29 Apr 2019

Opportunities to travel, to further the aims of Round Square, and to mix with young people from all over the world don’t get much better than the trip to Shenzhen, China, taken by College students and staff in April.

Teachers Nicole Billante and Alex Robertson accompanied Year 11–13 students Henry Smith, Angad Vraich, Mark Ma, Michael Zheng, Vinnie Wee, Ederick He, Mathew Gibb and Jeremy Kinley on the trip of a lifetime.

Membership of Round Square means College is part of a global family that shares the Round Square IDEALS. The conference in China was a regional gathering focused on developing a cultural understanding of the cultures represented, including China, Japan, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Indonesia.

Staying in the heart of a futuristic-looking hub in Shenzhen, it was eye-opening for the boys to see the landscape rapidly morph into urbanised and industrialised communities.

The five-day conference began with a lively opening ceremony, which included a famous pop song and Chinese dancing. Activities such as martial arts, lantern making, calligraphy, mask painting, and paper cutting filled the afternoon and there was a vigorous game of basketball in the evening, with the hosts winning a three-point buzzer shot to break a tied match.

The next morning groups of students from different countries taught each other about their home countries, with conversations grouped by history, ethnicities, cuisine, festivals and arts. This was followed by a visit to the Splendid China theme park, which features exhibitions and attractions on the different regions and cultures of China. A spectacular show featuring acrobats and dancers highlighting aspects of Chinese culture was a memorable finale to the day.

Day three focused on the “A” of the Round Square IDEALS – Adventure – with the opportunity to explore outdoors on either a coastal or a mountain walk, while day four was dedicated to innovation and technology. In the morning the group visited an exhibition of technology at the Huawei head office, and in the afternoon went to the headquarters of internet-based tech giant Tencent, focusing on apps and games.

At the closing ceremony the next day Ederick, Matthew,[MS3] Michael and Angad were named as outstanding delegates for their groups.

Ederick He said it was fascinating to see the similarities of the various Asian countries and he gained most from the willingness of all participants to take part and learn about the different ethnicities and races.

“It was all about bringing people together. When you live in one society, it is sometimes surprising to see how differently people in another behave.”

Year 11 student Jeremy Kinley said the visits to Huawei and Tencent were highlights.

“Seeing those showrooms and the scale of the operations was incredible. You could see where technology is going, including some of their advances in smart monitoring systems.”

Nicole Billante said the conference was very much “student-led.”

“The students from the host school organised all the activities on campus and led the groups for all off-campus outings. The students formed friendships very quickly and by day two were mixing easily with representatives from other schools. It was a joy to see.”

What impressed her most was the boys’ visible personal growth.

“Our boys gained a lot of insight into themselves by having to be pushed out of their comfort zones – and by the last night they shared reflections of the conference which clearly showed this. It was fantastic to see that by being in the midst of a completely different environment, being challenged by ideas and tasks, they also recognised they had the capacity to respond and grow.”

The trip finished with a day in Hong Kong, where the boys were able to contrast the busy cosmopolitan lifestyle of that island state with the more planned city of Shenzhen – although one of their greatest shared recollections remains the quality of the dim sum!