By Education Gazette editors
By participating in an exchange project, students are helping to consolidate a new sister-city relationship between Nelson and Yangjiang, China.
Earlier this year, six students from four different high schools in the Nelson region travelled to China to visit Liangyang Senior High School.
Liangyang Senior High School (LSHS) is a week-day boarding school in the Guangdong province and the Kiwi students stayed in the school dormitories. It was the first time the school had ever hosted exchange students.
Facilitated by the New Zealand China Friendship Society (NZCFS), this first exchange was focused on the development of friendships between the young people of New Zealand and China, based on understanding of arts and culture.
NZCFS Nelson Branch President Barbara Markland says the students who were selected showed an interest in China and had talent in music, drama, dance or fine arts.
“Before they went they learnt a little bit of language such as greetings and so forth and they did learn a song in Mandarin that they could sing. One of the girls was already fluent in Mandarin; she had been at school in Shanghai from age 3 to 9 so she did a lot of the translating,” says Barbara.
“The boy who picked up Chinese more easily was a boy who had some [fluency in] Māori language. We’ve found before that there seems to be some sort of affinity between Māori and Chinese and I don’t know whether it’s the grammar or the pronunciation but he picked it up really quickly.”
Students attended English classes at the host school, with each class focused on a specific topic. These included the differences in education between both countries, interactive games, Yangjiang specialty foods, traditional festivals and ethnic cultures.
The students also had the opportunity to experience activities such as tai chi, calligraphy, seal-making, traditional Chinese dance (Lion Dancing and street dancing) and kite-making.
Learning from each other
Deputy Party Secretary and Guangdong Coordinator for the exchange Yu He Gao (Gavin) says students from both countries learned a lot about each other’s educational system and cultures.
“From the moment you got off the bus, all our students began to cheer and welcome you from the teaching buildings. They were all eager to make friends with your students. They have shown greater passion for English learning than ever before, asking their English teachers for help on how to express themselves in English, looking up the words they need to talk with your students,” he says.
“This exchange is not only a chance for you to experience Chinese culture but also an opportunity for our students to get a better understanding of Nelson New Zealand and find a motivation to learn English.
“Your students are brave and independent and what deeply impressed us most is their creativity and willingness to learn new things.”
The exchange between Nelson and Yangjiang was awarded the runner-up placing in the Sister Cities New Zealand Awards’ Best Project Youth or School category in May this year.
What students are saying...
“As a foreigner, I expected most students to be apathetic towards us, or even avoid us, because of how I have seen foreigners treated in New Zealand... I was very humbled by the enthusiasm we were greeted by, and hope that New Zealanders can learn from their example.”
“I enjoyed any activities where we were speaking, socialising, or otherwise interacting with the Yangjiang students. These interactions gave me an insight into culture and life in China in a way that textbooks or museums never could.”
“I was really surprised about the school days the students there have, starting early in the morning and going to school until 10pm.”
“We have lots of exchange students in Nelson so we don’t think twice about them being in our schools, but being over there made me realise how diverse our schools are and how uncommon it was for them to have international students.”