How big is China, how quick is it developing, how mysterious is her culture, how do her people live? These are just some of the many questions that have been answered for the students from Belvedere College Dublin, having just come back from an amazing trip to China. They witnessed first-hand some eye-opening sights and experienced the China that is now so important on the world stage.
Belvedere is a well known private boy’s secondary school, established in 1832. Many famous figures from the arenas of literature, politics, business, academia and sports studied here. In 2009, Belvedere started working with the UCD Confucius Institute, and the Institute’s teachers have been teaching successfully there since, so much so that at the start of this year, they won approval for a Confucius Classroom.
During the last two years, due to the hard work of the Confucius teachers, there have been more and more students taking the Chinese course, and the students’ interest in ’s speedy development has increased in kind. As a result, UCD Confucius Institute decided to arrange these trips for the students to experience first-hand the delights China has to offer. On this trip, there were 20 secondary students with an average age of 16, and 3 young teachers.
For the 13 days of their trip as many activities as possible were arranged, such as meeting the students of the 80th Secondary School of Beijing and taking classes with the Chinese students, including Chinese economics, culture, geography, sports and Kung Fu, getting a real feel for the daily life of the average Chinese student. Here, there also took Chinese language classes, and, despite them already having studied Chinese back in Ireland, the practical language experience was much more involving for them in this ideal language environment. Their interest and enthusiasm was further heightened by other activities such as free time to roam and experience Beijing, going shopping and using their Chinese language in a very practical way.
But exploring the culture of China was the students’ favourite activity. They loved The Great Wall, The Forbidden City and The Temple of Heaven, and the exciting new sights of Beijing such as The Bird’s Nest and The Water Cube left them gasping. These boys were hungry for Chinese food too, and the delicious specialties on offer such as Beijing Roast Duck, Hot Pot and Dumplings more than satisfied them. After Beijing, the students went south to Xi’ An for 2 days, and there they visited the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, The Terra Cotta Warriors and the ShaanXi history museum, as well as tasting the local delicacies of Xi’ An, of course.
Being a Catholic school, Belvedere has a long tradition of charity, organizing events and fundraisers for orphans and homeless children every year. This trip was no exception, and so they arranged to visit the Hope Orphanage in Beijing. While there, they learned all about the orphans’ situation, played and sang songs with them, and before leaving presented the kids with gifts that they had brought with them especially all the way from Ireland.
Experiencing China first-hand has been a huge step forward in the understanding and knowledge of China for these Irish students, and their enthusiasm and passion for studying Chinese and Chinese culture has increased dramatically. They are the future of Ireland, and they are also the future figures in communications and business between these two countries.
This is already the second such trip by Irish secondary school students to China. Both the students and teachers involved all agree that this activity is fresh and novel, an especially rich experience, both in terms of the strengthening of the ties of friendship and relations and in terms of knowledge and practical benefits gained. At the same time, the comprehensive bonds and collaboration between the Irish and Chinese students are greatly developing.
Picture 1 – Group picture outside Bird’s Nest Stadium Beijing
Picture 2 – Chinese calligraphy class
Picture 3 – Studying Chinese Kung Fu in the 80th Secondary School of Beijing
Picture 4 – At the Ju Yong Guan section of the Great Wall of China