Nan Hua High School students got a taste of India's rich cultures and history during their immersion programme in Delhi.
Compare the rowdy bustle of Delhi's streets with the predictable order of Singapore's, and imagine crossing from one world to the other. That's the experience that 21 Nan Hua High School students had in November 2008, when they spent eight days on an immersion programme in Delhi, accompanied by their vice-principal and two teachers.
At every turn, they were fascinated, intrigued and sometimes overwhelmed by the new sights, sounds and smells that challenged their senses. At the same time, they experienced the warmth of the local people. Recalls Sec 4 student Samuel Ng, who is also the student leader for the trip, "I didn't expect people to be so friendly. Once, we were trying to walk to our destination and almost lost our way. People not only offered to help us, they even took us there!"
An exchange of knowledge and hearts
Challenging students to steer their way through a foreign culture was just one of the objectives of this twinning programme with Delhi schools Vasant Valley School and Pathways World School. Organised as part of Nan Hua High School's International Immersion Programme, the twinning programme aims to create new opportunities for mutual learning and cultural exchange, so that students can develop a more global outlook.
Classical Indian dance was just one of the many cultural activities Singapore students got to try out.
At the two Delhi schools, Nan Hua High School students stayed for two nights and got a taste of Indian boarding school life. They participated in classroom lessons and activities such as pottery-making, tie-dyeing, learning the Indian national anthem and even picking up some classical and Bollywood dance steps. Sec 4 student Wang Dingding jokes that in return, "We taught our buddies how to tie French plaits. By the end of the day, every one of the girls had the same hairstyle!"
She adds that the Indian students were very open-minded and enthusiastic. They would walk up to the Singapore students and ask questions. In the same manner, the Indian students were very open to answering questions and would not be offended. Dingding reflects, "In India, I got to know all sorts of people and religions. It really opened up my eyes, and I learnt to be open to other cultures and religions."
Beyond the boundaries of the school compounds, the students and teachers got to do some sightseeing, including visits to the Taj Mahal and a night market, where some students had their hands adorned with henna drawing. And in the midst of all the fun and excitement, the students also responded spontaneously to help the needy. During a visit to a village school - which was just a sparsely furnished classroom - Samuel was so moved by the plight of the young children that he initiated a donation effort.
Nan Hua High School aims to nurture globally savvy students through their international immersion programme.
"It was winter and we still felt a bit cold even though we wore thick jackets. But the kids were just wearing their uniforms. Their classroom also had no electrical appliances. I felt very sad," he explains. Through their effort, the students and teachers raised a total of INR6,450 (S$350) among themselves, which they donated to the village school.
All told, the Nan Hua High School students spent just eight days in India --- but that wasn't the last they saw of their new Indian friends.
Look out for
Part 2 of this article next week, to find out when the Singapore and Indian students met again.