“I was so thrilled that I couldn’t fall asleep that night!” said Crystal Tang Tsz-lam of Stewards Ma Kam Ming Charitable Foundation Ma Ko Pan Memorial College.
“For us, it’s a big step in life,” added Crystal’s teammate, Maki Chiu Long-yi.
Crystal and Maki are talking about their 12-day trip to the Netherlands in July, in which a group of 30 students from ten schools went to the country as part of the Wai Yin Association’s Travel Share Experience project.
Armed with a few basic Dutch language lessons and not much more, the students (some for the very first time) boarded a plane bound for the European country.
The team from S.K.H. Lam Kau Mow Secondary School were there to study the Netherlands’ water management.
“The country is geographically interesting, ‘Netherlands’ literally means ‘lower countries’ and 26 per cent of the land is below sea level,” Alice Chan Pui-yan said.
On their trip, they visited a large dam. “It was so windy when we walked on the dam, we felt like there would be a Typhoon Signal No.10,” Cherry Tse Tsz-ching recalled. “At one point, we looked down and clearly saw the water from the North Sea striking the dam. It was so intense that I really worried I would drop my phone into the water.”
They were very impressed by the knowledge that the locals had of the country’s history of fighting floods.
“A man we met in a supermarket was able to tell us that the city was struck by floods in a certain year and that the very point we were standing at was flooded,” Cherry said.
John Ng Cheuk-yiu, who studies geography as a DSE elective, said before the trip he knew a little about hydraulic engineering from his classes, but the trip made him realise how much delicate calculation is required. “One inch in miscalculation and the dam would collapse,” he said. “These [dams] are great projects to help protect the Netherlands.”
From Christian Alliance Cheng Wing Gee College, another team used their trip to help develop ways to benefit fellow tourists. The three girls, who love painting, made DIY postcards, painted with iconic Hong Kong gourmet foods and landscapes in the Netherlands.
“We invited the people we met to write down what they wish to say to their loved ones and sent out the postcards for them … every night, we would spend a couple of hours on the postcards,” said Vanessa Yeung Tsz-ling.
Her teammate, Miki Tsoi Mei-ki said she’s proud of herself for “being a postwoman to help people deliver their messages”, and that she felt a sense of accomplishment each time she finished a postcard.
The students from the secondary schools were selected for the trip in March after going through a process of putting their plans and proposed budget for the trip to a panel, and on this trip they made some great efforts to step out of their comfort zones.
Kristy Chung Ki, of S.K.H. St. Mary’s Church Mok Hing Yiu College, was keen on leading her team as a tour guide even though she is a self-termed “direction idiot”.
“We got lost on the first day from the train station to our hostel,” she said. However, in the 12 days they were abroad, Vanessa and some of her peers went from being nervous and inexperienced to talking to English teachers at school and comfortably chatting with strangers they met on the road. “It’s a breakthrough for me,” Vanessa said. “I also feel like I’ve grown so much in this trip.”
The students had no-one else to rely on but themselves as they travelled together to fulfil their study focuses – of which ranged from environmental protection to the country’s dairy industry. For most of them, this trip has been the first that they got to plan in detail.
The students learned a lot about the Netherlands, but also a lot about each other too. Each team had to, on a nightly basis, look back on their day and update their Facebook pages. One of Maki’s fondest memories of the trip is of being part of her team at the end of each day, putting their thoughts together while sharing a cup of noodles and face masks.
The students’ travel experiences are showcased through photographs at the Festival Walk until Sunday