Our Far East journey of discovery

Comment by students at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds
Comment by students at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds
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As you read this, I am recovering from my latest adventure half way across the world in Shanghai.

On Sunday, September 23, 28 student leaders and six teachers from Yangjing-Juyuan Experimental School, Shanghai, arrived in England to take part in our Advanced Leadership Exchange and spent ten days with students from King Edward VI School.

The exchange is designed to encourage and inspire young leaders.

While the students were in our school they took part in different leadership activities –intended to help build confidence, leadership abilities and communication skills.

This involves the students teaching lessons and being pushed out of their comfort zones.

While the Chinese students were in England they visited three Bury Schools Partnership primary schools, taught lessons, visited London, Cambridge, Walton-on-the-Naze, and visited our houses for meals and days out exploring Bury.

The way in which our two schools work is very different. During the week the Chinese students took part in our lessons, to experience what our daily lives are like and got an insight into our culture.

Amy, a student from Shanghai, said: “The main differences between our schools is the number of classes is fewer than in China and the length of classes is longer… and you receive fewer hours of homework than we do.”

One of the unique features of the exchange is that it is controlled by the students. They are the ones who determine what they will get out of it.

The exchange is very bespoke; every year it is different – made and adapted for those going.

Every student will always take something different from the experience. I have learned that being an advanced leader is not always about being at the front or being the loudest.

It is about taking a step back and letting others take the lead.

My favourite part of the exchange is the home visit. This gives us a chance to get to know the students and talk to them, getting an understanding of their daily lives and seeing how their culture differs to ours.

Our daily lives are polar opposites; they live in a much more competitive society, which requires them to spend longer hours working.

However, their enthusiasm to make the most of opportunities and help their peers is very similar to ours.

On the last day that the Chinese students were at our school, we hosted a party night.

During the evening, the students performed a range of different traditional performance, including Kung Fu, dances and music. This was a very entertaining evening giving us a small glimpse into traditional Chinese culture.

Along with 23 of my peers from King Edward VI School, I have returned from Shanghai and another glimpse into the exciting Chinese culture and way of life.

We saw the amazing sights of their historic city and enjoyed a week of interesting food, communication difficulties and new experiences! Long may this exchange continue.

-- Zoë Pettit is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds