We recently interviewed Sean Shadbolt, who has been learning Chinese Mandarin at Euroasia for a number of years. Sean is in Elaine Wu's Advanced Chinese Class on Wednesday evenings.
Euroasia: What do you do professionally?
Sean: I am a commercial photographer. I shoot a lot of different things but mostly centered around food and lifestyle photography. Its always changing and while it has huge ups and downs as far as work and income are concerned, its always interesting with the people I meet and the experiences I have.
E: Tell me how you first got involved in photography.
S: I first got involved in photography when I managed to talk my way into a temporary job as a photographer for the Wellington city council in 1983. After that I worked as a trainee photographic technician at the tourism and publicity department for two years and after that two years of study at Wellington Polytechnic. In 1991 I started my own business.
E: What do you do when you aren't taking photos/working?
S: When I’m not planning for or doing photography I am either studying Chinese or working on my own or my friends houses. I would like to spend more time travelling but recently have been unable to but hope to go back to China within the next year.
I usually just tell people I am a photographer and not much more, technical details of what it is exactly I do can be dull and complicated, Most people’s experience of photography is wedding photography which I engage in occasionally. My family still isn’t really sure what exactly it is I do.
E: What has surprised you most about learning Chinese?
S: The thing that has surprised me the most about learning Chinese is how many Chinese speakers there are now in New Zealand. I hadn’t really noticed too much before I started although through my work I was quite aware of Chinese culture here. I also have some close friends who are either Chinese or have Chinese heritage. I also taught a number of Chinese students when I was a photography tutor.
E: What's the best thing to happen since you started mixing with Chinese people/learning Chinese?
S: I think the best thing to happen to me since I started learning Chinese is a much wider appreciation of the culture and heritage, also having a window into Chinese perspectives on life and values.
I also enjoy learning Chinese because it is a language that is spoken everyday in New Zealand, unlike the European languages I studied many years before. You can go into any Chinese restaurant or shop and get a little bit of practice.
E: What would you tell someone who is thinking about learning Chinese?
S: I would advise anyone thinking of learning Chinese to be prepared to do a lot of extra study and practice, especially at first, as progress can be very incremental, also to consider doing the HSK exams, that can really give a goal to focus on.
E: What's it like to be learning Chinese at Euroasia?
S: I enjoy the classes at Euroasia because of the after hours times. It is difficult to fit in any study during the day so it fits in with my schedules. I don’t miss too many classes. The classes are also very social and I enjoy catching up with the other students every week and also in our trips to Chinese restaurants.
E: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?
S: If I wasn’t doing photography I would probably do some kind of teaching. I taught photography for a long time and also did a CELTA and language teaching course a while ago at Unitec which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Thanks Sean for sharing your thoughts.
For more details about Sean, check out Sean's website.