Four foreigners considering a career in teaching are spending a year in Hong Kong classrooms. The high school graduates from Canada, the United States and Britain have joined the schools as English-language teaching assistants. Janine DeVito, 19, David Calloway, 18, Reena Thakrar, 19, and Carrie Lindeboom, 20, said they were attracted to Hong Kong's special political and cultural situation. They were all contemplating a teaching career and saw their time in the SAR as a test of their enthusiasm. Ms DeVito, from Canada, is spending a year at the Tseung Kwan O Government Secondary School. 'It takes a while for the students to realise we're not teachers,' she said. 'We kind of break down the student-teacher hierarchy.' She said herself and Mr Calloway, an American working in the same school, encouraged students to use English in ways they had not before, and had them write journals and play games. Ms Lindeboom, from Canada, is working at the Hong Kong Chinese Women's Club College in Sai Wan Ho. She said the assistants were close enough in age to the students to be able to chat to them about music, clothes and relationships, and expand the pupils' use of English. 'We are just like friends.' Olwyan Payton, a teacher at Tseung Kwan O Secondary School, said the assistants helped pupils build on their knowledge. 'They can do things I can't as a teacher; they continue things we do,' she said. Briton Ms Thakrar is with the Helen Liang Memorial School in Sha Tin. She said interaction with teaching assistants from different parts of the world helped prepare students for the different accents they would encounter when they entered the workforce. 'It's an enriching experience to them . . . their ears are lubricated with two different voice patterns and two different ways of saying things,' she said. All four assistants came to Hong Kong under the Native English Teaching project begun in 1994 by the Chatteris Educational Foundation. Form Seven student Carol Woo Mei-yiu, 19, said she had been inspired by the two assistants working in her Tseung Kwan O school. 'I hope to be an exchange student in the US too, to open my eyes to the world,' she said.