Two learners from the South Wales Valleys have travelled around the globe to represent Wales and the UK as part of an international student exchange programme with China.
Laura Averiss and Atlanta Taylor, a learner and alumna (respectively) at Coleg y Cymoedd, were the only two UK representatives to travel to Asia as part of a hundred strong student delegation representing fifty nationalities.
The pair visited China as part of the 10th annual Shanghai International Youth Interactive Friendship Camp, a scheme aimed to give teenagers all over the world a chance to study Chinese culture, as well as introduce the locals to their own.
Atlanta and Laura spent 10 days in and around China’s largest city serving as would-be ambassadors for Wales and the UK. During their stay they were taught various traditional Chinese discipline, s including singing, martial arts and calligraphy.
They also spent several nights with local families, who they called their ‘Chinese sisters’, in order to brush up on their Mandarin and enjoy a truly immersive experience of the country.
Laura, 18, from Danescourt, Cardiff, has now returned for her final year at Coleg y Cymoedd. She explained how the trip has inspired her to continue travelling: “I loved experiencing the different cultures so much that I booked a three week trip to India in April 2015 to work with underprivileged children as soon as I got home from China! I am still in touch with some of the people I met on the trip, from New Zealand, Denmark and Australia, and I have been invited to stay with them all at some point.
“One of the families I stayed with was based further into the countryside so I got to see different areas in China and visit some of the temples ,which were my highlight.”
As representatives of the UK, the learners took the opportunity to share their own Welsh culture, including Welsh cakes, love spoons and their own rendition of Calon Lânwith the other nationalities at a ‘market’ event, devised as a way for all the students to learn about the different cultures present.
Atlanta, also 18, from Llantwit Fadre, who is just about to embark on her first year at Newcastle University to study Corporate Management, said: “We were the only people taking part in the experience from the UK so it was a lot of pressure to represent everyone, but we met some great people from lots of different nationalities and learnt so much.
“My favourite activity was orienteering around the city, and seeing it lit up at night from the Bund waterfront.”
Both learners were also keen to extend their thanks to the college’s tutors who “have really helped develop our confidence, which makes big trips like this possible.” As part of preparing the girls for the visit the college arranged for the girls to meet with learner Lucy Bainbridge from the School of Oriental and Africa Studies, part of the University of London, who introduced them to Chinese culture and taught them basic Mandarin.
Coleg y Cymoedd Strategic Alliance Manager Ian Rees, was keen to praise his students: “Laura and Atlanta are excellent examples of the innovative and dedicated learners we strive to nurture here. In addition to broadening their personal horizons, they have paved the way for future learners to travel and represent the college internationally.”
Bob Tod, one of the college’s enterprise champions was visibly delighted upon the pair’s return.
He said: “I could not be more proud of both of them for representing their college and their country so admirably. Having two learners fly our flag on the other side of the world has obviously been a really exciting venture for us. The girls even had to give a presentation about their visit to the senior management team on their return.”