The Virtual Global Exchange Experience

In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, Downe House created a new kind of Global Schools’ Exchange experience through a series of virtual school exchanges with our partner schools in India, South Africa and Canada.

6 July 2021

Each Virtual School Exchange was slightly different, with activities ranging from group video calls, international ‘bake-offs’, attending online lessons and quizzes to virtual tours. Ms Akhtar, Director of Higher Education and Global Initiatives explained the rationale; “Despite the pandemic, we remained fully committed to the Global Schools’ Exchange Programme and the valuable cultural and academic insights and understanding gained by those who take part. We appreciate that many of our girls were disappointed not to have had the opportunity to visit our partner schools this academic year, so we wanted to offer them a chance to sample school life abroad and establish connections with students globally in a virtual way.”

Mayo College Girls’ School, India

Upper Fifth girls, Clara and Izzy were not able to visit India last summer as planned because of travel restrictions and so in February, the girls reached out to their exchange buddies, Karmanya and Advika at Mayo College Girls’ School and the girls started to get to know each other. Over a two week period, the girls engaged in Zoom calls, gave presentations about their schools, took part in bake-offs, shared their experiences of lockdown and the girls even attended a lesson at the partner school! Clara and Izzy were able to access a Mayo College Economics lesson recording and Advika and Karmanya took part in an English lesson with Dr Atherton. During the bake-off, Clara and Izzy were challenged to cook Paneer Tikka by their buddies, and in return, Advika and Karmanya had a go at making Rocky Road brownies and ratatouille. One of the highlights of the virtual exchange was the video call, in which the girls chatted at length about school life, their lessons and shared insights into what a normal school day looks like. Karmanya introduced the girls to her music, in particular the Sitar.

I feel so lucky to have been able to do a virtual exchange with the girls at Mayo College, and although we could not actually go to India, I learnt so much about their culture, school life and cuisine that I will remember forever.

Izzy, Upper Fifth

Durban College Girls’ School, South Africa

Hannah, Olivia and Izzie in the Upper Fifth embarked on a two week virtual exchange with their buddies at one of our most popular Global Exchange partner schools, Durban Girls’ College (DGC). The girls started to get to know their exchange buddies in December, and had already formed good friendships before the official exchange began. The girls prepared presentations to reveal different aspects of each school and the Durban girls created a ‘Survival Guide to DGC’. Each of the six girls were invited to attend online lessons, with DGC girls attending English and History and Downe House girls attending Zulu, Afrikaans and Maths. Due to DGC being back on campus, the Downe House girls appeared virtually in their lessons via laptops. Neha and Kareena at DGC were fabulous hosts and made the girls feel very welcome. The exchange culminated in a bake-off session kindly hosted by Hannah’s mother, Mrs Knight. All six girls came together online to spend a Sunday morning making a favourite dish suggested by their exchange buddy. The Downe House girls were tasked with making Milk Tart, a popular South African dessert. Meanwhile, the DGC girls were challenged to make a traditional Victoria Sponge!

It was really interesting learning about Durban Girls’ College and how it compares to Downe. My favourite part of the exchange was taking part in the Afrikaans and Zulu lesson, where I learnt some South African greetings”, explained Hannah.

Campus Manilla Gymnasium, Sweden

Sixth Form girls, Thea and Amelia took part in a virtual exchange with Campus Manilla Gymnasium, our partner school in Sweden. The girls launched themselves into the exchange initially by sharing ‘About me and my School’ presentations and then met via Zoom and talked about their interests, school life, the curriculum, lockdown and the different ways in which the UK and Sweden had reacted to the pandemic. The two Swedish students, Alicia and Claire-Catherine, were invited to attend Biology, Religious Studies and Economics lessons at Downe House, while Thea and Amelia joined in with PE, Marketing and Biology at Campus Manilla. Politics teacher, Mrs Phillips-Morgan explained that having an exchange student in the lesson benefited the whole class; “Alicia was a delight to have with us! It was really interesting to hear about the Swedish political system.” The next part of the exchange involved swapping recipes with Alicia and Claire-Catherine tasking Thea and Amelia with making Swedish chocolate balls and in return, the Campus Manilla girls were challenged with making chocolate cookies. Another highlight of the exchange was the ‘virtual sightseeing’ in which each of the girls gave a virtual live tour of their local area.

Thea explained what the virtual exchange meant to her,

Despite not being able to visit Campus Manilla in real life, it was great fun getting to know both the staff and students there virtually and I have been able to make contacts that I hope to be able to use in the future. I very much hope to meet them in person one day!

Global Schools’ Exchange Programme

Downe House girls enjoy an unique opportunity to study and live abroad with a choice of 16 partner schools in eleven countries spanning six continents.

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