Jina (16) is a Y11 student at Wycombe Abbey School Changzhou. She joined the school 3 years ago from Hong Kong, where she spent her formative years studying in local schools and living with her parents at home.
We spent a full day following Jina across the campus as she shared with us her daily life as a full boarding student. Classes, spending time with her classmates, meals, sports, music, art and many more – Jina’s campus life is full of exciting academic and extracurricular activities.
To Jina, this school is not just a place to study, but it is also her home away from home.
From Hong Kong to Changzhou, how did the journey begin?
1. Considering Wycombe Abbey
Since her primary school days, Jina has always been interested in studying outside of Hong Kong. When she was in Primary 6, she told her mother Lisa, “I don’t want to study in Hong Kong anymore.”
At that time, Jina was often stressed with the relentless academic pressure from the local education system. She felt her life was measured by a mere set of statistics; the only determining factor to becoming a successful student was her test scores. After the second year of junior high, it was time for a change.
Jina and her family
Jina’s parents knew the overwhelming pressure was negatively impacting Jina’s growth and development, so they began to search for schooling opportunities outside of Hong Kong. Initially, Jina’s parents considered boarding schools in the UK, the United States and Australia. However, Jina was still young and her parents were concerned that they would not be able to see their daughter often.
During a visit in Shanghai, Jina’s grandfather suggested they should look for boarding schools in the mainland. This suggestion soon became a family project, after researching and touring various schools, they ultimately found Wycombe Abbey School Changzhou to be the best fit.
“The school provided the full boarding experience and is the sister school of the prestigious Wycombe Abbey School in the UK. I believed the level of academic excellence provided by the school would benefit me greatly,” said Jina.
“At first, I didn’t even know where Changzhou was!” exclaimed Jina. “During my first visit to Wycombe Abbey School Changzhou, I was amazed at the size of the campus. The entire school size I was attending in Hong Kong was just about half of the primary school section at the Changzhou campus. Here, we have our own swimming pool, full size gymnasiums, and even a rowing wharf!”
Stepping onto the WAS Changzhou campus gave Jina a new sense of confidence.
2. Starting at WAS Changzhou
A Full Boarding School Experience
When Jina first joined Wycombe Abbey School Changzhou, she was nervous. It was the first time she has been this far away from her parents. Who would be her roommate(s)? What if they don’t get along? Many thoughts raced through Jina’s mind.
One of the teachers in Jina’s dormitory knew about this “girl from Hong Kong”. The teacher introduced herself to Jina and said, “If you need anything, I am here for you, I am available at any time.”
“It was such a warm gesture. I was so relieved. They welcomed me into this big family,” Jina laughingly recall.
The first few months was challenging. Jina missed her parents very much, she missed her friends in Hong Kong. At times she felt very much alone.
Jina’s teachers and classmates knew Jina was far from home and that she was home sick. Her roommates began sharing snacks with her and checked in with her regularly to see if she was okay. “by just knowing that people were around and willing to help made all the difference.”
This year, Jina has a new roommate who is from the northeastern area of China. They quickly became close friends. Jina even picked up some northeastern terminologies, whilst reciprocated by teaching her friend some Cantonese!
Wycombe Abbey School Changzhou offers a full boarding school experience in the same traditions as many of the top boarding schools in the world. Students are divided into 12 colleges. The school offers a student-centered community composed of teachers, tutors, teaching and research directors, and the dean of the college, who leads the daily activities on campus.
The teaching staff at the school reside in the same dormitories as the students. As a full-time boarder, students learn to be independent and accountable. They are responsible for their own time management, to abide by their schedules and be punctual.
Jina was always a picky eater growing up, she was also very particular about her daily habits. Her parents were worried that Jina would not get used to the food and daily routine when she arrived at Changzhou.
When her parents visited the campus, they discovered that there was a wide variety of different cuisines available at the school canteens, there were plenty of options to satisfy their daughter’s appetite.
The parents were amazed at Jina’s change in her attitude and demeanor.
“She has really stepped out of her shell and made many great friends. At first, it did take some time for Jina to adjust, but a few months later, she was completely immersed in her school life. Because the school arranged many activities such as sports, excursions, and extra-curricular activities, Jina was able to integrate fully into her school community. Her days are very full.”
Jina’s parents have been very satisfied with the school’s dedication to balancing family life and campus life. The school provides regular updates and communications with parents, ensuring that Jina continues to connect with her family while being engaged and involved at school.
An Engaging Learning Environment
With the social aspects settled, Jina began to excel in the classroom.
“In Changzhou, the classes are not boring or dull,” Jina joked.
Jina remembers her first day in biology class and was pleasantly surprised at just how hands on every student was. This was a far cry from how things were taught at her school in Hong Kong.
In Jina’s favourite class - English, teachers often incorporate interactive exercises and games for the students to practice, so learning can be fun.
“It makes me more motivated to learn when the teachers are very encouraging,” Jina said with a smile. “At my previous school, teachers were only responsible for class and homework. They would rarely take the initiative to offer additional help outside of the regular classroom time. It is completely different at Wycombe Abbey Changzhou.”
Wycombe Abbey School Changzhou adopts a student-centered and highly interactive teaching mode, combined with project-based learning and personalised support and retrograde teaching inside and outside the classroom. The academic foundation of each child is prioritised, developing cognitive ability by increasing enthusiasm for learning and building self-confidence.
