Interview with Seng Ling Cheung, 2008
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Empire of Care oral histories
Scope and Content:
Seng Ling Cheung interviewed about coming to England from Malaysia in 1969 to train as a nurse in Colchester. Describes her experiences of working as a nurse and living in Colchester.

[00:00:00] Seng explains that she decided to train abroad due to limited nurse training places in Malaysia. Did not want to wait for two years to go to Australia, so came to England. Made own travel arrangements and parents paid for her flight. Came as a group with other student nurses. Arrived in London during the winter of 1969.

[00:04:09] Saw snow for the first time. Stayed in London overnight and caught a train to Colchester from Liverpool Street station. Met by a porter. Recalls that the hospital building looked gloomy from the outside but was nice inside. A Malaysian nurse showed her around and helped her open a bank account.

[00:08:09] Came to England well-prepared, with two suitcases full of clothes. There were nurses from different countries and cultures; they spoke fast and she could not follow the slang. Parents had chosen the three-year SRN [State Registered Nurse] nursing course for her. Lived in different nursing homes. Comments that she was happy and had a good time. Wore a clean uniform every day.

[00:12:13] Canteen food different from home, but reasonable and affordable. Chinese food not widely available. Homesick and wrote home regularly. Family came to visit after she married. Enjoyed nursing, never bored. Went to International Club on Thursdays and met many people.

[00:16:12] Allocated a foster family to support her; both teachers. Visited them on days off. Met local MP, Bob Russell, at his home. Learnt from her peers. Went to dances in London and spent holidays in Spain.

[00:21:00] Met her husband at the International Club; from Hong Kong and worked at the local Chinese restaurant. Married in 1973. Stopped work in 1975 when her son was born. Went back to retain in 2001. Nursing had changed over the years; patients did not ask too many questions and liked foreigners.

[00:25:33] Shares photographs of her colleagues in the nursing home, her own room and some male nurses. Recalls working on a children's ward on Christmas Day; had pictures with the children and a local sister. Also worked on a geriatric ward where patients stayed long term.

[00:31:09] Flew from Malaysia through Bahrain; took two days and cost £100, then four months' earnings. Bought a sewing machine and made her own clothes; wore to go dancing at the International Club. Met people from other countries and different professions, including some locals.

[00:36:45] Recalls that the nursing home was very strict. Did not allow boyfriends and the matron could enter without knocking. Had pictures of DJs on walls. Her future husband had a car. Went to Cambridge and Blackpool.

[00:38:38] Stayed in England as her husband would not be allowed to settle in Malaysia. Her brother came to England to visit his son studying at Imperial College. Some of the nurses went to Canada. Still in contact with some nurses from the children’s ward.

Interview ends abruptly.
Dates of Creation:
42 minutes 21 seconds
Creator Name:
Colchester Museums
Admin History:
Seng Ling Cheung (née Teh) came to England in 1969 from Malaysia to train as a nurse in Colchester. She married in 1973 and left nursing in 1975 when her son was born. Seng went back to retrain in 2001 and worked in Colchester until her retirement.
Archivist Note:
Physical Characteristics:
1 MP3 file created from original WAV file
Dates of Description:
28 April 2022
Not Available:
Digital item(s). For access please email ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk