Student blog – Peter Reid’s Pupil Immersion Visit to China, Tianjin Summer Camp 2013
Peter Reid was one of the senior pupils who represented the Edinburgh Confucius Classroom hub at the 2013 Pupil Immersion Visit to Beijing and Tianjin. This is an annual visit organised by the Tianjin Education Commission (TEC) and the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS), based at the University of Strathclyde, which aims to develop young people’s understanding of Chinese culture and language. The group visits many Chinese, historic monuments and takes part in cultural lessons and intensive Mandarin language classes, for which the young people receive SQA accreditation.
It wasn’t until the night before I left for the Tianjin Summer Camp 2013 that I found myself addressing my worries. A list of them had grown in the back of my head and they now broke the seal of “I’ll think about it later” and poured into my thoughts in an oriental montage of “what ifs”: I’ve only got a smattering of Mandarin, what if the other students are fluent? I’ve barely met the students I’m going with, what if we don’t get on? And the most pressing worry – what if I make a horrible cultural mistake in class, or even in public? With the flight in 10 hours, I really should have put my efforts into going to sleep. I had researched Chinese culture as best I could, but you can’t learn a language in a night and there’s only so much you can find out about someone through Facebook-stalking. Nonetheless, I lay awake – hopelessly trying to soothe my worries with vocab notes and social networking.
“We’re spending a few days exploring Beijing and working on our architecture project before leaving for Tianjin, where we’ll have language and cultural classes”. The announcement was made to the group of fatigued yet excited Scottish students who boarded a coach at Beijing airport. Most of my worries had left me by this point, but it took a final wave of energy to disperse them completely. That “wave of energy” comes to anyone who walks down a Beijing cuisine street on a heavy, muggy day – weather that would send other countries indoors – and finds themselves surrounded by the cooking smells, the shimmering lights and the throbbing crowds of the most exciting place on Earth. If cities have their own unique characters, then Beijing’s must be one of raw power – an entire society in perpetual motion. The next few days flew by as we went from rows of skyscrapers that felt like the districts of giants to preserved villages where the houses still had the markings of the ancient dynasties. When I tried to tell people back home about those first days in Beijing, the closest I could get to explaining it was “it was just such fun”.
We then took the three hour drive east to Tianjin.
During that journey, what turned out to be the temporary medicine of Beijing Magic began to wear off and my old worries were pulled back with a tide of angst. I was soon sitting down to my first Mandarin Class. It quickly became apparent that not only was everyone at different stages in their learning, but also that the extent of each pupil’s learning before the trip was irrelevant to the teachers and it was an individual’s effort during each class which was of importance. Each two hour session flew by, not in the dizzying surge of Beijing, but as interactive lessons which gave the Scottish Hub an understanding of Chinese language and a relationship with the dynamic group of staff at Tianjin University. We found ourselves being caught up in their enthusiasm and infinite friendliness. Indeed, no lessons gave us a better insight into Chinese culture and society than the time we spent eating, talking and exercising with those ambassadors for their country. The worries which had previously threatened to hold me back were lost to the belief that so long as I followed the lead of our assistants and teachers there was little I could do wrong.
Anyone who attends the Summer Camp will be mesmerised by the skyscrapers, stadiums and traditional communities of Beijing. They’ll be rendered glassy-eyed as the garden of gleaming Tianjin architecture drifts past on a boat trip down the Hai River. However, the only thing which can turn insecurity into confidence and the one thing which will truly capture their hearts in two weeks is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Chinese people.
For further information about the immersion visit, please click here
As a result of Peter’s outstanding commitment to learning about Chinese language and culture , he is one of the twelve Scottish young people who have been awarded a scholarship to study Mandarin in Tianjin next year. This life-changing scholarship, the first of its kind in Europe, is a result of the successful partnership between Tianjin Education Commission and CISS.
To find out more about the scholarships and about the work of CISS and the Confucius Classroom hubs in Scotland, please click here.
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