Hero photograph
China 2015
Photo by Brendan Biggs

China Trip

Brendan Biggs —

The 2015 China Tour was the College’s fourth educational tour to China. We were overwhelmed by the number of families who came to our information evening back in May 2014. We began meetings, emails (I stopped counting at 1000), fundraising and preparing:

 the students sat exams and saved their money

 the guys from Chan’s Martial Arts punched through boards

 the neighbours ate chocolate and fudge and more chocolate

 the travel agent worked some magic on the ticket prices

Our planning started to attract like-minded and focused people: keen students and wonderful parents to help plan, fundraise and organize the tour. Rob Oorschot also joined the group with extensive experience and support. Within a year we were packing our bags and putting on our polo shirts. The 2015 tour was a chance for us to revisit some old friends and deepen friendships, especially at HUST and MaLong school. We must draw attention to some special people:

Hong Hu: thank you for your patience, smiles and work on making this trip a huge success. You are so hard working and a real asset to education in both China and New Zealand.

Jennifer Wong: thank you for being such a fun teacher and for attracting so many great young minds to Chinese classes. This trip could never have worked without your dedication to excellence. Your ability to manage the formal documents and details made the trip a huge success.

Rob Oorschot: thank you for joining the team and leading with such calmness and sincerity. Your ability to speak effectively and guide gently helped a lot of students to take safe risks and fully appreciate China. You are a great role model of the life-long learner.

The Big Brothers: We laughed a lot on the tour and the work of the Year 12 Big Brothers (Jamie, Ben, Hamish and Robbie) is of special mention. They worked to help keep the other students happy and focused. Thanks guys: you made the trip so much more fun for them and easier for Jen, Rob and I. Your leadership was outstanding.

The purpose of the trip was to provide real experiences of China. Language, society, architecture, history, weaponry, flora and fauna, art, music, dance, geography were shared beyond the books and flashcards. We wanted to see our students using their vocabulary and knowledge to create authentic, meaningful and memorable experiences. Our itinerary was jam packed with the old, the new, the formal, the informal, the random, the austere and the unpredictable. The success of the trip was to be determined by the students: their safety, happiness, use of language and most importantly of all, their positive engagement with Chinese people. Looking back, we underestimated just how much our students would get from China and give to China. Good travel is more than tourism. Travellers connect with the locals, make efforts to use language and learn more about themselves with each day on the road.

For me, China is like a second home. My favourite parts of the trip were the times I saw the students making friends. The tour guides, drivers, students, hotel staff, waitresses, university staff and random locals all made deep impressions on us all. In this regard, I still laugh when I think about the many times the crazy Kiwi sense of humour encountered the charming Chinese sense of curiosity. Friendships blossomed; some as brief as a fleeting smile during a ‘photo bomb’, and some still going strong in memory and through emails. I sincerely hope my colleagues, the students and the people we met all had a wonderful experience together.

Stephen Kennedy, Tour Co-Leader