There are ninety students on the Big Northern University's MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL course. Eighty per cent are Chinese, female, and just out of university. Fewer than ten of us have any teaching experience.
Much of the first week, predictably, is aimed at the International Students. "There are three stages of culture shock," one recent Chinese graduate tells us. "Try English food," suggests another. "It's probably your first time outside of your country," begins our course supervisor, "so use the opportunity to travel as well as to learn."
I find it hard to resist a sweet shop mentality when it comes to choosing modules. Reconceptualising SLA Research clashes with Teacher Development for TESOL. I can't decide between Corpus Linguistics and Discourse Analysis, but the first one loses out when I realise it's scheduled for Friday afternoons. In the end, it all comes down to why you're taking the course.
"A guy I work with picked the modules that seemed to be connected," a student whispers as I turn through the pages of the handbook, "and he did ok. To be honest, I'm only really interested in the letters after my name."