Yangjiang Student Exchange – April, 2018
The first student exchange to Nelson’s newest sister city
Nelson Branch strongly believes that creating awareness, understanding and friendship between the young people of both countries is an excellent way to further the aims of NZCFS. To this end, we facilitated an arts and cultural exchange with Nelson’s newest sister city, Yangjiang in Guangdong province. Six secondary school students from Nelson, with particular interests in music, drama, dance or fine arts were accompanied by two adults and hosted by Liangyang Senior High School in Yangjiang in April this year.
Funding was a major challenge but the NZCFS Deng Fund contributed $9,000 towards airfares and the Nelson City Council granted a further $2,000. Successful applicants were then required to make a contribution of about $1,000 each. The balance was met through the branch sister-city account.
Most of selected students had little understanding of China (two had not travelled outside NZ previously) and were provided with a thorough orientation, including preparing performances for the concert to be held as part of the cultural exchange activities.
The group travelled to Yangjiang for 10 days in the April, 2018, school holidays. They were hosted by Liangyang Senior High School. This is a week-day boarding school and the group was accommodated in dormitories at the school on week days. For the weekend the group stayed in a hotel on nearby Hailing Island to facilitate visits to the Silk Road Maritime Museum, markets, fishing village and other attractions.
A fantastic, highly active and sharing programme was provided. This included visits to 5 English classes, each with a focus topic for sharing – differences between China and NZ education, interactive games, Yangjiang specialty foods, traditional festivals and ethnic cultures. Club activities enjoyed included Tai Chi, calligraphy, seal making, traditional dance, Lion Dancing, street dancing and making kites.
A particular highlight of the exchange was the Cultural Performance by the Nelson and Liangyang students to an audience of 500 students, staff, and Foreign Affairs Bureau representatives. The concert included a significant component of Maori culture including a mihi, waiata and hongi that were extremely well received. The Nelson group also learned and sang a song in Mandarin.
After the presentation by the exchange students on returning from China, a number of members of NZCFS have remarked on the value of seeing China through young, fresh eyes.
Extracts from student feedback include:
“… We were treated like celebrities, with the utmost respect. I was very humbled by the enthusiasm we were greeted by, and hope that New Zealanders can learn from their example.”
“… These interactions gave me an insight into the culture and life in China, in a way that textbooks or museums never could.”
”… I was really surprised about the school days the students there have, starting early in the morning and going to school until 10pm.”
“… I really hope there will be future exchanges so more students will be able to experience what we did because it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.”
Based on the success of this initial exchange to Yangjiang, it is now proposed that a group of 10 students and teachers from Liangyang visit Nelson in March, 2019, to further enhance the mutual awareness, understanding and respect for each other’s culture.
It is believed that this will in turn provide the basis and enthusiasm for on-going two-way exchanges that will lead to a strong sister city relationship with Yangjiang, break down cultural and language barriers, create a more welcoming and accepting environment towards Chinese migrants, visitors and business people in Nelson and facilitate increased integration of Chinese people into the Nelson community.
This exchange exceeded the expectations of all parties and strong bonds were formed.
Jade, one of the students, created this incredible video of the exchange: