“Changshu Challenge” From the Eyes of a Zimbabwean Student
“Changshu Challenge” From the Eyes of a Zimbabwean Student

On September 1st, 570 students from over 100 countries and regions at UWC Changshu China and their advisors took part in the "Changshu Challenge", one of the activities during Orientation. It is designed to help members of the community get to know Changshu, their home away from home, and also get to know each other better outside the classrooms and campus.  Following clues and instructions, students and teachers, with limited budget, explored Fangta Garden, InCity, Xingfu Temple and the Changshu Library and Museum.  It was a day of fun, bonding and meaningful discoveries.  Anesu from Zimbabwe shared her reflection on the “Chanllenge”.

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From the entire event, the moment I remember most vividly didn’t even happen during the actual challenge, but hours later, when we were all back on campus, dirty shoes in the laundry and hair wet from much needed showers, as I sat in the common room speaking to my mother on the other side of the globe on the phone. I don’t remember ever laughing any harder than I did that evening, at my mother’s sheer shock at the fact that I actually fully enjoyed an activity that involved any kind of walking in this Chinese heat — and it was in that moment, that very moment that I felt the satisfaction and fulfillment that comes with being at a UWC.

  • 兴福寺简单的早茶(作者左四)

 

Hours later, I was exhausted, sweaty and the happiest I’ve been ever since I’ve gotten here! Kudos to the organizers of this event, because in more ways than one, it stands as a real true reflection of what the UWC experience connotes and achieves. 

 

I make many trips to the gym — mental trips that is, never actual realistic ones, so you can imagine the horror I experienced when I heard we were going to be walking through Changshu city looking for clues and completing the objectives. I was completely out of my comfort zone and dreading the entire event, but not so surprisingly, my teammates and the rest of the teams we met on the way changed my mood for the absolute better!

  • Learning Kung-fu

 

Somewhere within the enthusiastic waves from Simon as he drove around taking pictures of us all, the cheering from other teams every time we helped each other figure a particularly hard question out, the mini stops we took more frequently than necessary for much needed food therapy and taking a bus loaded with just UWC CSC students, whilst singing along to old school music on our way to the temple, I had an inevitable change of heart. 

  • We are "Kung-fu masters"!

 

The support we all gave each other as we trudged towards the same goal brought me closer to a lot of people I had never spoken to before, which was an extremely enlightening experience as the best of friendships are always made by accident. 

  • Enjoying local public transportation

 

Moreover, somehow, my already overflowing heart managed to find a space in there in the new found Love I have for Changshu City. There literally is no better way to explore and discover a city than walking to and from the most worshipped parts of it and making it a point to ask superfluous but relevant questions about them (courtesy of the challenge objectives). 

  • Asking local people for clues

 

I remember putting my phone away for a good two hours after the challenge because my Instagram feed was exploding with posts and comments about the city itself and all the places that we’d been to. I think it’s more than safe to say that the beauty Changshu possess is inspiring and deserving of being shared, which is exactly what everybody was trying to do. 

  • View of the Pagoda

 

Ultimately, if I had to describe the whole day in one word, it would be mentally invigorating, because after this day, what was very apparent (apart from how tired everybody was) is how much closer we had all become as a community and a family! I feel much more comfortable approaching my second years now, discussing issues with my advisor and generally offering smiles to people I rarely glance at because of the barriers that were knocked down by the Changshu Challenge experience. Let’s do it again?

 
  • "Singing in the Rain"

Words From the Organizer

To organize an orienteering in the city of Changshu for 570 students together with their teachers turned out to be much more complicated than expected, but it was very important to give students a chance to bond with each other, and with their teachers at the beginning of the school year outside the campus.  There is a saying which goes “Friend in need is a friend indeed”.  I think another way of saying this should be “In hardship, friendship is built and tested.” 

  • Stone sculpture that we found by chance

 

On such a day of unbearable heat, with limited budget, a full list of seemingly daunting tasks and language barrier for a lot of the students, only through mutual help and support, cooperation and joint efforts can all the challenges be overcome.  

  • What a jump!

Another objective of the Challenge is to encourage everyone to step out of the campus, explore the city, have a first-hand knowledge of the local culture and local people, whether it’s an inspiring story in history, or the thousand year old ginkgo tree in the Pagoda Park, or tasting the famous local noodle at the foot of Yushan Mountain. Hope all those will one day become the memories of the City.

  • An amazing photo with Principal Pelham and his wife

Lastly, the Challenge best showcased the experiential learning of UWC education. We are always ready to find opportunities for students to challenge, to try and to experience themselves, to reflect and grow from those experience.
 

I don’t think I have the answer to the question whether we have achieved our objectives.  Maybe you can find the answer in the photos taken by students, in the call by international students with their parents abroad, or maybe the answers are still on the way or to be given in the future.

 

-- Tingting Feng, Deputy Dean of Student Life


Author: Anesu Mukombiwa, Zimbabwe, DP1

Photo by: students and teachers