Three expat parents explain how they transformed their lives by going back to class.
Emma Linnitt stretched her career horizons with a yoga course.
I left the UK in 2001 as a trailing spouse. My husband had swapped his job in the British police force to work for a security consultancy in Jakarta. To be honest, it was a bit of an adventure. The plan was to do something different for a couple of years.
I had already given up on my career in finance when we got married in 1997 and had our son, Max. A police officer husband working shifts and a baby just didn’t mesh very well with the demands of my city-based job. So I down-shifted and found part-time work with a local high street bank.
But after two-and-a-half years in Jakarta, instead of going home, we moved to Hong Kong. By now my daughter Freya had been born, and in 2006 my third child, Zach, arrived. I was well and truly in the “mum-zone”.
We decided to live in Sai Kung, which at that time didn’t have much in the way of fitness classes. I’ve always been keen to stay healthy, and in Jakarta I’d managed to juggle my children with trips to a gym. The only option here was to join a local pilates class, which I attended religiously for five years. And then my life changed when Yoga Limbs opened up near Clearwater Bay School. They had a special offer for long-term membership, so I signed up for a year, purely for financial reasons. The membership meant I could go every-day – twice a day if I wanted – and the studio was right next to school for pick-up at 2.30pm.
I absolutely loved it and decided that I wanted to take things further with a teacher training course. So through Yoga Limbs, I signed up for a 250 hour Yoga Alliance course, which was part-time over 18 months. It was modular based with options to take the modules during the day, evening or at weekends, so I could work it perfectly around my family-life. I ended up completing it in nine months.
For my final exam I had to lead a one-hour practical, with no notes or guidance, so I asked three friends to come along three times a week for a couple of months to help me perfect my final session. When I qualified, these ladies asked if I would carry on and even offered to pay me for classes. By word of mouth, the class got bigger and I had to add more sessions.
In September 2014 The Yoga House was officially born. It has continued to grow and these days I run 14 classes, six-days a week, with private lessons as well.
I haven’t looked back – I’ve taken a couple of extra courses for teaching children and teens and I’m hoping to soon complete the next chunk of my teacher training, which will take me to 500 hours and allow me to instruct teachers.
I never planned on a career in yoga, I think it rather found me. But I absolutely love it and feel truly blessed. I would encourage anyone to give something different a go – I just wish I had had the confidence to break out and do it earlier.
Gecko Yoga runs certified Yoga Alliance teacher training courses in Hong Kong,
After years of dabbling, Sharyn Ridley has packed up her brushes and gone back to art school full-time.
I moved to Hong Kong from Australia sixteen years ago, during which time I have travelled extensively, married and had two children. I have always wanted to return to full-time study, but unfortunately the timing was never right.
I am an artist and have always been involved with art. For the past four years I have been attending life drawing with fellow artist Helen Boyd at the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre. We have a very talented and diverse group and we get together once a week to practise life drawing. I also share a studio space with Helen in Sai Kung – Studio SKink – where we hold regular life drawing and art jams.
Fortunately my husband and children have been incredibly supportive and gave me the confidence to return to full-time study last September.
I am studying a Bachelor of Fine Art (Painting) at the Hong Kong Art School (HKAS) in Chai Wan, in collaboration with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). HKAS offers both a Higher Diploma and Bachelor of Arts programme with practice of four majors – painting, photography, sculpture and ceramics. On completion, I will have a degree in Fine Art, with a major in painting. I am hoping to follow this up with a Master of Fine Arts.
My course is full-time over three years. I attend lectures in the evenings twice a week, and two lectures on Saturdays. The weekend commitment is tricky, as my husband often works on weekends and I have to juggle my study time around this and the kids’ sporting and social commitments. It’s not easy, but I must say, we are so lucky in Hong Kong having easy access to extra help. I am fortunate to have a wonderful domestic helper who I can rely on, as well as a great network of supportive friends.
Painting itself is very time consuming and because I paint in oil, I have to allow time for the paint to dry. I submit work to both the Hong Kong Art School and also RMIT via their website. I have updated my internet skills accordingly – there are so many amazing online tutorials these days which can really help.
So far the course has been extremely rewarding and worth all the effort. I had enormous satisfaction recently submitting my first art history essay. It was fun to write on a subject I love.
My first semester has flown by and I have loved every second of it. I have really welcomed the challenge of returning to study in my forties. I relish being surrounded by other creatives and learning different techniques every day. I kept putting it off for years, thinking the timing wasn’t right, but really, is there there ever a “right” time? Time goes so quickly, you need to grab opportunities when you can. I am lucky to have such a supportive family who are proud of my accomplishments.
