Year 11 Nayland College student Victoria Cockerell has her sights set on an exchange to China next year. Photo: Kate Russell.

Student sets sights on China

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A whirlwind school trip to China has inspired one bright young Nelson student to reach for her goals.

Victoria Cockerell, 16, was one of 13 Nayland College Chinese language and business students to embark on the 12-day journey last month.

She has studied Chinese at the college for the past three years and says she has always had an interest in the language. Now she is keen to go back there on a school exchange next year.

“My mum, who is from the Philippines, used to speak Mandarin and Cantonese when she worked in Hong Kong, so she has told me lots of stories about living there, which has inspired me.”

Victoria says, although she “can hold a basic conversation” with her three classmates, it was nice to be able to put it in practice during the long-awaited and much fundraised trip.

“I’ve been to Hong Kong once when I was four, but this was my first time going to mainland China. We stopped at Hong Kong Disneyland and then went on to the business hub and zoo in Shanghai, Lin Nan, the Great Wall and the Forbidden City in Beijing.”

But for Victoria, the highlight of the trip was visiting the city of Taiyuan, near Beijing, to visit a high school and spend time with the students there.

“It wasn’t so westernised, like the bigger cities,” she says.

Victoria and the other students got a taste of what it’s like to go to school in Taiyuan. Practising face exercises to help with eye strain was one of the more unfamiliar customs for the Kiwi students.

The visit was such a success that the school are planning on setting up a month-long exchange programme between Nayland College and the school in Taiyuan and Victoria says her hand will be the first to go up to participate.

“I’m very keen to do it.”

Victoria says it’s beneficial to learn the language and an exchange would be the ideal way to encourage more students to take it up.

“There is a large contrast between New Zealand and China, but the connection between the two countries is getting stronger so this would be a really cool thing to have.”