Beijing International Student Summer Camp: Students share their experience in the 2013 camp

Dates: 12th – 21st July, 2013
Report Compiled by Modern School, Barakhamaba Road, New Delhi, INDIA

From the 12th - 21st of July, 2013, 15 students attended the Beijing International Educational Exchange Summer Camp, held in Beijing, China. The Camp was a cultural potpourri, with over 1000 students from 30 countries participating. The students got a chance to visit sights like the Great Wall, learn about Chinese cultural activities like ink painting, and make new friends from all over the world.

The Camp began with a grand Opening Ceremony, held in the International Garden Expo, with some classical Chinese performances, and facilitation of the guests who had come from across the globe. After a quick lunch, the students proceeded to Wal-Mart to buy all the supplies that they would need for the days to come. While some use the trip to just buy themselves tuck and candy, others even managed to get some early clothes shopping done.

The second day introduced the students to a huge part of Chinese culture, the Peking Opera, a Chinese form of theatre. Here, students were shown short clips of classic Peking Opera scenes and taught the meanings of different gestures and sounds. They were told about the different masks that performers wear, and how each mask was suited to a different type of character. Towards the end of the class, they even got a chance to paint their own masks! After lunch, they were given their first taste of shopping in China: Wangfujing Commercial Street. Everyone spent almost all their time in McDonalds, though, because they knew that it would probably be the only taste of burgers that they would get on their trip. (Kids, these days...) With their stomachs fully ‘fed up’, the foodies were treated to a classic Kung Fu show. Their jaws dropped in awe as they admired the beauty, grace and quickness of the performers’ movements.

The third day brought with it some disappointment as the students were informed that their planned trip to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square had been postponed due to bad weather. Instead, they would be going shopping once more; this time, to the Silk Market (which sold everything but silk). After filling their shopping bags, they went off to fill their stomachs as they were treated to Peking Duck, a Chinese delicacy. The day was not only about food and clothes, though, with the students learning the art of ink painting, an ancient Chinese tradition.

Day four gave them a chance to experience Kung-Fu, which left everyone feeling like they were ready to defend themselves against any and every opponent. Feeling famished after the morning’s hard work, the students wolfed down their lunch and left for the National Museum of China. Here, they saw a number of interesting and exciting exhibitions, whether it was the history of Chinese currency, or the gifts that the State had received or the history of Chinese architecture. Once they came back, they were required to set up their stalls and rehearse their performances for the forthcoming day’s International Night of Friendship.

Day five: having stayed up all night, the groggy students failed to show perfect hand-eye coordination that was needed for detailed Chinese calligraphy. After class, lunch was served at 11.30 AM, for most of us this meal was more like breakfast. Soon the dishes were empty and the stomachs were full, it was time for the tedious two hour journey to the Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City. Tianamen Square represented the perfect amalgamation of communism, patriotism and traditionalism that was more than visible in China. With the red flag hoisted at regular intervals and a portrait of Mao Zedong in the centre- it was a true national symbol. The Forbidden City was hardly forbidden; visitors from all over the world literally stormed the palace! The evening saw nations coming together to showcase their culture in many forms- from decorated stalls to elaborate dance, they did it all! The Indian students danced to the tunes of “Ballam Pichkari”. All in all, everything from national food items to gifts to visiting cards was exchanged at the ‘Night of International Friendship’.

Day six was characterized with excessive physical activity which took a toll on many of the students. After an early breakfast, it was time to march to the Great Wall of China, figuratively speaking. This Wall that once defended the Chinese against the Mongolians is magnanimous. It can hurt to think about how it was built. Every man, woman and child present at this massive monument nervously took their first step. Although, everyone attempted to reach the top of the stretch we were climbing but most gave up after crossing a couple towers. The French and Spanish led the way with their flags and soon everyone who could climb did. After reaching the top, the students bought symbolic gold medals certifying their achievement; some even took of their shirts! Next stop: the Summer Palace! The walking tour of this 2.9 sq. km. Palace really tested the capacity of the human body. After all this, we were informed that the Beijing International School was organizing an International Soccer Tournament for the members of the camp. Thankfully, we were able to beat the Australians even after the ‘warm-up’!

The seventh day again started with cultural classes followed by ‘lunch’. Soon we were once again ready to venture out into the city! This time, our destination was a high-end traditional marketplace in the heart of Beijing. To speak the truth, the economic benefit that the shopkeepers received on that day was unparallelled. A thousand excited foreign tourists can bring stimulus to even an economy in recession! The tour was called a ‘Hu Tong’ tour for no known reason. The evening was rather quiet because by this time everyone had found his or her intellectual counterpart from another nation and was engaged in intense discussions which went deep into the night. As for the soccer game, the Indian camp beat the Chinese to advance to the semi-finals of the much watched tournament.

The eighth day, for all practical purposes, was the last day of the Beijing International Student Summer Camp. The giant LED screen on campus was playing videos and photos of all those memorable experiences. The Beijing Royal School Shop was being raided to buy small Chinese curios and also to get rid of excess Chinese foreign exchange. Soon it was time for the much awaited closing ceremony but nobody wanted the closure of this breathtaking camp that brought together like-minded leaders of the future globe. The proceedings of the closing ceremony were smooth like every other undertaking. After beating the South Koreans in the semi finals, the Indian team beat Spain in the finals! The environment around the field was electric, nobody expected Spain to be beaten and no soul expected India to be victorious. India had proven a point on foreign soil and the world watched in utter surprise.

