A group of 11 Maltese students from St Margaret’s College Secondary School Verdala, Cospicua, and two teachers travelled to China on a cultural programme between July 2 to 13.
The students were led by senior science teacher Martin Azzopardi and were accompanied by history teacher Joanne Dalli.
Azzopardi is the founder of the school’s ‘Science China Corner’. Last summer, he received a reply letter from Chinese President Xi Jinping, commending his valuable work on the Science China Corner and extended an open invitation to him to visit China together with his students.
During the 10-day programme in China, the Maltese students first visited the Palace Museum and the National Museum in Beijing, including the Great Wall of China. They then travelled by high-speed train to Jining in Shandong Province, where they settled in the old city of Qufu – cradle of Confucianism.
Together with the international students from Peking University and local students from Jining College, they participated in the ‘China International Youth Cultural Exchange Camp 2023’ where they showcased their talents in the majestic hall of Nishan (outside Qufu city) in the presence of Dong Bing, vice mayor of the Jining municipal government, and Wan Ting, deputy director of the Network Centre of International Cultural Exchange.
Azzopardi was invited to deliver a brief speech at the Youth Cultural Exchange Camp, where he thanked the Chinese Embassy in Malta and the China Cultural Centre who organised the cultural programme.
“Now the Maltese students can directly appreciate the vast Chinese culture, while representing Malta in China and serve as a bridge of friendship between the two countries,” he said.
After Shandong Province, the Maltese group travelled to the historical city of Chengdu in Sichuan Province. Here they visited Chinese poet Du Fu’s thatched cottage, the Wuhou Temple, the Jinli Ancient Street, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, the Sichuan Museum, the Dujiangyan Scenic Area and the ancient city of Guanxian.
After the trip, the Maltese students were asked for their impressions of China.
Isaac Diacono said he was “highly impressed” by the large-scale live performance, Golden Sound and Jade Vibration in Nishan, while Aidan Schembri and Shezrick Psaila both said they were amazed by the “majestic beauty and long history of the Palace Museum in Beijing”.
Haley Schembri and Axl Arry were particularly impressed by the Sichuan Opera held in Shufeng Yayun, “especially the changing of the masks performance”, while Gabriella Teeling was fascinated by “the beautiful scenery in Dujiangyan” and she expressed her wish to return to this place in future.
Teacher Azzopardi recounted a personal anecdote.
“Personally I was touched by the generosity of a small Chinese boy (Aaron as his western name) who was attracted by the Maltese Cross badge that I was carrying and that I gladly gave to him as a gift. After introducing me to his parents he disappeared and returned back with his parents just to offer me a Chinese badge in return saying: ‘In China when you receive a gift, you should always reciprocate’. It was a very touching experience indeed which I will never forget.”
Similarly, the students had words of praise for the Chinese people. Sven Busuttil said that the Chinese people are very generous and that although a bit shy “they are so kind and helpful”. Aidan Schembri agreed, saying they are “hospitable, very friendly and generous”, while Haley Schembri said that they are very caring and helpful and that “their cuisine is exquisite”.
The trip was made possible thanks to the Chinese Embassy in Malta, the Ministry for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation, the China Cultural Centre in Malta and the Malta-China Friendship Society.
The article was written by students Axelkees Yesyosmar Massa & Yasmin Scicluna, of St Margaret College Secondary School Verdala, Cospicua.