April 9th 2011, a historic day for cricket lovers all over the world for I’m very sure no one will ever forget how our men in blue defeated Sri Lanka at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai to finally get a hold of the coveted 2011 cricket world cup trophy. While the whole country was celebrating the victory at their homes, workplaces, hospitals, shopping malls,….some of us from Rajagiri were having our own little celebration at the Nedumbassery airport. Ok…I know what you are thinking ….. the airport? Well you see, that same night 12 of us students from class 10 and Mrs. Suma Paul our accompanying teacher were boarding our flight to the land of the Merlion , the country known for its mixture of cuisines, culture, and traditions…if you haven’t guessed it yet, it’s the amazing, Singapore!! We were a part of the student exchange programme to Hwa Chong School in Singapore.
On board the flight we were filled with excitement for we knew this would be a whole lot different from the family holiday trips and vacations we usually enjoyed during the summer holidays. This was not just a mere sight-seeing trip to Singapore, it would be literally a learning experience for all of us because we would be spending most of our time in the classrooms of Hwa Chong School, learning chemistry, history, Chinese, English ….and experiencing the wide variety of facilities the school offers for its students. After we landed and had breakfast from the airport, we were taken to the Hwa Chong Institution by a few host students and teachers who were present there to welcome us. We all had a lot of fun exploring the Hwa Chong Boarding House where we would be staying for the rest of the week.
On our first day at Hwa Chong Boys School we took a tour of the whole campus and got to see the many facilities and departments. We saw the library – a place that would surely be any book lover’s delight, the science labs, the student’s art museum -where the students exhibit their works for all to see. The works include gowns and dresses that students create, oil paintings, sculptures made of glass stone, clay and even things made from plastic to dry leaves. This place was my personal favorite out of all the incredible places we saw at the school. Let us not forget another incredible place – the cafeteria, that offers different cuisines from several parts of the world.-.Chinese, Arabian, western,…there’s even fresh fruit juices for the fitness freaks! After visiting many of the must see places in the campus, we settled for lunch from the cafeteria and soon after we had our tummies filled, it was sight – seeing time!!! All through the week we spent the morning hours in the classrooms at Hwa Chong and after lunch we would take a bus, train or simply walk to see the many wonderful sights in Singapore. We visited the Marina Barrage- a water reservoir in the heart of the city which is not just a dam but also a work of art!, the Peranakan Museum – a museum devoted to Peranakan culture, China Town, Orchard Road, Little India, the Singapore flyer – the view is incredible!!!, Sentosa Island ….and even did a little bit of shopping at the malls.
The classes at Hwa Chong that we attended daily were quite different from those at our school. The students use their laptops in class to do tests, assignments and learn about the topics taught in class. They view videos and browse sites related to the topics and have discussions on what they have learned. I guess this method helps them to understand and know more about the subject. For the joy of all the teachers reading this report, we weren’t just jollying around in Singapore. In fact we learned quite a few things, like- the history of Singapore, how to make a good speech in English, and even learned a little bit of chemistry, physics and math. We also got to watch the students present their projects and assignments. Towards the end of the week, we put up a performance for the students and teachers at the school during their assembly. A Malayalam folk song and a few English songs were rendered by us students. We were also asked to give our views in a group discussion on bilingualism which also took place at the assembly.
The host students and teachers were the real reasons for our trip to turn out so wonderful. They were always there to help either they were lending their laptops so we could practice for our performance or arranging special Indian meals to cheer us up when we were tired. They really brightened up our trip and by the end of the week we were all really good friends, no wonder why some of us got a little teary eyed when we had to say our last goodbyes at the airport!
I forgot to mention one big part of our trip to Singapore – the food!!! We were lucky to have a fun and enthusiastic guide like Miss Sara, our host teacher to take us around the city to experience the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Singapore. We can never forget the different delicacies that we got to taste like chicken satay – a must try if you ever visit Singapore!!!, bubble tea – looks strange but tastes really good!!, chicken rice-a tasty dish that’s worth a try!, pork noodle, grape jelly drink,..etc.
We were given a farewell the day before our departure by the host teachers and students where we were given a chance to perform an Indian dance. We took pictures with all the new friends we made and gave all of them gifts as a symbol of our gratitude. At the airport the next day, we thanked the host teachers and students present for their hospitality and care. They were kind of like a family to us now and leaving them was a little sad but the thought of our real families back home eagerly waiting for our arrival speed-ed things up.
After all the security procedures were done and we were seated in the aircraft, I slowly closed my eyes. I thought of all the fun and amazing things I’d been through this week, the friends I had made, the things I had seen,…and for just a second I wondered if it all was just a dream….whether I was still sleeping in my bedroom and all that I’d gone through wasn’t real…a few pinches later I got my answer. It wasn’t a dream after all!!! This had been a trip that was just too good to be true!! This whole experience has brought the 12 of us Rajagirians and our fantastic teacher Mrs. Suma Paul closer than before. It has also helped us understand different cultures and honestly speaking, it has made us a lot more independent and confidant. I’m pretty sure no tour agency can promise you that!!!