Life Changing Experiences From China

After nearly two weeks of amazing challenges and experiences, eighteen students, and four tired members of staff have returned from China with what we hope are memories that will last a lifetime. 

The Jack Hunt students and staff from Jack Hunt and Thorpe Primary spent nearly two weeks staying at the Gold Apple International School in Shanghai for what has been much more than just a sightseeing tour.  They have worked exceptionally hard preparing and delivering lessons to students at a number of different schools, the Gold Apple International school, the state-run Pu Xing Middle School and Pu Guang Primary school for children of migrant workers at the other end of Shanghai’s economic spectrum.  The exchange is integrated with the British Council’s ‘Connecting Classrooms’ initiative, linking schools in different parts of the world.  Schools share best teaching practice and resources, observe lessons and teach in each other’s schools. 

 Mr Barwise has been involved with the China Exchange since its inception in 2010 and has seen the project go from strength to strength.  Talking about this year’s trip he said “The students have worked very hard, enjoyed some wonderful experiences and have been excellent ambassadors for the school.  There have been many opportunities for the students to demonstrate their organisation, teaching and leadership skills as well as their enthusiasm for learning about the Chinese culture.”

For the students involved in the exchange it is a great opportunity to experience, first-hand, life in one of the world’s fastest growing and changing economies. Through their Sports Leadership work and attending lessons, they gain a real insight into the education system in China.  All the students completed a 3-day home stay when they spent a long weekend with Chinese students and their families which gave them the unique experience of living in a Chinese home.  The students were made so welcome and were so well looked after plus they got to see many different and interesting areas of Shanghai as a family trip rather than a school trip.

 Katie Prange, Year 8 really enjoyed her homestay, saying “I got to stay with a family in a rural area, so it was really good to see the contrast between the city and country living.  The best bit was going to see the pandas." Whereas Freddie Evans, Year 9 stayed with a family in an older part on the outskirts of Shanghai and said "We went into central Shanghai to visit the Aquarium and the Bank which is over 100 floors high."

During the stay Mr Barwise kept everyone back home up-to-date with his blog as it was a very intense thirteen days with lots of different activities, many of which students may not have done before.  This year one of the highlights was a Kung Fu lesson led by a teacher who also currently coaches the World number 2 and number 4 champions.  Another, for the students, was organising and leading the Sports Festival for 300 local primary school children. They also had the opportunity to try Chinese crafts including Pottery, traditional Chinese style pottery painting and the art of paper cutting.  Also just going to lessons on a daily basis, in a large international school where the level of work is challenging, made even more so through the fact that in a Chinese school it is delivered through the medium of English is a real education. 

Freddie Evans, Year 9 said “The most challenging part was organizing and running the Sports Festival but it was a real privilege to be picked to be the host, and it was very satisfying because it was so successful.”

 Over the course of the trip, it is evident that the students grow up a great deal.  The impact of the trip is long lasting and for some, even life changing.  The students get to see what China is like first hand and how closely linked we are to the country, as well as the doors that may open to them in the future if they have an understanding of China including the opportunity to study there.

When asked what they got out of the trip, Katie said “I am more confident and independent having experienced going through the airport, staying with the family and having to talk to the students.  It was hard with the language barrier but it was really good as we had to come up with ideas how to communicate with the young students and our homestay families.”

Freddie said “The trip was really good for my social skills, staying with the family and talking to students at the various schools.  I especially loved the responsibility of looking after the younger students and leading a whole class when teaching English.”

 For the first time this year, we took a recent leaver from Jack Hunt School on the trip.  Marco Calitiri is currently undertaking a gap year in the UK before starting a degree at the London School of Economics in September.  The opportunity for him to travel to China meant he was able to see and experience Chinese education and culture. It also gave him a very real insight into the economy of the country, the growth of business and links overseas notably in an educational setting, with the development of the Cambridge International examinations iGCSE programme at the Gold Apple School.  A large element of the university course that Marco will be undertaking will focus on the Chinese economy and the information he has gained about summer school opportunities at the Nanjing University and those to teach in the summer holidays at the Gold Apple School will mean he will consider going back to study and work in China during the course of his degree programme. 

 Marco was a real asset to the group and played a key role in many of the Sports Leadership activities especially taking a huge and significant leadership role in the setting up the Sports Festival that we ran at the Gold Apple School for 300 primary school students.  He was also very instrumental in supporting the Jack Hunt students in the sports teaching at the Gold Apple School, Pu Guang School and Pu Jing Middle School.

During the trip, Mr Barwise and Marco paid a visit to Nanjing University of Finance and Economics through which we are looking to set up gap year opportunities for students. This will offer a unique chance for students to study and learn Mandarin Chinese and gain a real insight into the culture whilst living and studying in Nanjing. Students will be able to undertake work, whether as an English Teacher or a role within the University.  In terms of a gap year, it would provide an amazing opportunity to travel, live and experience a very different country and to learn Mandarin Chinese before students head off to University in the UK.

Read more about this year's trip to China in Mr Barwise's Blog