For the fourth consecutive year, BHHS was selected to represent the Department of Education and the State of Victoria on the Victorian Young Leaders to China (VYLC) Program. From the countless students who applied last year whilst in Year 8, ten were chosen to embark part way through Term 1 of Year 9, on a six week language and cultural immersion experience. The students who made up the Box Hill VYLC 2019 cohort were; Taylor Ignatiadis, Zoe Jones, Marsha Lenin, Ashley Newnham, Isabelle Nguyen, Trinh Nguyen, Ari Rego, Jack Richardson, Shalese Teo and Danil Yahnov. Each student not only upheld the values of the school, but demonstrated outstanding capabilities to embrace new cultures, challenge themselves and form new friendships, all whilst representing the school in an exceptional manner.
I know the accompanying teachers (Lisa Pearson and myself, Penny Danks) were extremely proud of how they conducted themselves, but more so, of the maturity they have developed and the new-found skills they have returned with. They are already demonstrating wonderful leadership within the community and I can see that this is only the beginning of what these students will achieve in the years ahead. Following are a few excerpts from some of the students’ reflections on their experience.
- Ms Penny Danks
The VYLC program was a very fruitful experience. We visited many tourist attractions, bought many cute souvenirs and also learnt about its history in the process. While the trip was fun and enjoyable, there were also many things that I learnt from it.
When we visited the various attractions, the teachers would first show us around the place, then give us a few hours of ‘free time’, where we went out exploring the places on our own in small groups. By leaving us to fend for ourselves in these unknown places, I gained a lot of independence and self-confidence, as we often had to ask for help from the Chinese locals in order to find a certain place. During this trip, we also had various challenges that we had to do in 'Dragon Groups'. These groups included students from other schools as well. Some of the challenges involved taking pictures with the university students in Beijing. While I was really nervous when talking to strangers at first, I soon got the hang of it and my social anxiety slowly dissipated.
In Shanghai, we went to Shanghai Foreign Language School, a prestigious high school where we stayed for three weeks. The school had children from all around the world, such as Thailand and Japan. We had loads of fun interacting with the students and made a lot of lifelong friends in the process.
Overall, this trip gave me insight on how and why China is the way it is today. I learnt more about the people in China, eradicating all of my stereotypes about them as a result. I also learnt to not take anything for granted, such as warm showers and comfortable beds!
- Marsha Lenin, 9Z
We were very lucky to begin our experience at Beijing’s Language and Culture University. It didn’t take us long to merge into the routine and feel right at home. Although we were a nervous, unsure group of teenagers taking in a new environment, we managed to overcome our fear and were ready to make the most of what we were about to experience. We were ready to conquer anything that would stand in our way!
But the first day… we had a test! And ALL the nerves kicked back in – I’m pretty sure you could see my heart pumping out of my chest! I don’t think I was ready to conquer that. So we walked into the room, took our seats, pumped ourselves up – you know that little pep talk you give yourself, yeah, well I did that one! We saw students from the university guiding us to our seats, trying to give us pep talks. All our friendships began in that moment… these volunteers would never let us down! And we all made amazing friendships that will forever and give us the opportunity to connect back to China. This will motivate us to make a change. Change in the way we communicate. Change in the way we understand other cultures. Change in the way we connect with the world.
The staff members at this school motivated us to become a better version of ourselves. They pumped us up and got us ready for the next six weeks we would have in China. There’s no denying that all of our VYLC students made incredible progress within themselves. Things such as their intercultural understanding, their ability to work in a team, their leadership skills and much more, and for that we are grateful. They gave us an opportunity to learn and experience a day in the life of a Chinese student, the opportunity to make new friends and definitely helped us push ourselves to achieve our full potential.
- Taylor Ignatiadis, 9C
During the China trip we visited many cultural and historical sites in Beijing and Shanghai. Some of our favourites were the Summer Palace, the Yu Garden, Shanghai Tower, The Bund and obviously the Great Wall of China. Going to these places, we had a tour guide with us who took us around and told us about historical and cultural significance of the architecture, the trees and objects inside and around the places. We were able to ask locals about their views on their history and what is important to their culture. By seeing the history, we could see how the government and people changed and the impact that important figures of the past had on their modern society. What we used to see as strange, simply became just another perspective, we now understand and know the differences between cultures and can change to work with them.
From these experiences we've gained a deeper knowledge of the Chinese history and the cultural significance of often overlooked concepts. Because of our gained knowledge we have been able to impart information unto our families and friends which helps to spread awareness and understanding of different global perspectives. Finally from these experiences we have made many amazing memories that I know will stick with me and the others in my group forever.
- Ash Newnham, 9Y
Immersing ourselves in their culture and history in China, has helped us to be better global citizens. Food can tell you a lot about someone’s history and traditions. Things that may be strange to other people of different ethnicities, became normal for us. Given an opportunity like ours, we were forced to accept the culture as we were exposed to this every day. In return we were able to learn a lot about not only the culture but also gain an intercultural understanding.
Sitting around a family table making dumplings with your buddy's grandma gave people a chance to bond with the students from Shanghai and create meaningful relationships with them. Activities such as this, as well as going to famous areas such as “tian zoi fang or Line friends”. We were not only able to spend time with students’ families for a day but we were also able to go into their classes to see how they work for a day. By having this understanding of the practices, positions in society and traditions of different cultures, we have become more flexible and considerate of others with difference in appearance, culture, language or personality.
Although we have learnt a lot from this trip, our interactions with other students has been one of the biggest things. Global citizens seek not only to improve themselves but also those around them, even across cultures and languages. The Chinese people and students have taught us about their culture and how to speak their language while being so understanding and open about our customs and different characteristics. Furthermore, on this trip, we were not only able to interact with Chinese people, but also people from Russia, America, Korea, Japan and Thailand.
This was an amazing opportunity, as it allowed us to make new friends, and allowed us to experience other cultures. We have realised the similarities and differences and opened up to them.
- Shalese Teo, 9Y