Since leaving Australia exactly one week ago and arriving in the Guangzhou Province of China, to then travel to be based at the Utahloy International School, our students have done so much. We quickly have had to adjust to jetlag, the cultural norms of living in China and the expectations of Utahloy International School. Everyone has bonded very well and has risen to the daily challenges of the Utahloy program, which has been and will continue to be very busy.
Students have been involved in numerous initiative activities, as well as participated in kayaking, bike riding to a local village, being immersed in the day school with the Utahloy boarders as buddies. They have played various sports, basketball, soccer and volleyball with and against the Utahloy boarders in the evenings, not to mention been involved in touch rugby helping teach and play with the local students. Some of our students and staff have even played in a social ‘friendly’ soccer match where staff versed students. The Utahloy students won that match 2-1, denting the pride of the Utahloy staff. Let’s face it, the youth of today are too fast!
Moving on though, our students recently took part in an orienteering course around the Utahloy campus. The campus is extremely large. For example the cross country course that navigates the school grounds is over 5km long. It was a great way to get to know more of the people in their core group and to see the entirety of the campus. ‘Fun Fact’ – The Utahloy International School was once a botanical gardens and it has definitely maintained the same feel. The students also took part in some rescue activities, raft building and trust activities this past week and it was pleasing to see that they all have some trust in each other.
One of our more recent highlights has been the visit to the Zengcheng No.1 High School. It is called No.1 because it is the best public high school in the area which makes it extremely competitive to get in to. It caters for Year 10 to Year 12 students and there are three thousand students who attend the school, the majority of whom are boarders. It was an amazing experience to be a part of, and our students were treated like rock stars. Everybody wanted to talk with them and take their photo, which they all graciously obliged. What was most impressive was a Year 11 local girl Krystal, the president of the English club, organised a whole 3 hour program for our visit. The VYLC students were exceptional, making local friends which made us all proud and ensured an invitation for a return visit. Hopefully we can fit this into the program!
They have been working on goal setting for establishing their projects looking at the many differences between China and Australia. They have reflected daily in their journals under the sub-headings of personal, local and global. Some of the project topic areas include: Economic growth, Air quality and pollution, Chinese schools and Australian rural schools, Chinese factories and infrastructure, The treatment of animals, How religion is expressed through architecture and Food availability and production.
We have had a workshop painting Chinese calligraphy and have all learnt some basics phrases in Chinese Mandarin with the aim to help us communicate and to be able to barter at one of the local markets. We visited a place called the Gwalu Market which was a multi-storey market selling anything from clothes to electrical goods. We were treated to a traditional Chinese banquet meal with numerous dishes including duck, pork, fish, tofu, vegetables and rice. It was delicious! Following dinner, all students put their newly learnt Mandarin to practice along with their bartering skills and had a budget to buy certain gifts for their buddies or teachers. The experience helped develop their language skills.
Today, our students have been involved in a community service project, whereby they helped paint numerous doors at a local Primary School to help maintain and beautify it. They approached the task with a positive attitude and worked collectively with focus. The end result was greatly appreciated by the local Primary School Principal. Again they have represented the VYLC, the Alpine School and their own schools with pride.
As a large group of Australians we are a community within ourselves, yet moving around the grounds of the Utahloy campus we have an obvious presence but still we are made to feel extremely welcome by all staff and boarders alike. This notion of being a part of an extended community has been extremely welcoming in itself.
Please keep remembering to follow the Alpine School website http://www.alpineschool.vic.edu.au/ and the Alpine School Facebook page. These are getting updated as often as we can access the internet
We have certainly become more comfortable with being in China as we are safe, well fed and kept busy with positive outcomes every day. Tomorrow we are off to an area in Hong Kong called Pak Lap Wan and will be staying there for 3 nights returning mid week.
The busy and active schedule continues. Great I say!
Russell Shem – Campus Principal