Graham O’Donaghue on his journey from Swansea Student to Working and Living in China

Me and my daughter at graduation 2012

Hello to Everyone,

First thank you for taking the time to read this post. My name is Graham O’Donoghue and I studied at Swansea University from 2010 to 2012. I want to take a little bit of time to talk about my experiences and where my degree has led me to thus far.

In 2008, I had been studying Archaeology and English Literature at a different university. I know this is a strange combination but I thought I’d choose one subject I did well on for my A-Levels and one I was interested in.  However, I found that my personal circumstances meant that I didn’t feel the course and place I was in were right for me. So, I chose to take a gap year for my final year to a small city of around 4 million people, on the East side of China. There I was a Junior Lecturer at Shandong University of Technology, Zibo, Shandong, China.

There, I discovered something that suited me better than Archaeology and English Literature and that was the passion for teaching. I was tasked with teaching oral English to students who were not much older than I was. I grew to love the place and the profession and so decided to live there for another year. At this point, I chose to switch from my current place of study to enrol at Swansea University, studying Language Studies with TEFL. However, I as was eligible for a year of deferred entry, I decided to wait another year to ‘hone my skills’ where I was before returning to full-time study in the UK.

In 2010 (newly married), I returned to the UK and to Swansea University, determined to do well in my new degree path. I’d always told myself that I would accept nothing less than a 1st class degree and felt if I didn’t get that I would be really disappointed in myself (sounds OTT but it really helped me to keep focussed). This determination is what kept me going. After two years of hard work, eating, sleeping and breathing my degree, I successfully obtained that 1st class degree in July of 2012; my daughter happened to be born at the end of the year— right around exam time and on Fathers’ Day — so it was a double whammy for me and one great degree photo!!

Summer School

It’s 2018 and I am now in China after having been here since 2012 and with a lot more experiences under my belt. I have taught everybody from the smallest kindergarten children, to a 58-year-old businessman who was looking to expand his views on the world. I have taught primary school students, middle school students, high school students and everyone in between, and I wouldn’t change a single day I have spent here! The thing that keeps me doing the best that I can every day is the genuine and honest sincerity of the people around me. I am humbled by generosity and kindness that parents of my students show and the love that students have for their teacher, no matter how old they may be. To this end, I try my best in everything that I do, because I feel I should give something back to the country that has welcomed me with open arms and I am humbled to be part of that culture.

Summer School

The biggest thank you I have, however, aside from my wife who put up with those two years with me at Swansea (always in the library) is to the lecturers and staff at the University. From the very first email I sent enquiring about the change of course, to the point I graduated (and even now, in 2018), the staff have been incredible in every way, guiding me, having patience, and really helping to bring the best out in me and allowing me to reach the potential that I knew I had. In short, they never gave up on me and for that I am eternally grateful. Without naming names, but they know who they are, they are a credit to the University. I would say, anyone looking to join, or think about going to Swansea University, should stop ‘looking’ and get on with it; you will not regret it! The lecturers and teachers really were like a family to me and without their support, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today.