China Trip July 2014
2014 Chinese Bridge Summer Camp
This summer, 10 pupils from Lumen Christi were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Beijing, where we stayed for two weeks. Our accommodation was in the Beijing Foreign Studies University, and through the Hanban/Confucius Institute, we were able to experience first-hand the exciting and distinctive Chinese culture, as well as learning the native language; Mandarin. As none of us had ever been to China before, we had no idea what to expect, although one thing we were sure of was that it would be nothing like we had ever experienced before; the food, the language, the climate, the locals, and the customs in China would be completely different to anything we were used to.
Almost every day would start off with a three hour Chinese class, in which we learnt everything from basic greetings such as “NÄ hÄo”, to famous Chinese pop songs. At first these classes seemed quite overwhelming, but by the end of the first week we were all able to use the Mandarin we had learnt in everyday use; for example, bargaining in the famous Silk Market, and greeting our teacher Miss Yuan. By learning basic Mandarin, I feel like we were able to connect more with the locals in Beijing, and fully immerse ourselves in the trip. As well as these Chinese lessons, we also had a series of culture classes, in which we learnt the ancient art of calligraphy, how to paint traditional Chinese Peking Opera masks, as well as having a lesson in Tai Chi. A personal favourite of these culture classes for me was the “Hand in Hand” day, in which we had the opportunity to interact with students our own age from various parts of China. It was amazing to be able to share stories and personally get to know these students, and I know that each of us have left China with more friends than we came there with.
Due to the fact that we were staying in the capital of China, we had the amazing fortune of being able to see and explore China’s most iconic and famous landmarks. From exploring the Dashanzi Art District, the National Stadium & National Aquatics Center and Tiananmen Square, to shopping in Wangfujing Street, to scaling the Great Wall, we truly experienced it all. We were positively consumed by the Chinese way of life, and jumped at any chance to partake in any Chinese custom, such as dancing to traditional Chinese music at the Temple of Heaven.
It is no secret that China is famous for its food, and during our stay we really tried it all. For every meal we used chopsticks, and by the end of the trip we were all experts. Although quite different to the Chinese food we are accustomed to here, the authentic Chinese cuisine was delicious, ranging from roast duck to fried dumplings, and everything in between.
What will always stand out for me about the trip was the friendliness and the warmth of the locals. Both the staff and the students at the Beijing Foreign Studies University went out of their way to make us feel welcome, and went over and above their call of duty to make sure we had the best possible experience of China, which we definitely did. The hospitality did not end with the people of the BFSU; every excursion we went on, we were greeted with smiles and waves from the local residents of Beijing. They seemed to be delighted to see so many tourists, and even took photos with us! For the two weeks that we were there, we were treated brilliantly by anyone we came into contact with, and although our Mandarin was nowhere near perfect, everyone was so patient with us, and encouraged us to speak it as much as possible. I would go back to Beijing in a heartbeat; it was without a doubt the best holiday I have ever been on, and I would recommend anyone who is interested in going to go and seize this amazing opportunity.