Juniors Manson Tung and Akilan Murugesan are going to Hong Kong this summer to participate in the Hong Kong Summerbridge program.
Summerbridge is a non-profit organization and a sister program to Breakthrough at Country Day. Breakthrough, once also known as Summerbridge, is a program to provide a college predatory education to unprivileged youth.
Last year Tung participated in the Summerbridge program in Hong Kong. However, Murugesan taught at the Breakthrough program in Sacramento.
Summerbridge lasts about eight weeks. Five weeks are spent teaching the students, while three weeks are used for preparation, post-evaluation, and meetings and workshops.
But Summerbridge isn’t just fun; it’s also a lot of work and dedication.
According to Tung, teachers give two 45-minute lessons each day, along with an hour-long elective. They also have an hour-long “family session.”
“[Family session] is like an advisory, but we make sure students get support or help if they need it,” Tung said, “and make sure they are dealing with the transition.”
“Flexibility is expected,” Murugesan said. “I know from Breakthrough Sacramento that the work extends well beyond official work hours and that it might very well spill into my weekends.”
“You ask yourself how on earth you can be so stressed out on your own summer vacation,” Tung said.
But the long hours aren’t all drudgery.
“The good part is that with these hours a social life is built, and bonds are made with fellow teachers,” Murugesan said. “We get to know each other – develop rapport, friendship and more.”
Tung and Murugesan each submitted a 15-page application that involved a transcript, a letter of recommendation from a mentor or teacher and an interview. During the phone interview, they were asked questions about their teaching philosophy and their reasons for wanting to participate in Summerbridge. They had to meet many requirements, including having to speak English fluently and show their ability to converse in the language. While this seems like an obvious qualification for someone from the U.S., Summerbridge hires teachers from all over the world.
Tung said that in the interview they asked him what he’d do differently the second year.
“Last year I was distracted and it was very different from being a student to a teacher,” Tung said. “This year I am going to know how to be a better teacher to my students. Last year was also strange because the students became interested in me as a teacher. For example, they searched me up on social media and started liking my pictures.”
According to Tung, it is rare for Tung and Murugesan to both be offered spots at Summerbridge, since only one in 12 applicants is accepted.
Tung will be working as a committee head, planning student events. For example, last year Tung’s committee planned a fashion show. Tung will be teaching World Cultures with an emphasis on urban agglomerations. Murugesan is unsure of what he will be teaching but has some ideas.
“I do not know the finer details of the work now,” Murugesan said. “All I do know is that now I got an offer from them, I’m very excited, and I applied for the Hong Kong work visa!”
Tung and Murugesan are going to stay in Hong Kong for about two-and-a-half months. Summerbridge will provide free housing and free air travel.
Summerbridge will also be giving Murugesan and Tung a condo in a neighborhood called Chai Wan.
“As a non-Hong Kong resident and minor, I feel very privileged to have this big help from them,” Murugesan said.
Tung and Murugesan both said they know they’re going to have a blast.
“I’m not really nervous about anything going in,” Murugesan said. “There’s the language barrier, but since all the students speak English and aren’t allowed to speak Cantonese during class I think I’ll be all right.”
“Last year I lived with my aunt, but this year I have to live by myself,” Tung said. “Mainly I’m just excited to be living on my own and going with Akilan.”
Tung worries that this year will differ from the past year at Summerbridge.
“I worry that it’s not going to be as fun as last year,” Tung said. “When you do something a second time, sometimes it’s not as fun.”