In October, 25 students and 3 teachers from Bohunt School, Liphook, went on a very special trip to China. Throughout the two weeks they took part in activities they could not have done without Bohunt’s extensive Chinese links, which include being part of the Govenrment’s Mandarin Excellence Programme and having a partner school in Taizhou. Their confidence in speaking Mandarin and their understanding of Chinese culture grew profoundly, despite a number of challenges along the way.
After 25 exhausting hours of travel, they finally arrived in Xiamen, on China’s South East coast, where they stayed for the next 6 days. They studied Mandarin for three hours at a time, took cultural language classes in things like Kung Fu and tea ceremonies in the University of Xiamen and did many excursions around the city. Due to the high level of language the students have already they were encouraged to apply for a scholarship to Xiamen University after leaving Sixth Form.
Next they travelled to Taizhou, where they stayed with host Chinese families. Many students found this nerve-racking, as for many it was the first time they had stayed alone with an unknown family in a foreign environment, but an incredible experience. Then they visited Suzhou for one day and then via a bullet train they finally made it to Shanghai, their last destination, for two days of sightseeing.
The most challenging, but rewarding and memorable, part of the trip was living with a Chinese family for 5 days. The students experienced the everyday lives of their exchange partners and along the way practiced their language skills and overcame communication barriers. The level of hospitality was fantastic, with students taught to make local delicacies, taken to the best restaurants around town and kept talking until late in the night about their very different lives; there was also a lot of English homework that was helped with! Students from the school in Taizhou were incredibly excited to have English students visiting and treated them like celebrities, including screaming and crowding windows to get a view.
Neil Strowger, Headteacher of Bohunt School, feels that it is overcoming this challenge with the support of their peers and the staff on the trip that leads to some of the biggest benefits:
“The cultural immersion and language barrier make the homestay element of the China Exchange very challenging for students. However, their determination, their positive attitude and our high expectations of them have meant that they made the most of this incredible experience. These international trips, along with our extensive outdoor programme, expeditions and growth mindset training, give our students a chance to show they are resilient, resourceful, confident leaders who stand out. We are really looking forward to extending students opportunities to learn Mandarin, challenge themselves and develop in to our Sixth Form, which opens in September.”
One of the most difficult things to get used to in China was the colossal contrast in everything from the school day (very long) to the environment (very busy and built up). For example the students were served a vast array of foods that they wouldn’t eat back at home in a very communal and formal way. A great example of this was when served duck, or sometimes chicken, the dish would come with the head still attached. This threw most of the students except Alex who tucked in to the brain. Eating the amazing foods is an experience the students won’t forget.
Another aspect of life in China which is striking contrast to life in England was the school day. The students were stunned at how much time their exchanges spent at school. The average Chinese school day started before 7:00am and ended at 6:00pm, a huge difference from the 8.40am-4:30pm at Bohunt. Additionally, Chinese teachers set about another 2 hours of homework every night so some students didn’t finish working until late at night!
All the students that went have stated that the China exchange was an unforgettable trip and experience. Many students are now keen to go and study/work in China in the future.
“It was an amazing experience that I will remember forever. I learnt so much that will definitely benefit me in the future” – Emily
“I loved experiencing the differences between the two cultures.” – Alex
“After going on the China exchange, it am eager to go back and study in Xiamen university” – Emma
The Chinese students that they stayed with will return to the UK in July 2017 for the second leg of the exchange. The Bohunt students can’t wait to return the hospitality and show them the school and locale that they love.
Press release written by:
Ella, Alicia, Emily, Emma, Sam from Year 10