Grads of the UK is an Instagram project and series of articles run by graduates, for graduates. We are documenting what being a millennial in 2017 is really like, with honest stories about life after university.
Every week we hand over our Instagram account to a new grad and share their unique story here on GradTouch. This week Raisa is taking over. Raisa did a BA degree in Drama and English Literature, before moving on to study for a Master's in English Literature. Now, she's juggling teaching in a secondary school and completing her teacher training.
You can read our interview with Raisa below, and see more daily insights into her graduate life by following @gradsoftheuk on Instagram.
Raisa was born in London, but moved to Hong Kong as a baby before returning to do her A-Levels in the UK as a 16-year-old.
She tells me, though she was born here, the move was abrupt and unsettling for her. Raisa spent the first few months of her late teens in the UK “wanting to jump on the first flight back”. Stuck in “some sort of cultural limbo,” and missing the family and life she’d left behind in Hong Kong, things were difficult.
It was only when Raisa resolved to immerse herself in both her studies and extra-curricular activities at school that things started to turn around. The motivation behind doing so was the belief that, she explains: “if I was constantly busy I wouldn’t have time to be homesick”. But she got much more out of her time at school in the UK than that: friends who became her “second family,” a sense of belonging here in the UK and her inspiration to one day go on to become a teacher.
Raisa tells me she believes the extra-curricular activities schools provide are “absolutely crucial for students to keep balanced, have an outlet and relieve pressures or stresses”. For Raisa personally, it was English and Drama classes that really had an impact on her.
“I had quite a bad stammer growing up – it still flares up when I’m stressed – but I found that whenever I was in Drama class or singing I never faltered verbally.”
Getting involved in Drama at school, Raisa says, “did wonders for my confidence”. So much so, that she kept it up at university – she studied for a BA in Drama and English Literature at Huddersfield. She then went on to study an MA in English Literature at the University of Leeds and is now working in a school whilst training to be a teacher.
It was in third year of her undergrad degree that Raisa fully realised teaching was the path for her.
She’d spent her second year working at a Saturday performing arts school and in her final year, she says, she started thinking: “I could really see myself doing this every day, for a living, and enjoying it.”
Moving from abroad during school has influenced Raisa’s work as a teacher. She says, coming from 16 years in Hong Kong, has “absolutely” made her better teacher – she makes sure she is “always trying to promote tolerance and appreciation for different people and cultures, be it in an English or Drama lesson.”
For Raisa, the things she was able to get involved in at school – particularly the arts – made her excited about being in the UK again. Now, she wants to have the same impact on the teenagers she works with.
She explains, “I know that Drama might not be every thirteen-year-old’s favourite subject, but after suggesting to my Year 9 class that they could devise a group piece about issues facing people their age, they ended up performing to their Head of Year.”
Seeing moments like this, when the teenagers she teaches get really involved and passionate about lessons, is what she finds most rewarding. “Being able to provide my students with an idea and trust them to rise to the challenge and make it their own has definitely been one of my proudest moments as a teacher so far.”
One of Raisa’s hopes is to get students enthusiastic about studying English too – “beyond the normal notion of: ‘I have to take these exams because it’s a core subject at GCSE’”.
Though the arts mean a lot to Raisa, now that she’s got into teaching full-time she’s realised “there are so many misconceptions about the value of arts within education.”
She says she believes students are increasingly pressured to pass exams, to know what they want to do in future and to make a ‘good’ decision to study a ‘strong’ subject at uni because it’s increasingly expensive to go. The result being: “sometimes that spark of creativity ends up lost in the abyss”.
For Raisa, this just serves to motivate her more. She makes her lessons “as creatively stimulating as possible” – in the hope that students will know they can pursue the arts if that’s where their interests lie, just as Raisa did, and end up with a fulfilling career.
“Any chance my students have to shine creatively is really special, so I fully believe that the arts have a crucial role to play."
For now, balancing her full-time teaching responsibilities in secondary school English and Drama lessons, alongside earning her official teaching qualification, is “a very intense experience,” but it's worth it.
Raisa feels a “strong sense of purpose,” in her work already, and is excited about her future in teaching and working with young people to give them the tools they need to follow their passions.
Finally, Raisa says she thinks it’s really important for young students, university students and graduates alike to pursue their interests, whatever they may be. “If you know you enjoy doing something,” Raisa says, “be it within arts, sport, music, debating, writing, or photography” – go for it.
“If it affects you in a positive way and it’s something you really want to work on and excel at, don’t ever give it up.”
Raisa is running the @gradsoftheuk Instagram until Saturday 6th May.