A Teacher and a Friend
Jina’s favourite teacher is Ms. Dannie. Ms. Dannie isn’t one of Jina’s subject teachers. She is the librarian.
When Jina first joined WAS Changzhou, she would often go to the school library and read alone. Ms. Dannie would often spend time with Jina and shared encouraging stories and books for Jina to read. When Jina was bored or needed help with her homework, Ms. Dannie was there to help. When Jina was unhappy or in a bad mood, Ms. Dannie would be there to chat and listen to Jina.
As time went by, Jina and Ms. Dannie came to an agreement. They would have dinner together once a week and chat about how their week is going. Jina would share her feelings with Ms. Dannie and Ms. Dannie would often offer advice, suggestions, or just be there to listen and support Jina. With time, they developed a strong bond and friendship.
“I always thought that the boundary between teachers and students is very clear. Few teachers really want to be friends with their students. To have a such a warmhearted teacher like Ms. Dannie is very rare,” Jina said sentimentally.
Life Outside the Classroom
When Jina was studying in Hong Kong, she didn’t like sports very much. Physical Education was similar rated as other subjects; to take tests and results were graded. The emphasis on scores and results often lead to a lot of pressure for students to perform.
At WAS Changzhou, Jina fell in love with sports.
“When I go to PE class now, I feel relaxed and stress free,” Jina said. “There are many sporting activities available, especially on the weekends. Sports have been a great way to meet friends and learn to succeed through teamwork.”
WAS Changzhou has over 30 different sports to choose from, including rugby, hockey, swimming, equestrian, golf, fencing and tennis. Students participate in at least 10 hours of physical activities per week. The school also has its own rowing centre and indoor gymnasium, equipped with full sized basketball courts. There are also football fields, cricket fields and tennis courts on the campus.
“I’ve been playing netball and floorball here, which wasn’t available at my old school in Hong Kong. These sports are very suitable for girls,” said Jina.
In addition, WAS Changzhou will also arrange outdoor excursions and exploration activities for the students. The school encourages every student to participate in the outdoor adventure of the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
"The experience of winning and losing, the emotions of elations and frustrations, the togetherness with classmates through ups and downs is something I treasure here." Jina said.
Exploring Your Passions
The Changzhou school also offers many opportunities for its students to explore their passions and personal interests. From art to music, the school provides students with many resources to develop their passions.
“My previous school in Hong Kong was very focused on classroom learning and test results. When I first arrived at WAS Changzhou, I thought the school would be the same, which is why I only focused on studying and reading,” said Jina. “My classmates asked me, why don’t you go to the music club or another activity? If you like it, you can join permanently and learn to play music with others. I didn’t know this was an option.”
Jina especially likes singing, and WAS Changzhou has a very dedicated team of music teachers. When Jina first began voice lessons, her voice wasn’t very loud and she was struggling with her breathing control. Instead of classroom theories on how to improve, the teacher simply suggested to Jina to go for a run up the staircase and come back to sing after her run.
After Jina came back from her run, she discovered that her voice had changed. She was able to sing louder and control her breathing more.
“I was startled at my teacher’s suggestion,” said Jina. “But it did show me that the teachers really wanted to help improve my singing.”
3. Going Forward
Currently Jina is studying and preparing for her IGCSE examinations. Jina and her parents have began to discuss with her teachers Jina’s future plans for university and her major.
Jina would like to join the hospitality tourism industry and is interested in studying hotel management as her university major.
“In the past, I was given the impression that schooling was always about doing well in exams and getting the highest scores. But in WAS Changzhou, not only do we receive academic support, but also advice and guidance on how to achieve our life goals. This is really important to me,” Jina concluded.
Jina’s mother Lisa also believes there are many benefits of letting Jina study at WAS Changzhou.
Boarding school really allows for personal growth. WAS Changzhou has very qualified, experienced and dedicated teachers that devote their time looking after the various aspects of a student’s personality and academic development. The social and non-academic part of boarding school is equally important. The school has a well-planned curriculum and daily schedule that encourage students to be engaged inside and outside of the classroom.
Jina and her family
Lisa, Jina’s mother said, “I think this is a great programme for Hong Kong children, to experience studying independently in a boarding school setting. In particular, having experience in China’s mainland, becoming native in Putonghua, understanding first-hand the country’s diverse cultures whilst making life-long friends. I would advise families that are considering boarding school for their children, to definitely look into Wycombe Abbey Schools, and that includes Hangzhou and Nanjing. I wish I had this same opportunity when I was young!”
“Jina has had an amazing few years so far at WAS Changzhou and we look forward to having her continue the rest of her secondary schooling here. If we go back in time to choose again, we would choose WAS Changzhou every time,” said Lisa.
Wycombe Abbey School Changzhou is part of Wycombe Abbey Schools International, which includes the Wycombe Abbey School in the UK and Wycombe Abbey School in Hong Kong. Two new campuses, Wycombe Abbey School Hangzhou and Wycombe Abbey School Nanjing will open this year in September 2021, and plans for a secondary campus are currently under development for Hong Kong. These schools will have boarding school options for its students.
Adhering to the philosophy of “Every Child Can Excel”, the Wycombe Abbey Schools draw on an exceptional heritage of educational excellence, bringing together the best of East and West and catering to Chinese and international students from kindergarten to Year 13.
There is a strong commitment to an ethos of a truly holistic education, providing an opportunity for students to excel and preparing them to be confident, responsible, independent and highly skilled global citizens.