By Kairavi Sivasankar Grade 7, Saanvi Bahadur Grade 6 and Kavya Rastogi Grade 7, Dover Campus
From 31 March to 4 April, 20 UWCSEA Dover Middle School students joined overseas Round Square schools for a conference on sustainability. Here are some of their reflections.
What was our first impression of Round Square? The name itself is so unusual, so unique. It opened up a door leading to a room full of questions in our minds. What could it mean? What is the purpose of this conference? And why is it so important to our school?
Of course, when the opportunity to attend the Round Square regional conference was advertised, we had to sign up for it! When we reached and met the other attendees, students aged from 11 to 14 from other Round Square School spanning the region, we realized that they were all so different from us. At the start, it was hard to believe how many fantastic friendships we would soon make.
We had never before been in a situation where we had to spend a week with people we had almost nothing in common with. We came from different countries, spoke different languages, and had different hobbies. As the trip went on, we discovered that we had much more in common than we had first thought.
At first, it was a bit daunting knowing that we would be sharing a room with strangers. When Grade 6 student, Saanvi, saw that her Grade 9 roommate was three years older and, from her clothes and mannerisms, she looked like she had a very distinct personality, she felt intimidated. There was no way she wanted to be in the same room for ten whole hours. But, it turned out okay, and in the end it was a positive experience. While, at first she felt a bit embarrassed sharing a boarding room with her, she realised that it was actually alright. The funny thing was, by the end of the week, she ended up knowing the roommate’s friend (from her barazza group) better than her roommate!
Oddly enough, even though our students were in China’s capital, Beijing, the Australian participants made the most impact. Kairavi’s first impression was that, unlike her school’s group, the ‘Aussies’ were all from the same ethnic background: all English speakers with Australian accents who all acted like they had known each other for years. As she made friends with them, she discovered that although they were so different, there were many things our UWCSEA students could teach them and they could teach us. She recounts: “When I saw one of my Australian friends struggle to use chopsticks, I gave about five of them a lesson. In return, they taught me how to talk in an authentic Aussie accent!”
Kavya describes the opening ceremony as a welcome like never seen before: “There were so many traditions and cultures of China encapsulated in a mere 60 minutes. We were introduced to both the ancient and modern styles of art popular in Beijing. In Singapore, we’d seen the skilful lion dancing, and were familiar with the almost deafening beat of the drums and shaking of the lion’s scarlet coat. However, the unique sounds of the Chinese instruments, the pipa and the guzheng, all together in harmony were intriguing. In the otherwise silent auditorium, the music was mesmerising.
It was stunning to then see warriors leaping onto the stage. Some of the performers in the martial art of wushu, dressed in dark changshan and wielding bamboo sticks, showed us how the tradition had been passed down to even the youngest of students. We marvelled at how synchronised the children were and how sharp and authentic their movements looked. In another performance, women carried blood-red fans and opened them fiercely, which I knew would be hard to see in Singapore. What further surprised us, was the students of all ethnicities and ages, which made us realise that your background isn’t important when you are learning and appreciating any culture.”
We all found the trip an amazing experience, learning about various cultures and meeting people who lead very different lives from us. Even though the conference was themed Dare to be a force of nature, we, as a group of young people with one goal of sustainability, found that through all the enjoyable and even some unpleasant experiences, one message kept sticking out to us - the whole idea of this trip was to step out of our comfort zones and come back home as better people!