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Overlooking Yu Mountain

Woodbridge pupils on China Exchange

12 Nov 14

On our recent trip to China in October 2014 to Taicang Senior High School, we were surprised at the huge differences in culture. For the students, being thrown into everyday life staying with a family, gave them an interesting and individual perspective. Even within the Chinese families there were many differences, such as their level of understanding and speaking of English and their daily routines. All the families have, however, welcomed their guests with warm hospitality and a genuine interest in them as individuals.

group photo

Our mornings gave the teachers and students time to share their experiences of the night before and time to observe and participate in lessons. We had the opportunity to learn a Chinese folk song and practise our skills of calligraphy. Lessons began at 6.45am with the whole class reading aloud an English novel, and many classes have over fifty students yet appear to concentrate throughout, and when asked, will stand to recite their answer without hesitation! To aid their concentration all pupils (and form teachers) have to run around the grounds for 15 minutes twice a day, but also have a nap on their desks after lunch! Possibly a practice Woodbridge could adopt? They also have dance music (that is ballroom not rave) in between lessons and compulsory eye exercises. All students do at least four hours homework every evening and our students said this has inspired them to work even harder than they do already.

caligraphy

All parents at Taicang School have very high expectations of their children to achieve academically, which makes us appreciate just how lucky we are at Woodbridge; that we also nurture and value the spiritual, emotional and physical well-being of our students.

After a gentle start, the week gathered pace with a visit to the beautiful oriental gardens of Suzhou, formally owned by ‘The Humble Administrator’. The ancient buildings such as ‘The Hall of Distant Fragrance’ and ‘The Floating Green Tower’ were surrounded by lotus and azalea blossoms which were abundant at this time. The first week culminated in a whole day in Shanghai with everything from the incense infused spirituality of the Dao Temple, to the intensity of bartering in the manic shopping markets. Shopping for snacks can be hilarious also, when you realise that mixed in with your individually wrapped sweets, you have chicken feet and candy floss meat!

The high point of the second week was a visit to Yu Mountain. Overlooking the city and vast countryside, breathing in the fresh mountain air and listening to the old people playing music and singing gave everyone an empathetic, spiritual feeling towards the Buddhist monastery only metres away.

We all agree that what we gained from this trip was more than just a holiday; not only did we see another country we gained real insight into another culture.

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