Having won first prize in the group performance category of the HSBC Mandarin-speaking competition earlier in the year, six Oundle pupils visited Beijing. Edward Willey (18), Coco Brown (16), Finn Taylor (16), Egan Pashley (16), Jason Parker (16) and Mimi Campbell-Breeden (14) were accompanied on the week-long prize trip by members of The British Council and visited the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the National Museum, Tiananmen Square, the Silk Market, the Pearl Market, the Olympic Park, Houhai Lake and other attractions. On the final day the group travelled to British Council offices and had lunch with representatives from HSBC. The pupils won the competition with their short Chinese play ‘Red Sorghum’, adapted from Mo Yan’s novel of the same name.
Coco Brown said: “After a nine-hour flight and a lot of television (and in some cases revision for those with GCSEs and A-levels around the corner), we arrived at the Peking University International School where we were to spend the first two days shadowing our Chinese ‘buddies’.
“The following days were filled with palaces, markets and, most memorably, the Great Wall – apparently something that if you do not climb, you can never be a real hero. All were immense; however, I did particularly enjoy the Great Wall Chute – a slide that transports you from the top of the mountain right down to the car park.
“I think it goes for all of us when I say we are hugely grateful for all that was organised for us. The trip ended with a farewell dinner with our buddies who had prepared a range of different sketches, both in English and Chinese, and shared gifts with us. We returned the next day with a camera roll of selfies, many souvenirs and new friends. I would urge fellow pupils to try this unique language and be open to a whole new world of culture and tradition. China is growing in power every day, other countries are beginning to depend on it economically, and if you know how to speak Chinese you will be vital to companies in future careers.”
Ed Willey added: “I have been offered a place to study Chinese at Cambridge after I leave Oundle in the summer and believe that the extra work and practice that we have had has really helped me to improve my language skills.” Egan Pashley agreed: “This was the second time I had travelled to China, and whilst I had seen many of the tourist spots before, I still thoroughly enjoyed the trip which was beneficial for both my language and my broader understanding of the Chinese culture. I have never talked so much about the premier league.”
Finn Taylor added: “Being part of the winning team, I felt excited and privileged to be going to China. I had visited China a few years ago with my family; however, going with the British Council gave me a completely different perspective on life in Beijing. Using what Mandarin I had learnt in school, as well as picking some up along the way, helped to enrich my experience. I had a brilliant time and I cannot wait to visit again!”
Jasper said: ‘China is an amazing country with some stunning architecture, including the Great Wall – when you reach the pinnacle of one uphill section you can see it stretching out for miles upon miles of beautiful countryside. The trip to China was one of the best experiences of my life.’
Head of German Emily Wagstaffe said: ‘In addition to the six Oundle pupils, four additional pupils from across the UK accompanied us on the trip. It is not easy as a teacher taking away pupils you don’t know to a country where you don’t know the language, but I was amazed by the pupils’ confidence, friendliness, knowledge and passion for the Chinese language and culture. I have been inspired by each and every one of them to learn Mandarin and hope that one day, I too will get to experience Beijing as a Mandarin speaker. I am now embarking on my own journey to master the language and learn even more about the culture and history.’
Oundle’s Head of Chinese Hua Yan commented: “We are always keen for pupils at Oundle to learn Chinese in a creative way, which includes learning Chinese through competitions as well as trips. By doing so they improve their confidence in spoken Chinese dramatically.”