Trips & Visits | Posted 10.09.2014

A trip to China

Over the summer, four members of Higher Line travelled to China for two and a half weeks, to teach English, stay with families and learn about the Chinese culture. Emilia, Will and Alice give their accounts here of their experience.
They were accompanied by Mr McGarvey, who said: “Anyone taking part in a similar trip in future years will really need to at least match the wonderful attitude showed by Emilia, Will, Alice and Giles. They shone very brightly, in true Stonyhurst style”.
Emilia O’Connor:
When I heard that I would have the opportunity of going to China this summer to teach English, I felt a mixture of nervousness and excitement. I had never taught before and so the thought of teaching my first lesson on the other side of the world was quite a daunting prospect! On our arrival, however, we were met by a big welcoming party of staff and pupils who could not have been more kind or attentive and we soon found ourselves settled in and having a truly amazing time.
I stayed with a wonderful family who really made me feel at home and welcomed me with open arms. Staying with them meant that I was completely immersed in the culture and it was fantastic to be able to experience a lifestyle so completely different from our own.
Teaching was such fun, especially as we developed close friendships with the children and it was great to see the progress they made and the enjoyment they got from the lessons. As well as teaching, the school generously organized trips for us, which meant we could experience the culture first hand. From calligraphy to dancing in the park, to learning Thai chi and climbing mountains, we really got a feel and were able to see what an incredible country it is. Our trip finished in Beijing where we stayed for several days. We were lucky enough to see the Great Wall of China which was both mind-blowing and surreal, as well as the Olympic Stadium, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
I do not think that when I set out for China I could ever have imagined such a wonderful experience (or myself trying fish eyes and tree fungus!) or the overwhelming kindness and generosity we were met with. Going to China has opened my eyes to the wider world and allowed me to grow in confidence. I will always remember the amazing people I met and extraordinary experiences I have had, it was truly a trip of a life time!

Will Metcalf:
One of the greatest experiences of my life! Lessons were hard work to begin with, but we soon figured out how to go about it, worked brilliantly as a team and it became great fun. Everything was completely different from in England, in particular the food, however we soon got used to it, and were looked after like royalty and felt very much at home. We also made some great friendships, and felt sad when it was time to leave. Personally, the highlight for me was teaching, and reflecting on how they went afterwards, as we always had something to laugh about! However the calligraphy, Kung Fu, early morning badminton in the park, and endless games of hangman were also brilliant!

Alice Kenyon:
The main reason I applied to visit China was to stretch myself as I had never worked with children before. I wanted to see what I could learn about myself in unfamiliar and challenging situations, so I had no idea what to expect.
After the longest plane journey of my life we were met at the airport by some staff from You’s English, who took us to the school to meet the children. I was completely overwhelmed by their enthusiasm – they were so excited and intrigued by everything we said and we felt like celebrities! I stayed with a 9 year old girl called Strawberry, whose parents were very welcoming and so keen to make me feel at home. Strawberry’s aunt showed me how to make tea on her traditional tea table and it was amazing for me to experience such a beautiful culture. I found it so fascinating.
While teaching at You’s, Giles and I had a class of young children who were aged between ten and twelve years old. We were able to use games such as ‘duck duck goose’ to teach them about animals and we set up our own shops to teach them about supermarkets, which we all loved. I had never taught before so it was great to see how keen the children were to answer questions and fill in worksheets we made them. They did everything we asked them to with such enthusiasm; it was fantastic that they were so eager to learn and to get everything perfect. I found it so rewarding to see the vast progress the children made over such a short time, knowing that all our hard work was paying off and that we were obviously doing something right. We got to know the children very well and it was a great start to the day to come into the school and be greeted by their smiling faces.
Throughout our stay, we did a wide range of activities. I am still undecided as to which was my favourite but it is definitely between Taiji and Chinese calligraphy. We had four Taiji lessons during which we learnt a whole routine. Our lessons were in the morning and in the evening. I felt privileged to be practising an ancient martial art in such a picturesque setting right in front of the magnificent mountains. I found calligraphy very relaxing and I was proud of what I had written that I had it framed. We also tried our hands at some kung fu, picked grapes on a farm, walked up a mountain and over a bridge hundreds of metres in the air.
For our last 2 days in Beijing, we saw the typical tourist sights, visiting the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Olympic Stadium. The views from the Great Wall were absolutely breath-taking and it still hasn’t really sunk in that I was actually there! I would have loved to have been able to walk the whole length of the Great Wall but I think that may be a near impossible task. My favourite of all the sights was the Olympic Stadium. It was amazing for me to think of the distinguished sports men and women who have stepped foot inside the magnificent stadium before me. I couldn’t believe I was standing next to the finishing line where Usain Bolt won the men’s’ 100m in 2008! We even got the opportunity to go up onto the roof and we saw for miles into the city and right down over the track.
I would never have thought I would go to China, see all the sights and teach English. It always seemed like the kind of thing other people did! I am so grateful to be given the opportunity to have this life-changing experience. Going to China has allowed me to grow and reflect on the kind of person I am. I have had some amazing experiences that I know have changed me for the better and given me so much more confidence in myself. I have learned a lot about myself and now I know that if I want to do something, even something as scary as travelling to China to teach English, I can.