They toured mausoleums, learned new dining customs and made new friends, but Bulkley Valley high school students say their longest-lasting impression from a recent class trip to China will be the appreciation it gave them for hard work and education.
A group of 20 students from Bulkley Valley School District 54 travelled to the Jiangsu province of China in November to take part in a cultural immersion program.
Nine students from Houston and 11 from Smithers visited the cities of Suzhou, Shanghai and Nanjing, where they saw temples, a silk factory and a canal city among other attractions.
For four days of their trip the group attended the Nanjing Secondary School, where the school day starts at about 6 a.m. and does not finish until about 10 p.m.
Each Canadian student was partnered with a Chinese student to help them navigate the school, where classes included Chinese music, calligraphy, pottery and language.
Although the Bulkley Valley students did not adhere to the same gruelling schedule, Smithers Secondary School (SSS) students Jaydin Haskins, Blake Knibbs, and Alannah Markert said they had inherited some of the Chinese work ethic.
Knibbs, who is in Grade 10, said the experience taught him how hard different cultures have to work for their education.
“I have started to put in a bit longer hours and started to really get down on my studies,” he said.
“Now that I’ve gone to China and seen how on time they have to be, it’s made me appreciate what I have back home.”
Knibbs was also taken aback by the generosity and inclusiveness of the Chinese students.
“When we went to the cafeteria there was a bit of an issue with us getting food because you have to get a card to get food, so everyone was like ‘I’ll buy you lunch, I’ll buy you lunch!’ ” he said.
“It’s so much different from here because if someone came here and didn’t have money you would be like ‘I’m not buying you lunch.’ ”
The students also had dinner at home with their student buddies, who introduced them to Nanjing dining customs.
“Here it’s polite to finish everything on your plate and to make sure the table’s nice and cleaned off,” said Markert.
“There they want you to leave food because it’s disrespectful if you eat it all.”
The students said the organized chaos of China’s traffic system, the preparation of food such as fish served whole, and some women's conservative way of dressing were some of the things they noticed during their trip.
Knibbs, Markert and Haskins all said they had been working harder at school since they
returned to Canada.
Houston Secondary School Grade 11 students Logan Larocque and Jessica Ells also said they had returned from China feeling more grateful for their lifestyles and education.
“We got to school, we get our education and most likely we’ll go to university but there they go for 16 hours a day and they don’t even know if they are going to university,” said Laroque.
“They say they have to give it their all.”
Ells said she was surprised by how curious the Chinese public were about she and her classmates.
“They were really amazed by us, which was weird,” said Ells.
“They were coming up to us and wanting to take pictures and get our emails and asking us questions.”
SD54 superintendent Chris van der Mark said the goal of holding international field trips was to give the students an appreciation and understanding of other countries, as well as their home in Canada.
“Of course you want them to appreciate the Chinese culture and the Chinese history, and also the impact of globalization,” he said.
“And then you also want them to take away an appreciation of Canada as well.
“Canada’s a really remarkable country, it’s a great country, and then sometimes you have to also see other things to then put things in perspective.”