Mr Bao Zhiming, teacher of English at Lanzhou City University, arrived in Christchurch in early October 2014, having been chosen as an exchange student and subsequently received an opportunity to excel in speaking English and receive a Certificate that has given him an internationally-recognised qualification. In fact, Bao Zhiming was the first beneficiary of a new project for the Society, which was initiated by the Society’s Christchurch branch. They applied to the RAFE (Rewi Alley Friendship and Exchange) Fund in 2013 for funding to facilitate “an exchange of a student or a teacher from each of Lanzhou City University and Canterbury University or the Christchurch Polytechnic, for at least a semester, to enhance their language studies, provide further study of Rewi Alley’s legacy in each city and create a stronger link between the Society and Lanzhou City University”.
After due investigation, the branch decided the best fit for the project would be for a teacher of English at Lanzhou City University (LCU) to attend the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT), with the CPIT sending someone to LCU in 2015. The project has helped to further strengthen the already strong relationship between CPIT and LCU.
During his time at CPIT, Mr Bao studied for the Cambridge First Certificate in English Language Examination Preparation programme. Following his preparation, he sat the examination and passed. This gave him a lifetime legacy from his time spent in New Zealand: University of Cambridge English Language Certificates are recognised around the world by thousands of employers, universities and government ministries as proof of the ability to use English. These certificates never expire and do not need to be renewed – they are an achievement for life.
Christchurch branch was able to arrange home-hosting for him with three different Kiwi families, which, in addition to helping with his English, gave him some amazing experiences, although some were a little challenging for him at times! Certainly he found the Kiwi food a challenge. This was his first time out of China. When I (Dave Adamson) took him to meet Bill Willmott and Diana Madgin a few days after he arrived, I could tell from comments he made as we drove along that he was really struggling a bit with culture shock. All the greenness, the colourful house roofs, people’s gardens, all made a profound impression on him; he was like a wide-eyed child in Disneyland!
His visit was a constant flow of new experiences. We can only imagine what it must have been like for him to be at the ocean for the first time in his life: the kayaking must have been incredible for him! I remember one of the things he commented on more than once was how busy everyone here in New Zealand seems to be; people seemed to have a lot of interests and hobbies in addition to their every day work.
We also persuaded him to speak at a Society branch meeting, and his speech made us really realise what a big impact his visit had made on him.
Part of the project requirements was that Mr Bao write a thesis on Rewi Alley’s educational thoughts. He did this shortly before he returned to Lanzhou, and a very interesting article it is too. The intention is for his thesis to be posted eventually on this website.
Mr Bao Zhiming spoke at his farewell banquet and had obviously been very moved by what he experienced during his time here, in particular the interaction which exists between students and teachers in New Zealand. It was very obvious he really had his eyes opened by that, and he said he was determined to go home and do all he could to incorporate it into his teaching – It seems to me that that would be a big challenge, but time will tell!
Dave Adamson (Society Vice-President, South Island)