Our Head Girl’s summer sojourn in Beijing

It seems that our pupils are just as busy in their holidays as they are in term time. In the first of a series of reports, our Head Girl, Polina, tells us about her trip to Beijing:

“This summer, my trip to China with the Envision Global Young Leaders Conference program has been a truly life changing experience for me. I landed in Beijing uncertain of what was awaiting me in the upcoming 2 weeks and what challenges I would have to overcome, but when it was time to leave, I boarded the plane back to Moscow now having 72 new friends from all over the world and having had two most exciting weeks of my life.

I love meeting new people, in fact, the prospect of meeting lots of people of my age with similar interests was one of the things I was most excited about. And I was not disappointed, as soon as I stepped into the arrivals zone in the airport I was met by the Envision representatives and a group of about 15 other participants who have arrived earlier. Already at the airport I realized just how diverse our group was going to be, within minutes I have met people from all five of the world’s continents and that was only a tiny part of what was going to come. After we all settled into our hotel, met our roommates and had our first Chinese diner (there were a lot more to come!), we had our introduction to the conference and had a brief overview of the schedule after which we all went in for our first Leadership Group Meeting (LGM) and met our Faculty Advisors who would guide us through the program.

Throughout the program we had the opportunity to listen to many amazing people such as: Mr Alvaro Montoya, who talked about achieving his goal of working for a multinational organization, Mr Benjamin Moore from the United Nations Global Development Program, who apart from explaining to us what this program aimed to achieve in China also shared his experiences about working for the UN, and Mr Richard Brubaker the founder of the ‘Collective Responsibility’ group, who talked about taking all of the opportunities that life offers you. We were also extremely fortunate to be addressed by a group of China’s ambassadors to the US, who not only gave us an insight into China’s current global outlook, but were also happy to answer our questions, mainly concerning education and employment opportunities in China, as well as the key to China’s recent economic success.

Every day in our LGMs we had intense discussions about issues such as cross-cultural communication, the work of international Organizations, the importance of goal setting and strategies for conflict resolutions. We also planned, organized and run a mock Global Environmental Summit, where I got to showcase all of the skills I gained from participating in MUN at school.

Apart from an intense (but very fun) educational program, we also went on countless number of excursions and site seeing trips, which covered all of China’s biggest and most famous tourist attractions, for example the Great Wall, the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the Bund of Shanghai and the Terra Cotta warriors of Xi’an to name just a few. We visited 4 of China’s major cities: Beijing – Grande and formal, Hangzhou – where the new meets the old, Shanghai – buzzing with live and progress and Xi’an – full of culture and tradition. China, I found, is filled with contrasts, there ancient temples stand across the street from ultramodern skyscrapers, Chinese traditional restaurants are next door to western fast-food cafes like McDonald’s and the rich cities of the east don’t quite manage to conceal the poverty of the western countryside. Although China has come a long way in terms of its westernization, it still managed to keep its culture and tradition, which the Chinese take a lot of pride in.

This trip has had a lot of impact on me as a person: the issues that we addressed over the course of the program have made me rethink and reassess my goals for the future, meeting people from all over the planet has broadened my horizons and exploring China has shown me just how different Asian cultures are to ours, but maybe it is the reason I fell in love with it.”