Within a blink of an eye, it was that time of the schedule when the students were required to leave for the airport to go back home. Nobody wanted to go back; had they had their way, they would have torn their tickets but sadly, we live in a realistic world. Friendships were forged, ideas were exchanged, thoughts were provoked, doubts removed, misconceptions vindicated and life changed. Some of us had made friends for life while the others planed to extend the dominion of their respective families! The ride to the airport was highlighted by the watery eyes and depressed faces yet joyous thoughts of recent life-changing experiences. We truly became men and women of the world!

Charmed by the Land of the Dragon

Fatehganj Singh, a student from Chandigarh shares his experience of being in Beijing as part of an international summer camp.

International Student Exchange Programme, 2013 in Beijing: ICAC was India Partner
The India China Alliance for Cooperation (ICAC) facilitated the participation of middle school students from India's prestigious Modern School, New Delhi for the Beijing International Education Exchange (BIEE) Programme in China, 2013.

The programme has been held for three years and has attracted over 2300 teachers and students from 29 countries all over the world, including Turkey, Sweden, USA, Spain, England, Russia, Canada, Vietnam, Japan, Korea as well as India. ICAC has been the India partner for the programme.

The exchange provides fascinating insights into how the Chinese live, what their cultural and historical background is and how Beijing, their capital city, combines the best of the modern with the traditional. Add to this the camp-like feeling with students and teachers from different countries and a plethora or opportunities to share and learn from each other. Read what our participants of 2013; 2012 and 2011 have to say about their experience.

I was one of the ten students from Strawberry Fields World School, Chandigarh, selected to go to China for the Beijing International Education Exchange (BIEE) Programme. In all, there were 19 countries that participated in the programme, including Turkey, Sweden, USA, Spain, England, Russia, Canada, Vietnam, Japan, Korea as well as India. We got some amazing insights into how the Chinese live, what their cultural and historical background is and how Beijing, their capital city, combines the best of the modern with the traditional. Add to this the camp-like feeling with students and teachers from different countries and be assured that we had one of the best learning cum fun experiences of our lives.

Our accommodation was at St. Paul’s American School in Beijing. Staying in dormitories had its own unique and personal feel. During the day, we would stroll around the sprawling campus which had a wide range of sporting facilities. Then there was a well stocked in-house provisions store which had most items of daily needs. The entire campus was self sufficient. Add to this the organisers had planned our stay with a plethora of activities, outdoor visits, sightseeing opportunities and interactions both with the Chinese as also with the other international students.

China’s rich heritage and cultural history beckoned us with conducted tours to the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and Beijing Lama Temple, just to name a few. Most of us kept a daily diary. In the paragraphs below, are some of the highlights.

Field Notes from China
Day 1: We arrived at Beijing international airport and were received by BIEE staff and taken to the campus. This whole day was for us to settle in and get acquainted with the campus.
Day 2: We were taken for the opening ceremony which had some singing performances and a speech by our hosts. This was followed by a tour of the Forbidden City. The evening was spent playing sports and getting to know our bus mates and the Turks. After dinner, we were taken to a Kung Fu show which showed us the martial strengths of the Chinese, brandishing all kinds of weapons like swords, spears, blades and nun chucks which really made our hearts skip a beat.

Day 3: We had Chinese lessons in the morning which was fun as we always had games and competitions to take part in. After lunch we were given inputs on Chinese culture by our group leader Helena Han and taken to the iconic Peking University. After dinner we had some free time which we spent playing games and chatting with fellow students from other countries.

Day 4: We visited the Summer Palace and Wang Fu Jing walking street, which had a large number of international brands and shopping arcades/markets.

Day 5: We braced ourselves for some walking as we headed out to one of the Wonders of the World – the Great Wall in the morning. Most of us were mesmerised by its sheer length and breadth and though we had caught glimpses of it in photographs, movies and videos, nothing quite prepared us for seeing it in real life. Later that day, we got a chance to put on our best Indian act. Wearing kurta pyjamas we floated around feeling quite good about how our Indian contingent was being viewed by the rest. It was a long day and we were wanting to hit the sack, but the talkative Koreans made sure we did not get our beauty sleep. They had some appetite for holding non stop talkathons, some of which lasted till three in the morning!

Day 6: The China Ethnic Museum was on our day’s calendar and we were intrigued to see how different nationalities in China lived together. After dinner, we went to a super market to buy whatever we wanted. For some of us who were having trouble with food, this trip was a relief.

Day 7: We made a trip to the Capital Museum which was informative and interesting. It was here that the Canadians taught us how to play “Ninja”. After dinner we started preparing for our performances for the closing ceremony. Every country had to showcase something that was typical of their culture and setting. For us, it was practicing on the song “Yaar Anmulle”.

Day 8: We were taken to the Silk Market to see China’s famed silk. We could visualise these luxurious textiles winding their way through the silk route of yore, getting exported to different countries. We came back had our dinner and practiced some more for our performance.

Day 9: A visit to Hu Tong was next on our itinerary. After coming back we had lunch and it was time for us to perform in the closing ceremony.

Some of the performances were breathtaking, especially the Spanish Matadors who displayed their culture and tradition, the Russians, who performed a beautiful dance, Turkey which showed a marriage tradition and cultural dance, Canada dancing to the tune of “Wavin Flag “and singing the song “Hallelujah” in a most patriotic way, United States of America speaking about their country’s values and what it stood for, Australia and Vietnam showing us their musical inclination with songs, China, putting up a stunt defying kung fu display that blew our minds and finally, the Indians telling the rest, what it means to be a Punjabi.