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Learning lessons of identity and language

Lauren Dalby Global Hope 2014 Friday 7 November 2014

When Lauren Dalby went to India on a Global Hope trip, she prepared to teach for the first time in her life. However, she too was to learn plenty of lessons.

“I was nervous about teaching English to the Tibetan students from the University of Delhi,” says Lauren, who is currently finishing her MA in Criminal Justice at Liverpool Hope. “I was there with my friends Dena and Jess and we didn’t want to simply stand at the front of the classroom and talk. We taught first and second year university students between the ages of 18-24. They were all doing different subjects such as journalism, business or psychology. We wanted to make sure that they were getting everything that they possibly could from the experience, as we were only there for two weeks.”    

After developing some basic lesson frameworks, Lauren, Jess and Dena came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was to ask the students themselves.     

“The students all agreed that they would like to focus on how to pronounce English words - especially words that English has borrowed from other languages, or words that are spelled the same but are pronounced differently. There are more than 90 different languages in India so all students at the University of Delhi are taught in English. However, they tend to read in English rather than speak it. Outside of university, the students speak Tibetan and Hindi and there is a big difference between all three pronunciation styles.”

Lauren says that engaging the students was a challenge at first. “The Tibetan culture prizes being quiet, respectful and being seen and not heard. So, we started building in games as part of the sessions to encourage participation. We tried relay races where each person had to pronounce a word they had learned before they could take their turn. The whole lesson relied on spoken English so that the students were immersed in the language. It brought it home to me just how many different elements are needed to make you proficient in another language.”

Whilst Lauren helped to teach the students each evening, she too was to gain an important insight into what it means to be a Tibetan student in India.     

With the help of student guides Wangmo and Zompa, Lauren and Jess were given a tour of India’s most visited places including the Red Fort, India Gate and the Tibetan Market. They also had the chance to visit the Taj Mahal and Agra.

“There were lots of fantastic things to see, but there were also things that were difficult,” says Lauren. “You have to be prepared to see poverty and things that you aren’t happy with and that you know you can’t change. The poverty levels in some parts of India are incredibly high, but you have to focus on what you can do whilst you are there. You need to think about why you are doing it in the first place.”

Lauren also learned a lot about Tibetan culture and the struggle with China. “Wangmo moved to India at the age of 8 because her family couldn't stay in Tibet, and Zompa was born in India. Neither of them can obtain a Tibetan passport, and to obtain an Indian passport they would have to become Indian citizens. Many Tibetans are reluctant to do this, as this will mean that they are renouncing their homeland to some extent. 

“Whilst we were there, there was a Free Tibet march, and one of the Tibetan students we were working with was interviewed on the news. I realised just how proud the Tibetans are of their heritage, and it made me think about how I would feel if I was told that I could no longer call myself British.” 

Reflecting on her overall experience, Lauren says: “I had never been outside of Europe before, so travelling to India was a big culture shock, but I am so glad that I went. I learned so much and gained a greater understanding of the situation for Tibetans. I am much more well-rounded person after this trip.

“I’m not a teacher and I would never class myself as one, but this experience has given me the confidence to deal with groups, to present to them and engage with people in a way that is suitable to them. It is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life – and by that I don’t just mean that it will be on my CV.”  

Application forms for 2015 Global Hope projects are now available on the Global Hope pages. The deadline for submission of applications is 24th November.

For more information, contact  


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