Epeneri Korovakaturaga they did some amazing science activities on water purification and electric circuits. They demonstrated their understanding by creating videos on laptops and animations on ipads. When Leo graduated, he worked as a mechanical engineer for one and a half years before resigning to pursue a career in teaching. Leo wrote this letter to where he reflects on the Fijian experience and connections with his new career path…      


Leo (left) and Jeremy ready for another day in the classroom…in Fiji sulus

Dear Vinesh,

I am finally getting to this point of sharing my thoughts about the trip in Fiji with you.

It was great to see the ongoing work of the SEE project as I was able to meet with some of the students who went to Fiji in 2014 and 2015. It was great to see Graeme, Epeneri, Jeremy and you. It refreshed my memories of the SEE project from two years ago when we departed from Brisbane and had a life-changing trip together. In this letter, I would like to reflect on how we helped in the schools, and how the project impacted on me.

In 2013, I was with a group of passionate undergraduate students from the disciplines of engineering, film and TV, fashion, and education. We headed to a small village called Sabeto, and connected with the local people. Our project included setting up computer labs, teaching with ICT, sewing, and filming. Through these projects, we were able to see the lives of the people and how they lived in this village, and got inspired – they were so happy even though they had so little.

Experiencing Fiji

Experiencing Fiji

As a mechanical engineer, I never expected to be a teacher (let alone a good one) until I encountered the children in the classrooms in Fiji. I thought teachers must have many tricks under their sleeves to tame the children and help them learn. I am a mechanical engineer; teaching would not be in my job description. But my first encounter with some children in the village changed my views. There are two aspects of children I found that drew my attention: they are vessels of curiosity, they are eager to explore this world, and naive enough to believe the simple facts that we taught them (not that I taught them anything wrong or incorrect). The moment I stepped into that class, it suddenly appeared to me that, whatever I do, it would influence these curious little minds, for better or worse. Teachers in my view are role models for children, therefore, their morals and professionalism drives the atmosphere of the classroom. The second aspect was behaviour management. To be honest, in one of the schools the children may not have been the best behaved but they are happy children, and they are very excited to meet us, playing games, conduct science experiments, and learning at the same time. We had lots of fun together. Through my experiences, I found that children in general want adults to pay attention to them individually and also engage them in meaningful activities. While I always encouraged them, at the same time, I did not let them run wild. I set boundaries and made sure to let them know when something they did was not acceptable. In the end of the day, we made friends, but professionalism also prevailed.

Students' interest and engagement made a big difference

Students’ interest and engagement made a big difference

Where I am at now: After I got back to Australia in 2013, I was thankful that I got a job as a mechanical engineer, but I resigned from my position after one and a half years. In my continued journey of searching for a profession that is truly aligned with my passions, I am now studying for a Graduate Diploma in Education (Secondary) at the Queensland University of Technology. I have to say, the trip to Fiji played a part in making this decision…through the experiences in Fijian schools I realised that teaching was a profession that I was passionate about.

Thank you Vinesh for your guidance and being a friend.

I hope you are well.

Kind regards,

Leo Xie


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