Shannon Dyer looked out over a sea of chaos as nearly a thousand Chinese middle school students enthusiastically participated in a made-up game of ‘English hot-potato’.

It was a game she had created with a friend while volunteering as an English teacher in Yunnan province in 2012. The rules were simple — you throw the ball around and whoever has it when the music stops, has to say three things in English. The difficulty came when the school principal decided that instead of a single class participating, the opportunity to meet a foreigner was so exciting that two whole year levels should be involved — over a thousand students.

“It was madness, once the ball had been thrown in there was no getting in back out…and they were so excited to meet us! If you were an outsider looking in, you would have thought a celebrity had just walked into their midst. We were swamped by students asking for photos, autographs, and hugs.” Shannon said.

It was an experience that sparked a love of the country, its people and its language.

“My time there developed within me a great love and respect for China and its people. I have been jumping at any opportunity to go back ever since. I admit – the food does play a small roll in that as well”

Lastweekend Shannon Dyer was awarded First Prize in the 14th Annual ‘Chinese Bridge’ Chinese Proficiency Competition. Another Griffith Student Lauren Harvey also placed third in the competition. Both students study Chinese language through Griffith.

The ‘Chinese Bridge Competition’ is a large-scale international contest sponsored by the Office of the Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) in Beijing, and is well-known in cultural and educational exchanges worldwide.

Shannon will now fly to China to compete in the Semi-finals and if successful will represent Australia in the world finals.

“It is definitely a very daunting prospect to go over there and compete, however the experience is definitely a once-in-a-life-time opportunity and I am sure I will enjoy it immensely”

“My last visit had its fair share of challenges, though the people around you are always willing to help you pull through. I loved every moment of it and I can’t wait for more.”


The top three contestants receive their awards from Dr Zhao Yongchen, PRC Consul-General in Brisbane