Studio SKink runs regular art jamming classes and workshops for adults and kids. See their Facebook page to learn more. Hong Kong Art School offers a range of courses, see their website for more details.
Amanda Mullins never gave up on a career in counselling, despite several international moves.
My degree was in psychology, sociology and English literature, which I completed straight after school in the UK. I also completed a post-graduate diploma in counselling, specialising in addiction and trauma. I initially worked with homeless youths who needed support when they left institutionalised care-homes at the age of 18. I met some amazing kids and was inspired to pursue youth counselling.
I then moved to Sydney with my husband and two children and worked with the Department of Community Services for almost five years, in areas such as child protection and early intervention. I really felt things were taking off and lined myself up to go back to university to complete a Masters in counselling and psychology, a qualification I really needed to develop my career.
But at this point my husband’s job was relocated to Hong Kong and we moved as a family to Pok Fu Lam. I managed to find work supporting bank employees with stress management, parenting solutions, marital help and so forth, but to be honest I felt pretty cheated about not being able to study for my Masters.
So after a couple of years I plucked up the courage to apply to Hong Kong University (HKU). Amazingly, I passed the entrance exam and was offered a place studying social work with counselling. It was two years full-time and to be honest, if I knew then how competitive it was going to be, I might not have applied.
When you’re studying full-time, there is no work/life balance. I had to prioritise my studies, the kids and my husband – and the rest of my life I just had to park for two years. Studying in an Asian university was also much more fast-paced than what I had been used to.
I was catapulted right out of my expat bubble and suddenly I was part of a very powerful alumni, discovering a totally different side to the Hong Kong I had known. I have amazing memories of this time and formed friendships that will last all my life.
Not only that, I achieved my dream and got my Masters. To be honest, when it happened, I was too tired to feel relieved. I went out in Kennedy Town with some other students and we really let our hair down.
But the best part of the course was the practical element, which involved spending ten weeks in Mumbai counselling street children. This was amazing – life-changing and something I will never get to repeat. I lived in a hut in the slums with no shower and a tin roof that blew off regularly. I’m renowned amongst my Hong Kong friends for my penchant for the Mandarin Oriental hair salon and other comforts, but my new circumstances quickly became my reality – and I loved it. It was a totally back-to- basics existence – I hand-washed my own clothes, ate with my hands and got used to not blow-drying my hair every day. The kids themselves were amazing – they had nothing, yet I never saw any of them ever throw a tantrum or squabble with each other.
I would say if you’re thinking about going back to school or university, just go for it. If I’d stopped to think about how I was going to manage it all, I think I would have given up before I’d even started. While I lost some expat friendships, I gained so much more. Yes, it’s tough, but so worth it in the end. I still can’t believe I have a Masters degree.
Time for a career change?
Art – If you want to master a canvas but don’t fancy a full-blown art course, Hong Kong Art Tutoring holds adult painting and life drawing classes, both one-to-one and in groups.
Business studies – give your skills a boost at The Knowledge Academy. They run online and classroom-based courses in management, web and graphic design, digital marketing, software programming and more.
Cake decorating – Blossom Cakes School of Cake Decorating and Confectionary Arts in Tin Hau has a variety of courses and Master classes, whether you’re looking to create a one-off masterpiece or want to develop your skills further. It also runs
PME Professional Diploma courses.
Floristry – Hong Kong Modern Flower Arrangement School runs courses designed and acknowledged by the International Floral Arts Association. The School offers Professional Florist Certificate courses and Higher Diploma studies.
Home decoration – Insight runs a range of interior design courses, from vocational short courses to one year intensive professional diplomas.
Photography – if you fancy yourself behind a camera, Hong Kong Photo Workshop’s self confessed mission is “to make great pictures accessible to anyone with a camera and a love for photography”. It offers private tuition and classes for beginners and advanced amateurs.
Technology – brush up on your digital skills with General Assembly. They offer a variety of education opportunities in design and technology on both a full and part-time basis, as well as one-off evening classes.
And don’t forget…
The Centre of Learning and Life Enhancement at Hong Kong YMCA, Macdonnell Rd, Mid-levels, offers a range of evening and short courses for adults.
Or take a look at the range of courses available at the Hong Kong School of Professional and Continuing Education, from evening courses, to part-time and full-time classes.