My Experience of the Han Yu Qiao Competition

Carolina Cordero a fifth year student from St. Aloysius School, Cork gives the following account of her trip to China where she was part of an Irish team that competed in the Han Yu Qiao Competition

When I took part in the Chinese Bridge Competition in UCC before the summer, I never thought that I would be part of a team (along with Emilie O’Mahony and Lisa Wong) representing Ireland in the next round of the competition in Chongqing. From the very beginning the trip was full of new experiences for me, as I had never been on a long flight before, and when we arrived in China after what seemed like days of travelling I was as excited as I was tired.











Pictured above Carolina Cordero in China.

We arrived in Beijing and met a few of the other teams at the hotel, before having dinner and going to see the Forbidden City. I thought the Forbidden City was a very impressive building and took plenty of photos! The next day we were taken to see the Great Wall of China and the Bird’s Nest Stadium. I kept thinking about how much of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the trip was, and how if it wasn’t for the Han Yu Qiao trip I never would have been able to say that I visited such an amazing, famous landmark.

We flew to Chongqing and were brought to the hotel near the university where we would be staying. By now we had discovered that the other teams had been studying Chinese for years and most teams had at least one member who was a fluent speaker, but after our initial panic we decided not to worry too much about the competition and focus more on enjoying the experience and making friends.

In Chongqing we practised our performance for the first part of the competition. Every team had to represent their country and culture in their performance, and also demonstrate some skill in speaking Chinese. We introduced ourselves in Chinese and then performed an Irish song and a small bit of Irish dancing. The opening ceremony was very entertaining, as we were able to watch the other countries’ performances before it came to our turn, although we were nervous when we had to go onstage. Pictured below (LtoR) are Emily O'Mahony, Carolina Cordero, Lisa Wong and a Chinese volunteer.

The next part of the competition was a quiz. This was the round which we found most difficult, especially as the competition was being explained to us through Chinese and we weren’t completely certain what to do, although we did have a very friendly volunteer from the university who helped us. There were several types of questions in the quiz, which teams picked randomly, and the question which we got involved adding strokes to a character to make it into other characters.

As we didn’t have much experience with characters, we found this almost impossible, especially as I then had to speak for one minute about one of the characters which I couldn’t read. When we got offstage we were all a little bit embarrassed, but I was happy that I had tried my best and we felt that the competition could only get easier from that point on.

After this we were divided into groups, each group named after a zodiac animal, and each group went to a different school in Chongqing to learn a Chinese performance for the next round. The group I was in, the Monkey Group, went to Verakin Middle School where the students spent several days teaching us a dance. I found this part of the competition fun but tiring, and for the first day or two I kept forgetting what to do. On one of the days we were given a tour of the school, which I found very interesting. I enjoyed talking to the students and seeing the differences between schools in China and Ireland.

The best insight into Chinese life that we got during the trip was the time that we spent with a host family. The family I was staying with took me to eat Chongqing hotpot, showed me tourist spots in the city and brought me to a market where I bought lots of unusual souvenirs. I was amazed at how friendly and welcoming the host family were, and I hope to keep in contact with their son Lawrence.

The last round of the competition was the Happy Shopping round, in which we were given a shopping list in Chinese and told to find the items in a supermarket. Of the eight items on the list, we were only able to find one, but we were so relieved that the difficult parts of the competition were over that we couldn’t really be too disappointed.

After the best teams from this round had competed in a final, the competition ended with a brilliant closing ceremony. After a few performances and the announcement of the winners, everybody sang the competition theme song together. It was an unforgettable moment, with confetti falling down and everyone hugging each other. It was that night that we were unexpectedly told that everyone who took part in the competition had won a scholarship to study in China, which is a fantastic opportunity but unfortunately can only be taken in 2011 which wouldn’t be possible for me.

The only thing left to do after this was plant a friendship tree, which we did on our last day in Chongqing. We flew to Beijing the next day, and spent one day there before returning home.

I think we all learned a lot from our participation in the competition. Our Chinese definitely improved due to the fact that we had to speak it, and we also learned a lot about Chinese culture. I also think the competition was a great opportunity to make friends from other countries. After taking part in this competition I have a huge interest in the Chinese language and hope to continue learning it in future, and hopefully some day I will have another chance to visit China.