“Crimson Summer Exchange” Recap!

August 21, 2013 / by / 0 Comment










The reason why Crimson Summer Exchange is such a likable programme is because it is the exact opposite of normal schooling. In this summer school, you are allowed to add your teachers on facebook, be able to decide as a class on what you want to learn for the day, steer clear of any discipline masters/mistresses, and think that talking inside classes isn’t half bad. In fact, the programme encourages learning from and with peers. Teachers (called Fellows) come from Oxbridge and the Ivy League, but they themselves are students in their universities so this pretty much justifies its title as an “exchange” in which knowledge sharing is a two-way street. In the two-weeks-long programme, everyone is trying everyone’s best to change how the students think and act- to stop moaning about going to school and start learning, to study what they want to study not what their teachers want them to study.


As a Co-fellow, my job was to assist the lessons in daytime and organise evening activities for the students to have fun and learn outside classroom setting. We spent two weeks in Beijing to deliver the first half of the programme, then back at HKU to deliver the second half. In Beijing, students got on better as they all lived in the dormitory of the Affiliated High School of Peking University, and there was a strictly observed curfew throughout the days and nights. Image a boy scouts’ camp but with marginally better food and more comfortable beds! This is where co-fellows come in, during the long nights we organised a dodgeball tournament which everyone won at the end, a singing contest which transformed into a One-directions impersonation gig, and a game show that featured plastic band-shooting and apples stacking. It was always fun to observe how much difference students react inside and outside classrooms and how the boundaries gradually blurred as they grew out of the programme.


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I was lucky enough to run an art workshop which turned out to be more fun than it sounded. I asked them to break down one English word into its alphabets and try arranging the alphabets into a character that looks like Chinese, a style copied out from Chinese contemporary artist Xu Bing, then to write out with Chinese calligraphy and brush and ink. At first people did with their English names but there was one particular boy who showed me this (below) which I absolutely adored. The subtlety of the piece instantly made it a work of art and I quickly offered him a few hundreds RMB to buy it up. I love these random sparks of creativity that made it so effortlessly brilliant.



Beijing was more than Gu-gongs and Hu-tongs and ancient Chinese palaces. The highlight of the trip has to be our field trip to the 798 Art District, literally Beijing at its best. The artsy area was filled with hipster stalls selling quirky wristbands and leather bags, and not short of installation pieces such as the beautiful, abandoned train rails, a framed photograph of naked Chinese men found at the staircase of a shop, and an unimaginable bronze statue of Kim Jong Un with wings on his back and riding on a handsome horse, propagandizing the greatness of North Korea and communism. Eventually when we are tired of walking, we rested at a rooftop café with a glass ceiling, as we sipped our strawberry smoothies away and watched smartly dressed pedestrians walking beneath us.


Humorous moments never go unnoticed. As a gift of departure the students directed and produced a CSE Harlem Shake video which was more than we had expected. The same boy from the calligraphy workshop poured sour milk all over himself as a gesture of self-expression, while the others danced themselves away. Sounding a bit like a ghost tale, a few students who went out running at night ran back to the dorm screaming they saw a ghost car driving round and round the tracks. This certainly scared the life out of me but it turned out to be a driving lesson of a teacher of that high school. Stay tuned for more on the Hong Kong programme.


Written by hKUDOS Guest Blogger,
Alex Wong