Jahniva-Lee Kotuhi-Hogan and Gabriel Baron, both 17, visited Shanghai last month and say they have returned with a new understanding of Chinese culture.

Accompanied by their teacher, Betty-Joe Wiari, the Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho students attended a camp sponsored by Chin-Mao (New Zealand China Maori Friendship Charitable) Trust.

Young people from 18 countries attended the camp and Gabriel and Jahniva-Lee say they learned "heaps" and made lots of new friends.

"There were two girls from Great Britain - one from England and one from Wales - and they got into a big argument about whether they were from the same country," said Gabriel.


"We flew straight to Shanghai on a 12-hour flight and then there was a one-hour ride on the bus to the camp" said Jahniva-Lee.

"We had helpers there, one assigned for each of us and they were really nice and spoke really good English."

There wasn't much leisure time during their stay and the girls say their activities were carefully planned and they were expected to stick to very strict timetables.

"They would ring a bell if we hadn't finished an activity on time.

"We learned calligraphy, painting with a brush and that was quite hard because you had to put the flicks in exactly the right places."

Each of the students spent the weekend with a Chinese family and Jahniva-Lee says her experience wasn't ideal as the communication was difficult.

"They didn't speak much English and I think they found it quite hard to have a second child in their house."

Gabriel said she really enjoyed her weekend as the daughter of the house, who was 20, had a phone with a translation app.

"She took me into town and the main street was way longer than Victoria Ave, there were little trains running along it so we were able to get on them if we got tired."

The food was not what the students were used to and they say there was a lot of boiled rice and watercress.

"We couldn't use Facebook there but we could use our phones to get in touch with home if we needed to so we didn't get homesick."

The trip has given them a taste for travel and they would like to go and visit the new friends they made in their various countries.

Gabriel and Jahniva-Lee will give a presentation about their trip at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho on August 13.