(NOTE: This piece was written following an exchange programme between Wah Yan College, Hong Kong and Stonyhurst College in England. As part of the group, the writer described what he experienced during the journey. He also compared and explained the similarities and differences between studying in Hong Kong and the UK.)
The original article was published in the college annual of Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, The Star, 2012-2013. An excerpt is reprinted here with minor editing.
The annual overseas exchange programme with other Jesuit secondary schools is definitely one of the highlights of our school year. This year’s exchange programme with Stonyhurst College in the UK was yet another highly-anticipated event in the college.
Stonyhurst College is a private day cum boarding co-educational school in Lancashire, England. It was first founded in 1593 in northern France, before moving to the current location in 1794. The school normally welcomes 450 students. There are a number of organisations and groups of different nature in Stonyhurst College, among which is the Big Band, a music band in the college. The Big Band was the group who visited us in October 2012.
The group visiting Tung Wah High School in Dongguan, China.
On October 18 2012, 22 Stonyhurst students, who were members of the Big Band arrived in Hong Kong. They had a fun-filled, activity-packed schedule during their 11-day stay in Hong Kong. They explored the hustle-and-bustle of the city, rode on the world-famous Ngong Ping 360 and visited the Tung Wah High School in Dongguan in China from 20th to 22nd October 2012. The highlight of the programme was the impressive joint concert together with our school’s Concert Wind Band at Times Square on 26th October 2012. Besides, they also attended our regular lessons. It was definitely an experience for them to get a glimpse of the fusion of Chinese and Western cultures of Hong Kong.
The Big Band performing in Times Square, Causeway Bay.
In the months following their departure, students from both schools continued to keep in contact with one another. All of us were eagerly waiting for our return trip to the UK in April 2013.
On April 20, 2013, the second half of the exchange programme began. Our group of 19 students set off to the UK for our 2-week visit. Upon arriving at Stonyhurst College, we were given a very warm welcome from the teachers and host families at the college. We had the invaluable chance to stay with local English families during our visit there. It was undoubtedly a wonderful and unforgettable experience to live with the host families, where we were able to be immersed in English culture during the trip.
Entrance to the Stonyhurst College, Lancashire.
On the following day, we were introduced to all students in the Principal’s Assembly held at St. Peter’s Church in the college. After that, we were given a guided tour around the campus. Stonyhurst College was definitely an enormous school with huge open space. As a matter of fact, the school has a total area of 1.2 km2. Thus, it has the capacity to accommodate a swimming pool, four chapels, ten rugby pitches, an observatory and even a 9-hole golf course! They also have a military-training cadet force that does various trainings on the school campus. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for us to see another Jesuit school of such a different style.
The school’s museum.
Library at Stonyhurst College.
Another look at the entrance of the school. Several rugby pitches are built on the grassland.
During our stay, we attended lessons with our buddies and give three concerts to Stonyhurst students and parents. Regular lesson time lasts for 70 minutes, and students have to attend 5 lessons a day. Unlike us, students of the same form are not arranged into different classes. Instead, each student is given a unique timetable, and they are required to proceed to the designated classrooms on their own.
A religious studies classroom at Stonyhurst College.
Being a Jesuit school, Stonyhurst College also shares the same Jesuit beliefs with us. In fact, there is a long-standing practice worth mentioning: In top top left-hand corner of every coursework, students are required to write down the Jesuit motto A.M.D.G. (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam), which means “for the greater glory of God”. Likewise, they have to write another phrase, L.D.S. (Laus Deo Samper, meaning praise to God always), at the end of the assignment. In addition, all boarding students are required to attend the mass on Sunday mornings. The practices give students exposure to the values of Jesuit education.
Besides attending lessons, our group also visited different places in northwestern England with our buddies. They included York, Liverpool, Windermere and Manchester. Our group got especially excited when we were given the chance to visit Old Trafford, the stadium of world-renowned football team Manchester United. It was definitely a treat for us to visit the so-called “Theatre of Dreams” which we only normally see on television. In addition, we also toured around some heritage sites, such as the Clifford’s Tower and the York Minster. This enriched our understanding of the history and culture of England.
On the grounds of “Theatre of Dreams” Old Trafford.
The highlight of the 2-week trip was the joint concert we had with the Big Band in the Top Refectory at Stonyhurst. It was attended by the principal of Stonyhurst College, alongside a vast number of host families and friends. In the concert, we performed different traditional Chinese music, and even played the song “Happiness” (Xiyangyang), arranged as a jazz version, together with our English counterparts.
Towards the end of our stay at Stonyhurst College, we were given a chance to visit another Jesuit school in England, the Mount St. Mary’s College on April 29, 2013. It took us 2.5 hours to reach there by coach. Nevertheless, we also had music and drama performances there. It was another great experience for us to visit yet another Jesuit school in England.
Visiting the chapel of Mount St. Mary’s College.
On May 1, our group departed Stonyhurst College for London. We stayed there for three days and visited a number of world-renowned historical monuments, including the British museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and the White Hall Horse Guards. We even watched “Singing in the Rain” in the evening. We also spent half a day in the city of Oxford, where we toured around the world-famous University of Oxford. We all took a large number of photos to record the last precious moments in England before flying back to Hong Kong on May 3.
The exchange programme was definitely an eye-opening experience for everyone of us as we were able to learn beyond classrooms and be immersed in another culture, something we normally cannot do in Hong Kong. Spending time with host families was an invaluable part of the programme, as we could take the chance to learn more about the lifestyle and culture by interacting with local people.
Last but not least, I must express my heartfelt gratitude to all the host families, staff and friends at Stonyhurst College and Wah Yan College, Hong Kong for making his programme a success.