In April 2015, ten students studying Mandarin at William Ellis School in Camden went to Kumming in Yunnan Province, China, They went to improve their spoken Mandarin and to experience Chinese culture.
Underpinning their visit was a survey, undertaken by 72 students in the La SWAP sixth form consortium in North London and 79 students from the Dali Nationalities Middle school in Dali, to compare the tea drinking habits of students and their families in both countries.
In China the survey provided an opportunity for students to work together and communicate, in English and Mandarin, not only about the tea survey but also other aspects of their lives.
They went to the ‘Yunnan Fenglin GAO Xian Co. Ltd’ tea plantation, near Yuxi, south of Kunming, on the north-east fringes of the Pu-erh region. The plantation extends across the steep upper slopes of several hills at 1,000 metres above sea-level.
Students were given a tour of the plantation. Then, each was given a woven basket and instruction on tea picking – the smallest end shoots are best. Students spent 2 hours on the beautiful hillsides, in brilliant sunshine, picking the leaves. The leaves were taken to the ‘cooking’ room where they were first stirred for several minutes in a huge wok while they withered, then placed on drying trays for another 20 minutes until completely dry. The students then packed their own leaves to take home.
Students had extensive opportunities to observe and participate in day-to-day aspects of Chinese life. They spent 3 days in the New Construction Primary school, in Kunming, where they presented a gift of English reading books and games; and 3 days in the Dali Nationalities Middle school. One afternoon, 3 of the group visited the home of a Chinese student. Many students live in dormitories at the school because their families live far away – some as far as Tibet
The students also went shopping in local markets and city centres. Speaking with non-English-speaking people improved their spoken mandarin greatly – bargaining with shopkeepers in the markets was useful practice. They also visited a traditional embroidery workshop; travelled through the Chinese countryside; visited a Buddhist temple and several other sites of historical interest.
Download our China Study Trip & Tea Survey Report 2015, including the results of the tea survey and photographs of the school visits.
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