“When you go see a new place, you naturally compare it to what you are used to, with the country you were born and raised in. This broadens your perspective by which you judge and compare what is positive or less positive in your country, you understand better why in some places it works and in others it doesn’t. Moreover, you learn that what is trivial in one society can be essential in another part of the world. So, you manage to better outline in what kind of society you would like to live for a long-term”. Roger Jin-Kang Cheng, 24 ani, Australia
I met Roger – a charismatic Australian – on my first day at work in London. What caught my attention was his ability to switch from being very serious and focussed, to having a wonderful sense of humour. He studied classical piano for eight years and he also knows how to play the saxophone. The guitar became a recent enjoyable hobby he picked up. Although he always wanted an artistic path he also had a strong interest in science. Maybe that’s why he has a very ambivalent character.
He graduated from the Faculty of Psychological Sciences in Sydney, where he learned Developmental Psychology – the way the brain forms memories and how they are replaced with time. As a student, he felt there were too many theoretical studies and he didn’t see their usefulness.
After he had spent an entire year not working and locked in his room playing computer games and having unemployment status, he made the decision to temporarily leave his continent. In 2016 he moved to London with his girlfriend Claire who was a big influence on his decision to move. His love for his girlfriend gave him the drive and the ambition to travel. Claire graduated from university and they were curious that they could grow professionally in Great Britain and in the education system. He didn’t have any job at the time so he didn’t see any inconvenience in moving to another country. Once arrived in London, he found a job at a school dealing with autistic adolescents and, for the first time, he felt the usefulness of his university studies. “This job made me feel that what I’ve learnt during university may contribute to the wellness of the students I was working with. I didn’t think too much when I accepted to work in the SEN-Special Education Needs field. The agency suggested I worked either at a secondary school, or at a school for autistic adolescents. I didn’t know exactly what autism was but I accepted the job as a challenge.” Claire, his girlfriend, was hired as a music teacher for primary school.
English culture was a big influence on Roger when he was growing up. In his childhood, he used to watch the BBC channel for kids. Moreover, the books he read during high school for the English class and the famous TV series he used to watch influenced him on the long-term. “The Peter Rabbit episodes I used to watch when I was a kid outlined an idyllic image of England. In my childhood universe, the country was full of green hills and beautiful landscapes and it always seemed like a place where I could feel at home.”
Before moving to London, Roger had never lived in another country and he had only travelled a few times. He spent a month in Western Europe with some friends and also went to Japan for two weeks on his own. “I liked Japan a lot. At least generally, it seemed that no one sought to be privileged to someone else’s detriment. On a number of occasions, I’ve seen a wallet in crowded areas, such as the train station. It was like the thousands of people passing by the wallet have all made a tacit agreement not to touch someone else’s object. In addition, they marked it with chalk to draw attention towards it so chances that the owner found his/her lost item increased.”
Roger was very curious to be more independent and experience a different society altogether. Economic and political factors around the world are contributing to a higher emigration rate, however, his reason to travel was curiosity and exploration.
At twenty four years, he has lived a prolonged and beautiful student-like life. He feels lucky he can live in London for the sake of enjoying the international culture of the city and not due to less fortunate reasons that make other people leave their country.
Leaving his parents’ house for a city on another continent, Roger learnt how to take care of himself from all points of view. “Living in London made me take care of all the household chores and pay the rent and utilities etc., for the first time. Also, the high cost of living here taught me how to spend the money I earned in a responsible manner. Anyway, I also learned to invest in things that develop my abilities in different directions. I think it’s good to save money in the first part of our lives, but we have to find a balance because this is the part in which any investment in our own personal development is a long-term gain.”
Working in education with people with special needs, changed his perspective on life. He realised how different human experiences are, including sensory experience, and he learnt to be patient and to understand that in some of the cases of autistic students the information arrives later, so he learnt to take the time necessary in communicating with them.
Non-verbal language is just one of the techniques Roger developed by using it on a daily basis. He taught drama classes aswell which combined several types of communication, including Makaton (a sign language used by autistic students) , verbal and non-verbal communication. The Makaton language is an internationally recognised linguistic program used by students with autism and by their families, speech therapists, social workers or other persons with whom they get in contact with. Roger quickly learnt to be attentive to the students needs. He was swiftly be able to identify a basic need such as hunger or thirst.
“In everyday life it happens that we become obsessed with momentary things and maybe we get angry when someone disapproves of us. We get angry in the car, in public places, at work, at home, but mostly they are minor things that we automatically forget when another thing becomes our matter of interest.”
Roger has a strong belief that people involved in voluntary activities would feel happier and positive with their own lives. “If they could see how hard life can be for young people with special needs and for their families, people would treat minor problems with much more relaxation. When you see that for children with autism common activities such as going to the park, school, pool or simply communicating when they are hungry or thirsty is a challenge and, sometimes, even a success, then you avoid complaining about minor dissatisfactions. It would be good to have more awareness related to autism because the life of many people with special needs is limited due to the high expectations of the community with regard to their behaviour.”
At this year’s summer performance Roger prepared a few scenes from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The scene was adapted to each student’s abilities.
Roger’s tolerance rate increased significantly during his experience at school. Also, he feels that his complex travelling experience has helped him develop more of an open mind and a healthier soul. Moving to London gave him a bigger desire to travel which led him to visit many cities in Europe.”When you go see a new place, you naturally compare it to what you are used to, with the country you were born and raised in. This broadens your perspective by which you judge and compare what is positive or less positive in your country, you understand better why in some places it works and in others it doesn’t. Moreover, you learn that what is trivial in one society can be essential in another part of the world. So, you manage to better outline in what kind of society you would like to live for a long-term. It’s interesting how much freedom we have in choosing in which corner of the world to live in.”
”I recommend to those who are uncertain about what to do, to go live in another country for a while. Living in London forced me to choose a work place, to become responsible. Although I interrupted my music study for a while, this period brought new ideas. I even thought of a possible music therapy project, which would connect the passions discovered: work with young people with special needs and music.
Roger and Claire went back to Sydney at the end of the summer because their visa expired. They knew from the beginning that the visa is only valid for two years and to prolong it would be a difficult process. They’ve made dear friends in London. During those two years, it was impossible for them not to get attached to places and people, and the fact that they had each other while living away from home made it easier for them to overcome problems. “Now I’m back to Sydney because my visa expired and I’ll soon start working in the therapy field, similar to what I did in London, but I’ll work with children between 2 and 7 years old. As for the future, I imagine myself living in England again, when I’ll get my visa again.”