Desi GAILers Take Over China

“GAIL is a fun experience. I got to meet new people, open up to people and while doing all of this, I learned so much,” Maanasa Muppala, Class of 2022 said. 

Global Alliance for Innovative Learning (GAIL), is an annually held conference which was hosted by Western International School of Shanghai (WISS) this year. The week long event was full of team building activities that are rigorous, for high schoolers from eight schools around the globe.

Like every year, Woodstock’s team consisted of an assortment of ten students from different grades and backgrounds and their journey began with a pre-conference tour in Beijing. 

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The connection these students built amongst themselves developed before the actual conference. From touring the Great Wall of China with an admirable guide to struggling in finding something other than a Chinese meal for dinner, they all stuck together like an inseparable group of friends.

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“Finding food made us closer in a weird way, we even created a group chat and called ourselves Desi Gailers,” Kalsang Yangchen, Class of 2022 said. 

The group went on to create an Instagram page so other students could see and be a part of their experience. They plan on passing on this Instagram page, also called DesiGails, to the next generation of GAILers.

After a week of bonding with each other, Woodstock students were prepared for the upcoming conference. 

On the first day, each student was introduced to their roommate who belonged to a different country and school. 

“I had a roommate who was from New Zealand but her parents were Chinese. We [were] both shy people and that is what made us close,” Yangchen said. 

From the opening ceremony to the closing night, students were divided into groups in which they performed different tasks and attended sessions. These groups were just another way to help students break through their fear of judgment and introduce themselves as confident individuals.

“Everyday was different. We went rock climbing, dumpling making, sightseeing, unicycling, Jump 360 and so much more. I wouldn’t have ever imagined doing some of these things if it wasn’t for GAIL,” Riya Gupta, Class of 2022, said. 

Many of the activities planned by the school were meant to give students a little taste of China. The experience helped them understand Chinese as well as many other cultures from around the world.

GAIL helped these young students from all around the world  explore and learn about diverse cultures. It also gave them a little insight on decision making and being independent.  

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“Because some of [the activities] are not mandatory, every day is what you yourself make out of it,” Kuhu Singh, Class of 2021, said. 

The week-long conference is also widely known among these schools for building strong and lasting friendships amongst strangers. 

Muppala also said, “I feel that the only downside to GAIL is that on the first day, you are shy, but you soon get past that. You just want to get to know everyone in a couple of days.”

Gupta added, “You realize that not everyone is as scary as you think.”

This year GAIL welcomed a new member to its close-knit community; Newton College (Peru). Although the school brought only two students to the conference, due to the last-minute decision, its appearance did not go unnoticed. 

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One of the main events at GAIL are the cultural nights where all the schools get a chance to showcase their culture to the rest of the students and chaperones. Newton College planned a quiz about Peru and shared traditional sweets which they prepared themselves. 

“Each school is filled with different people and characteristics. South Africans were filled with culture and were super talented. Scottish people had their own party vibe and the mature vibe. KUA [Kimball Union Academy] and us had a similar thing. They were just a bit more American and we were a bit more desi than them,” Yangchen said. 

While Newton College (Peru) and Scotch College (Australia) decided to include quizzes as a part of their cultural offerings, Prestige College (South Africa) and Kristin School (New Zealand) taught students local songs.

However, with Kurkure, Maggi, Hajmola, Green chili pickle, and Aloo Bhujia on the plate, Woodstock decided to do something completely different this year; a spice tolerance test. They also prepared a special Bollywood dance and then concluded by making all the other members of GAIL dance to Bollywood music.

But with all the fun came the end of a successful conference. On the last night, WISS organised a small celebration; the last dinner marked a night of food, dances and farewells. 

“Even though we knew that we wouldn’t see each other again, we knew that we would stay connected through social media. It was a good wrap up,” Gupta said. 

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As Woodstock students describe it, GAIL is a path to make individuals more confident and equip them with the means to learn important lessons through interactive teaching and first-hand experiences. 

“GAIL has made me become fearless in the pursuit of what makes my soul feel alive,” Singh said. 

Photos courtesy of the GAIL 2019 team 

Edited by Janvi Poddar and Nupur Agrawal 

Archita Aggarwal is the News Editor of the Woodstocker 

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