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April 2018 -- Exchange with Exchange Programme with Hangzhou Foreign Languages School (HFLS), Zhejiang


During the 9th to 14th of April this year, 40 of our S4 students were given the wonderful opportunity to take part in an exchange programme with the students of Hangzhou Foreign Languages School in Zhejiang, China. The exchange programme gave us the chance to explore Chinese culture, and also allowed us to meet many new friends during our trip.

1st Day

After landing in Hangzhou on the first day, we immediately headed out to Hangzhou Foreign Languages School. As soon as we arrived on campus, we were given a warm welcome speech by Mr. Xia, the Deputy Headmaster of HFLS. We were incredibly honoured that he had set aside time to introduce the rich history and teaching objectives of HFLS to us, and gifted each of us with an adorable puppy soft toy as a welcome present. The puppy was a reference to this year's Chinese zodiac (Year of the Dog), symbolizing friendship, loyalty and determination.

Photo - Exchange with Hangzhou Foreign Languages School (1)

We were then taken to a Chinese calligraphy class the school had especially prepared for us. There we learnt the basics of Chinese calligraphy, and were given the opportunity to try out the activity ourselves, completing a piece we could bring home as a souvenir. Next, we were given another specially-arranged lesson on Chinese music. We were introduced to the eight categories of Chinese musical instruments known as Bayin (八音), and we learnt to appreciate Chinese music by listening to performance clips of different instruments. After that, we had a culinary lesson at the school's cafeteria. Ladies at the cafeteria gave us a hands-on lesson on how to properly wrap a dumpling, which we were able to savour during dinnertime. Although it was clear that many of us did not have a talent for wrapping dumplings, we had a lot of fun talking to the friendly ladies, and had an enjoyable time crafting dumplings into different designs. Through the classes, we were given an introduction to Chinese arts and were able to enrich our knowledge of Chinese culture.

Photo - Exchange with Hangzhou Foreign Languages School (2)

2nd Day

The following day, we were able to meet our buddies. We shadowed them to classes to get a taste of their school lifestyle. We attended many of their lessons, including English, Math, Physics, Politics, PE, and much more. We realized that our learning syllabuses for a number of subjects were very similar, although most of their lessons were conducted in Putonghua, while ours were in English. All the teachers were very helpful and approachable, making sure to include us in class discussions so we could all exchange views and opinions. We were surprised to learn that students had an exercise break between the 2nd and 3rd lessons of the day, in which students are required to either skip ropes or jog around the running track for 10 minutes. This was to make sure all students had sufficient exercise to maintain a healthy body for learning. Students also had another stretching exercise later in the day, though this was conducted inside the classroom, and it gave students the opportunity to stretch their limbs and freshen up their minds for the next lesson.

For lunch and dinner, we were able to enjoy freshly cooked meals at the school's cafeteria. The cafeteria served a large variety of dishes, from Chinese beef noodles to Western fried chicken. We enjoyed meals with our buddies, and used the time to exchange our different lifestyles and cultures. After dinner, we were given the chance to experience the nighttime study session which all students had to attend. During the first 15 minutes of the study session, students had to read aloud a passage together with a recorded audio. After that, students had 2 hours to study any subjects they wanted to. Our buddies told us that this study session was incredibly effective, as they were given a quiet and distraction-free environment to focus on their revision. Despite our exchange time being incredibly short, we were able to learn a lot from our buddies and were able to forge life-long friendships with them.

We also spent a night with the graduating class, who had just finished the National College Entrance Examination, on the second day of our exchange programme. We introduced our school and background information on Hong Kong, while they had a few presentations on their school and Hangzhou, which deepened our understanding of Hangzhou Foreign Languages School and their beautiful city. We also had a lot of fun playing games together. Although we started off a little awkward, we gradually became more involved and enjoyed our time with them. One of the things that surprised us most was that an HFLS student sang a Cantonese song in his performance while another performed rapping. We were not only amazed by their talents, we were especially impressed by their effort and the thoughts they had put into their performance.

