Chinese students visit 2015

Fifteen Chinese students and six members of staff from Xinghua High School in the Eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu spent ten days as College guests, partnering students in lessons, and living with their local host families to gain insight into being a student at Alton College, as many of them plan to come here full-time to study A levels in the coming months. This is part of the International Student Intake course, designed to attract young people from overseas keen to gain AS and A2 level qualifications prior to continuing their studies at a UK University.

In addition to participating in Maths, Physics, Biology and English classes, the visitors enjoyed a demonstration by the Engineering department, activities in the Photography studio and trips to local places of interest including Jane Austen’s House, the Curtis Museum and the Allen Gallery. Biology teacher Sarah Hughes was thoroughly enthused commenting, ‘it was wonderful to share our labs with the students. They brought a dynamic to the class and it was great to pair the Alton students with the Chinese students so they could experience communicating and working together despite their language barriers!!’ However, it wasn’t all work and no play. The group enjoyed a trip to Basingstoke to go bowling, and also a sightseeing coach trip to London.

During the first week of the visit, fourteen students from Bohunt School visited Alton College to meet and converse with the Chinese visitors. The Year 10 students are all studying for a GCSE in Mandarin and have been learning the language for the past one and a half years, but for some it was their first experience of meeting native speakers of Mandarin who were their age. The hour-long session started with the students working in small groups doing a Q + A exercise. Questions started with the basic ‘What is your name?’ but soon progressed onto bi-lingual conversations about favourite subjects at school and inevitably, food. After the initial exercise, students from both countries stood up and introduced themselves and their interests in their respective foreign language much to the delight of the rest of the class.

Bohunt School student Heather Goodson hopes to become a translator in the future, she commented that coming to Alton College to meet the Chinese students was a ‘really interesting and worthwhile trip’ and that she hoped ‘other students from the school would be given the same opportunity.’   Mr Zeng, the Teacher of Mandarin at Bohunt School who accompanied the students said ‘The students and I found the visit to Alton College very useful. It was great for our students to have the chance to use Mandarin to communicate with Chinese pupils.’

Before the delegation left to continue the rest of their tour of the UK, taking in Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, York and Edinburgh, they were treated to a delicious buffet lunch held on campus in the Wessex Arts Theatre bar. The Chinese themed lunch, prepared by our caterers, marked the official end to their Alton visit and was attended by all students and teachers involved in the project, the Vice-Principals of Alton College, the Mayor of Alton, Graham Hill and Councilor Andrew Joy from East Hampshire District Council. The event concluded with speeches and the teachers and dignitaries exchanging gifts. During his parting speech, the Vice Principal of Xinghua School thanked everyone involved in the project and said 'we hope our school and Alton College will have a very bright future together'. In reply, Senior Vice Principal of Alton College Sara Russell said it was an honour to have Xinghua School to visit again this year and she hoped they had thoroughly enjoyed their visit, both their time in the classroom and the variety of activities in and around the town. The Mayor of Alton, Graham Hill then explained how studying in different countries can be very beneficial - as a science student he won a scholarship to study Physics in Gothenburg and he not only thoroughly enjoyed it and it helped him in his future career but he met his future wife there!

Commenting on the visit, Andrew Cox, Alton College International Manager said: ‘We are really delighted that we were able show the visitors the best of what Alton College has to offer, and it was wonderful to see how quickly the Chinese students adapted to our way of life and learning, and even our food! The sun shone and we even had a light snow shower, which enabled our visitors to see their first ever snowman!’

He added: ‘Students from overseas provide an added dimension to life at Alton College, which is of immense benefit to both the College and to the families they stay with. One parent said of his Chinese visitor ‘he is a credit to his family, his school and his country – it was a delight having him with us!’

From September 2015, in addition to some of the students who came on this trip, Alton College is expecting to welcome Chinese students from Zhongshan, a city in the south of China, and its first student from Brazil, another country from which it is striving to recruit.

Should any local family be interested in hosting students from September, please do not hesitate to get in touch 01420 592243 or international@altoncollege.ac.uk