As of September 2018, we have championed the Global Youth Ambassadors Project within our school, this project designed to inspire and educate a wider global awareness amongst participating pupils. As a result, our school was offered the opportunity of a fully funded cultural exchange to attend a Winter Panda Camp experience in Xi’an in China for 10 days. Although initially our ability to partake in this experience presented significant challenges from a school perspective, in particular relating to visa applications for some of our students who do not hold British passports, this trip exceeded expectations as an invaluble and transformative experience that motivated our pupils, developed their abilities and aspirations as leaders, and enriched my own professional development in developing global education networks. During the experience, pupils were given an opportunity to enhance their global learning through visiting cultural landmarks within throughout the city of Xi’an including the Terracotta Warriors, Shaanxi History Museum, and dressing up within traditional Tang dynasty attire. In addition to this, we visited 3 schools throughout Xi’an and delievered teaching sessions to Chinese students (ranging from 8-16 years old) on public speaking, STEM and leadership development. We also collaberated with students from other schools during activities led by Chinese teachers. In sharing in these learning experiences, Harlington pupils themselves were encouraged to develop as young global leaders. As a result, as their teacher, I observed outstanding improvements in their abilities to communicate effectively in the face of challenges of cultural and language related barriers, their abilities to motivate others and work as a team, and their abilities to exercise empathy, open-mindedness and develop friendships with peers despite social-cultural difference. Through accompanying pupils and teaching within Chinese schools, this experience also advanced my own professional development through widening my understandings of Chinese education ethos, practice and systems, allowing me to evaluate my own practice in developing international connections and reflect upon the importance in provividing opportunities for pupils to develop as young leaders through global citizenship. From my experience, I would highly recommend embedding the Global Youth Ambassadors Programme and ethos within schools. We look forward to continuing to uphold the Global Youth Ambassadors programme within our school, opportunities to host Chinese students within Harlington School and the subsequent positive outcomes this brings for our pupils as Global Youth Ambassadors and wider school context.
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Alexandra Barnes, teacher at Harlington School, London