Photo - Exchange with Hangzhou Foreign Languages School (3)

After the presentations, games and performances, we chatted with the HFLS students about their school life, food, national exams, admission procedures, and a lot more. They were very friendly and thoughtful, making our conversations particularly enjoyable. In the end, we realised that we had talked for more than one hour non-stop. This experience was definitely enriching and inspiring, as we were able to learn about the life of an HFLS student directly from them.

3rd day

On the 3rd day, we visited the Song Dynasty Park (宋城主題公園). Though it is impossible to literally travel back to the Song Dynasty, we did have a taste of their culture and and cuisine. We were fascinated by how the chefs transformed raw materials into delectable snacks like peanut candy, barley candy (麥芽糖), and the exotic Longjing tea (龍井茶).

One of the highlights of the day was definitely the Performing Art Show, namely "Bouquet Throwing From Family Wang" (拋繡球招親). The performance featured the daughter of Landlord Wang throwing an embroidered ball towards the audience to choose a “husband”. According to Chinese tradition in some areas, whoever catches the embroidered ball would be the groom. It was amusing to witness men amongst the spectator dashing around, trying to snatch the ball.

In the afternoon, we watched a musical drama titled "The Romance of the Song Dynasty"《宋城千古情》. The musical features historical stories and ancient myths of Hangzhou. We were treated to a spellbinding performance as acrobats whizzed around in the air with such dexterity, accompanied by dazzling light and sound effect.

That night, we attended a talk by the renowned Chinese author Mai Jia (麥家) on the topic "the demonstration of Chinese stories to the world" (中國故事,世界表達). Though China has adequately demonstrated its excellence in the domains of finance and technology, Mr. Mai laments the lack of expression of China’s culture.

Photo - Exchange with Hangzhou Foreign Languages School (4)

Quoting Mr. Mai, "each son or daughter of China represents a Chinese cultural story" (每一個中國人,也是一個中國文化故事). He expressed his fervent wish that while we show respect towards foreign culture, we should also cherish our traditional etiquette and morals (傳統禮教、道德). Through Mr. Mai's speech, we understood that only through self-respect can mutual respect between Westerners and Chinese be established. This will enable citizens of the world to put down their prejudices, and learn from different cultures with an open heart.

As we listened to Mr. Mai's thought-provoking speech, questions started buzzing at the back of our minds. During the Q&A session, dozens of hands shot up in the air as we attempted to seize the opportunity to voice our queries. Mr. Mai's talk ended our 3rd night in Hangzhou on a high note indeed!

5th day

On our last full day in Hangzhou, we finally went to the West Lake (西湖). Though it was slightly rainy, the views were all the more enchanting. We were lucky to witness two of its ten famed scenes (西湖十景) - Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond (花港觀魚) and Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月). We graciously fed the koi in the Flower Pond, basking in their satisfaction. Then we took a boat across the Three Ponds and soon arrived at the other end of the lake. There we strolled among the elegant structures, lush greenery and calming waters.

Photo - Exchange with Hangzhou Foreign Languages School (5)

In the afternoon we stopped at the Lingyin Temple (靈隱寺), one of West Lake's attractions. Not only was there a Grand Hall housing the Buddha, there was another hall with five hundred Lohans (羅漢), each one with a special name, ornately sculpted and in a different position. We gained a deeper understanding of Buddhist culture, and learnt to respect different beliefs.

6th day

Our last stop was Lu Xun Native Place (魯迅故里) in Shaoxing, a nearby city in Zhejiang province. We joined a guided tour with elaborate explanations on the exhibits, from paintings to artefacts, as well as the Three Flavour Study (三味書屋) and the Garden of One Hundred Herbs (百草園) in which Lu Xun spent his youth. Getting to know more about China's most prominent writer in the 20th century, and - very literally - walking in his footsteps, brought us a sense of pride.

Photo - Exchange with Hangzhou Foreign Languages School (6)

Six memorable days flew by very quickly, and we earnestly wish that we could have had more time. We are very thankful to our HFLS buddies and their teachers for hosting us so warmly; our teachers, Ms YM Chan, Miss P Cheung and Miss C Ho, for taking care of us throughout the trip; and our Headmistress, Mrs. Lau, for granting us this valuable opportunity to broaden our horizons and explore the world for ourselves.


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