Over half-term, 31 intrepid year 10 and 11 Mandarin students embarked on the trip of a lifetime to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. Following a gruelling 26-hour journey via London Heathrow and Bangkok, students and teachers enjoyed an action-packed week exploring the home of bubble-tea and having their eyes opened to Chinese life and culture, putting into context the Chinese language study that students have engaged in as part of the Mandarin Excellence Programme over the last 4 years.

During the week, students learnt how to make 小笼包 (xiǎo lóng bāo – Chinese soup dumplings), enjoyed spectacular views from the top of the Taipei 101 building (the world’s tallest sky-scraper until 2010), hiked up Elephant Peak, visited a tea plantation, Taipei Zoo, the spectacular Zhinan Temple and the National Palace Museum. They were treated to a mouth-watering array of delicious Chinese food, including hotpot and Mongolian barbecue, but their favourite culinary experience was without doubt the visit to the Shilin Night Market. Students purchased their own dinner, choosing from a dazzling array of street-food stalls. Some were more daring than others in their choice of menu, but all enjoyed the chance to see and smell the range of Taiwanese delicacies on offer.

Three of the days were devoted to attending language and culture classes at Taiwan’s Culture University. Apart from conventional language lessons in the mornings, students enjoyed a craft workshop making candles in the shape of a glass of bubble tea, and also demonstrated their musical talents in their loud and enthusiastic renditions of two Chinese songs that they were taught. Students and teachers were also shown round the main campus of the Culture University, which is situated on the picturesque slopes of Yang Ming Shan (Yang Ming mountain). As part of the tour, students were given the opportunity to speak to 3 students from Cardiff University who are currently completing their year abroad at the university, and were inspired to hear how they have found the experience of living and studying Mandarin on the island.

When asked what aspect of the trip had left the deepest impression on them, students cited:

“seeing all of the massive temples concealed in the mountains.” (Milena)

“the night market, because their culture is so interesting!” (Estelle)

“visiting the Taipei 101 – it was truly a wonderful experience!” (Vanessa)

“how different the culture was to ours and experiencing it firsthand.” (Baptiste)

“going to the university campus and meeting the teachers and exchange students.” (Imogen)

“the politeness of everyone who spoke to me and their patience when I attempted to speak in Chinese.” (Matthew)

“experiencing a culture so different from our own. Even the buildings were different, not just the food or the language.” (Alice)

Many students also commented on how much they had enjoyed getting to know their fellow Mandarin students during the trip.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Mrs Fisher and Mr Theobald, who accompanied the trip and were wonderful company and a great support to Mrs Aird. Suffice to say, we all returned home with fantastic ‘mems’ (“memories”, for the uninitiated) and will be talking about the trip for many months to come.