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My experiences: Hong Kong

My experiences: Hong Kong

Brother and sister, Laura and Paul, recall what life was like for them at an international school in Hong Kong back in the '90s, and talk about how their experiences have had an impact on their lives. They were aged 8 and 10 respectively when they started at their new school…

Laura

Do you remember your first day at your new school and how you were welcomed?

I remember the first day of term at our school in Hong Kong and how many other students there were, hundreds more than at my previous school, so I was initially a bit intimidated. But the teachers were very welcoming and reassured my brother and I that there were lots of other new students so we weren't alone. We were introduced to all the other new students on our first day which made us feel much more comfortable. We were shown around the school, which was much bigger and had a lot more facilities than my previous school, and we were told about all the extracurricular activities we could get involved in (orchestra, drama, sailing etc), so I felt quite excited to be there by the end of my first day.

"I learned a lot about Chinese culture from my friends..."

What do you remember about your teachers & what they were like?

The teachers were really friendly and encouraging. My form tutor encouraged me to get involved in all the extracurricular activities at the school, such as music, and I really liked the teachers who took those groups too.

And what about your fellow pupils, do you have any particular memories of them?

My class was extremely international with students from all over the world. I made great friends with a couple of other girls from the UK, and they would come along for family trips and birthday celebrations out of school. I was also close to some students who were from China, and I was lucky enough to learn a lot about Chinese culture from these friends.

Do you remember any projects you had to do?

I played violin in a school orchestra concert. It was great to be a part of that. I enjoyed going to rehearsals each week, as it was a great opportunity to get to know other students from different year groups who also liked music.

What are your memories of any special trips, outings, or activities?

My year group was taken on a school trip to Lantau Island, which was really fun and much more of an adventure than any school trips I'd previously been on! It was educational as we went to visit Buddhist sites, but we also did a lot of fun team sports, such as sailing, which I really enjoyed.

Vibrant Chinese culture

Vibrant Chinese culture

Enjoying the school orchestra

Enjoying the school orchestra

Beautiful Lantau Island

Beautiful Lantau Island

How do you think your experience of attending an international school has had an impact on your life?

It has definitely had a positive impact as it has made me extremely adaptable to new situations. The experience of being at a large school with lots of students from very different backgrounds opened my eyes to other cultures, which drove me to both travel around the world and study international relations at university. I also did a PhD on Chinese foreign policy which was largely inspired by my experience of living in Hong Kong.

 

Paul

Do you remember your first day at your new school and how you were welcomed?

I do remember our first day as being a very positive experience. The admin staff, the head (who we met before our first day, I seem to remember), and my teacher were all very friendly and welcoming. I remember being introduced to my class and being sat with family friend Rory and his friends.

What do you remember about your teachers and what they were like?

I remember my form teacher being a lovely warm person who laughed a lot. There was a supportive, encouraging atmosphere - very important in such a big school, much bigger than we were used to.

"We learned an entire traditional lunar new year song in Chinese..."

I liked the looser teaching style - often we could choose which things we wanted to work on independently, i.e. a set of activities from different subject areas was listed at the front of the class and we could work on them in whichever order we fancied. This did, however, lead to me avoiding maths assignments wherever possible, resulting in me needing extra maths tutoring when we returned to the UK.

I remember enjoying cooking lessons. One of the Indian 'bus mothers', who supervised the bus journeys to and from school, came in and taught us how to make vegetable samosas from scratch, which I then made several times at home! I loved the special Chinese New Year activities. I played a main part in a stage performance of a traditional Chinese folk story, and we learned an entire traditional lunar new year song in Chinese. I would have enjoyed doing more Chinese lessons but I don't think they offered them then.

And what about your fellow pupils, do you have any particular memories of them?

My year was split into four classes, but there were a lot of shared activities involving all of us, so I made friends with people in other tutor groups and got on well with some of the other teachers.

All the other children in my class were very friendly - I was struck by how international it was, with pupils from India, China, Australia, Sri Lanka, America, Ireland, Hong Kong.... I hadn't expected Brits to be a minority, but it was a pleasant surprise! I felt like we were all in the same boat together - most of us the children of parents who had moved to this global city from overseas for work reasons, so there was a real sense of camaraderie.

Do you remember any projects you had to do?

I remember being very engaged by a special project in which we all had to create the concept and plan for a theme park business... I loved coming up with the name ('World Leisure Industries'!) and logo with some help from my dad!

Music was strong at the school, led by the fun and vivacious Australian Mrs O. My sister and I had extra piano lessons at the school.

"The trip gave me an abiding fascination with, and respect for, Chinese history..."

A sailing trip on a junk

A sailing trip on a junk

"I have an enduring sense of connection to the world..."

In the 1990's Bejing was a city full of bicycles

In the 1990's Bejing was a city full of bicycles

What are your memories of any special trips, outings, or activities?

The two trips I went on with school were both exceptional. The first was a trip on a Chinese junk ship called the Huan. We sailed up the coast to the Chinese mainland for a week, sleeping in a cabin on the boat and stopping at various interesting locations. It was one of the most fun experiences I'd ever had at school, and I bonded with kids from other classes in my year over the chores we were given, and during the rather scary (yet fun) journey back in very stormy weather.

The other, slightly longer trip was to Beijing. This, again, was an unforgettable experience - one I'm so grateful to have been given. Beijing in the early 1990s was very different to the city we visited again (while my sister was living there a few years ago!) and I loved every minute of the trip. It gave me an abiding fascination with and respect for Chinese history and culture - my subsequent return to Hong Kong as an adult to work for a year, and my current employment with China Central Television in the U.S., are testaments to those feelings.

How do you think your experience of attending an international school has had an impact on your life?

The whole experience in Hong Kong is without doubt one that had a very significant, lasting and positive impact on my life, much of that down to our busy school life. It gave me an enduring sense of connection to the world and other nationalities. I'm certain that led to my international journalism career choice. I will always be very grateful to my parents for taking that leap of faith and offering me and my sister that life-changing experience.

Images: iStock

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