‘I finally made a move to face my vulnerability’: How Maxine Peng overcame her fear of speaking English

La Trobe’s weekly English Conversation Club helps students form new friendships and improve their English conversation skills. Regular attendee Maxine Peng shares her story below.

Deciding to join the English Conversation Club

I am a Chinese student in the Business Analytics program and as an international student, communication is always the biggest challenge for me, both in academic and everyday life. However, since I joined the English Conversation Club last year, my communication skills have improved so much.

It’s only my second year in Australia, but I studied in the United States for almost six years. Frankly, communicating with native speakers is still my biggest insecurity. Due to staying in my comfort zone (my Chinese community bubble) for years, I’ve lost countless opportunities to improve my personal and professional growth. Rather than accepting an interview that was offered to me, I went back to China for my internship. That’s how scared I was to talk in English, let alone attend job interviews.

After deciding to move to Australia with my partner, a whole year of lockdown gave me enough time to reflect on myself, and I finally made a move to face my vulnerability before stepping into the real world. Hence, I found the English Conversation Club and joined in. It was the best decision I’ve made since enrolling at La Trobe.

Developing my speaking skills

I have taken paid speaking classes before, and Freya from the Learning Hub is my favorite “English teacher” I’ve ever had (and for free!). Her kindness and warm heart helped me with my fear and nervousness.

Tenzin (a Peer Learning Advisor at La Trobe) became my role model soon after I joined the club. His wisdom and knowledge are impressive. He can answer whatever question you ask comprehensively and without bias; it can be about society, countries, even the universe. He literally is a human Wikipedia.

I have recommended the English Conversation Club to my classmates, and they told me how much it has supported them during the lockdown period. I can speak on behalf of our international students, that to have someone to talk to is one of the greatest supports we can receive from school, especially when we are far away from our family and close friends. 

Communicating with confidence

La Trobe’s English Conversation Club has helped me overcome my difficulty talking with English speakers. Last week, I was invited to my partner’s colleague’s wedding, and he was surprised that I could finally speak with comfort and confidence. That’s when I realized how the English Conversation Club had changed me. It’s gradually preparing me for my future. Next time I have an interview, I won’t avoid it!

To find out more about the English Conversation Club, visit the Learning Hub LMS.