Annabel and Georgia (LV) share their experience spent at Waikato Diocesan School in the North Island of New Zealand.

20 April 2023

Earlier this academic year we both took part in the Global Academic Exchange programme to Waikato Diocesan School in the North Island of New Zealand. Our exchange buddies, Gabby and Liv both came over to the UK first, last November, for four weeks. We showed them around the school and did all we could to make them feel at home straight away, especially after their long journey here. The girls each came home with us for the Short Exeat.

Annabel: I showed Gabby London; everything from a red bus ride around the sights, to visiting the Tower of London, going to the top of the Shard and ice skating at Battersea Power Station, which was more exciting for Gabby than I had expected as they don’t tend to skate on real ice in New Zealand.

Georgia: Liv and I watched New Zealand vs England rugby at Twickenham, which was a tense match. We also went around London and to the London Eye and Tower of London, which was exciting for Liv as she had never seen anything like that before and was very scared of various torture methods in the Tower of London, understandably so!

We both thoroughly enjoyed hosting them, and it’s fair to say we were not the only ones who were upset to have to say goodbye. But luckily for us, this was not the end of our time with them as we later jetted off to New Zealand. Our travel there was relatively easy, thanks to Mrs Adams and Ms Akthar constantly being online and always available if we had any difficulties, which thankfully we didn’t. Once we had arrived we were overjoyed to see both Liv and Gabby waiting for us with their families at the airport.

Georgia: I went home with Liv, who lives in Auckland and we relaxed and walked around her town. Liv is a boarder so I stayed at the school during the week and went to her house on the weekends.

Annabel: Gabby lives in Hamilton which is about an hour or two south of Auckland, and is also where Dio is situated. I lived with my host family the whole time I was there as Gabby is a day girl at Dio. Gabby’s family were not too dissimilar my own family, she even had a younger brother the same age as mine, who were oddly similar too.

Both our host families were more than generous while hosting us and we settled in almost immediately. We started of our time at Dio with a white-water rafting trip, it was a great way of getting to know everyone, as we were placed on a raft with them through choppy waters, shouting directions at each other. To no one’s surprise, we did end up being thrown off into the water!

 

For the first two and a half weeks, we attended school each day.

Georgia: I boarded during the week, and ended up making some good friends in the boarding house and had lots of fun. The daily timetable was very different to here in the UK. The day starts at 8:30am and usually ends around 3pm, and 2:20 on Wednesdays. The girls were shocked to find out we end school at 6pm and have Saturday school. Usually, most people go out to play sports after school or go to the Dairy, which is what they call a corner shop. This is one of many new phrases we learnt there.

Another thing that shocked the girls was the fact that we take between 9-11 subjects, whilst the most they have to take is 5. But the lessons were actually very interesting and everyone at the school was so enthusiastic to talk to us and hear our English accents, which they found very entertaining. What we also found very different, was the fact that they did all their sports barefoot. We even watched their sports day, where all the running events were done without shoes. In fact, it is quite common for people there to just walk around barefoot, wherever you go.

We found Dio very welcoming and had a wonderful experience learning in a different country with a different approach to education. For instance, the Maori culture is very important to New Zealanders and is a large aspect of their lives, from their greetings to their learning and so much more. Even their school hymns were sung in Māori.

And in one of their school assemblies, we all delivered a speech about our exchange. Whilst we were there the school term ended and we had 10 days of holiday time spent there! Liv and I visited Queenstown and I did the AJ Hackett bungee jump 50 metres off a bridge over a river, as well as ziplining.

 

Annabel: Gabby’s family and I went up the coast in their motor home and stayed at some of the beaches along the coast. It was an amazing week. We met up with other school friends along the coast at their beach house, and we surfed, body boarded, water skied and I even learned to wake board. Gabby’s family also took me to see the hot springs at Rotorua.

Sadly, like all good things, our time there had to come to an end, and we had to say our goodbyes to everyone. We were more than thankful to our host families for making our time there so special. The country itself was more stunning than we could ever imagine, and we are so grateful we have been given this opportunity, as it is one we will never forget.

We would like to especially thank Ms Akhtar, Mrs Adams and Miss West, for being so helpful throughout this whole programme, and making everything run so smoothly. Signing up was definitely one of the best choices we ever made. We cannot recommend applying for the Global Exchange enough, as it was not only an amazing opportunity, both academically and culturally, but we have also made friends for life.

Annabel benefitted enormously from the experience. It really opened her eyes to a different culture and educational system.
– DH Parents (2023)

Georgia’s final thoughts:

I feel like my social skills have improved as I had to meet lots of new people and make friends. The Māori culture was very interesting to learn about as we do not have anything like that in England!

Annabel’s final thoughts:

I found it fascinating learning how they really valued Māori culture and experiencing some of their different ways of life was really eye-opening to me and made me eager to visit more places!

Find out more about the Global Schools’ Exchange Programme here.

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