FIRST IMPRESSIONS CAN be misleading, as Cheung Pang-wan found out at a recent summer camp. The Form Three student from Shau Kei Wan East Government Secondary School has returned from the Smart Teen Challenge Camp, which ended on Saturday. 'At the beginning, we thought that the camp was fun. But after we arrived, I was frightened by the instructors,' recalled Pang-wan. 'The more [the instructors] told us [about the camp], the more scared we became.' The six-day training camp, jointly organised by the Education and Manpower Bureau and the Fire Services Department, attracted 80 Form Three students from Pang-wan's school and Hong Kong Taoist Association The Yuen Yuen Institute No 2 Secondary School. It was part of the Smart Teen Challenge Project, which aims to help students to grow into disciplined and sociable youth. At the Fire Services Training School in Pat Heung where the camp took place, the participants were given a taste of the tough training regimen firefighters have to undergo. Their tasks included a 14.5-kilometre hike, climbing ladders, crawling the 'black box' (a dark, narrow tunnel containing boxes) and using fire-fighting equipment. At first, the training sessions seemed exciting, but this feeling did not last long. 'The training was hard. And every time when the bell unexpectedly rang, we were scared to death because there would be unscheduled physical training, but we didn't know how it would be like. Every time was different,' said Ngai Ying-kam. 'All of us thought about quitting the camp because the conditions were harsh,' added Coco Man So-yue. Apart from the demanding schedule, the students discovered the instructors were no 'softies' either. 'On the first day, when they welcomed us, they were very serious without even a hint of a smile on their faces,' said Pang-wan. But the students' relationship with their 'mentors' began to improve during a hiking trip on the third day. 'We didn't like them and never realised their kindness over the first two days. But during the outing, we talked and they explained why they were so serious. Then we knew that they did that for our own good,' said Pang-wan. 'We learned a lot in the camp, such as being responsible and punctual. Moreover, it helped us realise that we could achieve something that we thought we could not,' Pang-wan's schoolmate, Kitty Cheung Hiu-ha, said. Although the camp lasted less than a week, the students and their instructors have struck up a firm friendship. Some participants burst into tears as they sang the training school's anthem at the passing-out parade on the final day. Many asked the instructors for their autographs. 'We really miss the instructors. We hope to visit them later. We wanted to stay here for another week,' said Emily Leung Hiu-wai.