Global Exchange trip to the USA

10 June 2024

Over the Easter holidays, Pippa and Phoebe from the Lower Fifth (Year 10) went to the USA as part of the Global Schools’ Exchange Programme. Their exchange took place at Santa Catalina School in Monterey, California.

School Life

When we first arrived in San Fransisco, we were welcomed by Dr Brenot who is the kind and caring head of exchanges for their school, as well as two French exchanges who arrived at the same time. We then had a two and a half hour drive south, through the beautiful Californian countryside and mountains to get to the school.

We had a dual buddy system while we were out there including our roommates and the girls that visited Downe who were all really welcoming and helped us to settle in. It was really nice to see familiar faces as well as the mountains of food that were left on our desks!

Pippa: I was involved in the Marine Ecology Research Programme – a lesson I was incredibly fortunate to be able to take part in. During the first session, we went to the beach to launch a probe which the girls had built themselves. Despite the fact it was made of plastic pipes and zip ties which broke upon impact, I was really excited to learn about the diverse marine life of Monterey Bay. 

After School

We were pleasantly surprised when we found out that school ended at 2pm with sports afterwards. The school was much smaller than ours with only 200 students which made it a friendly place where everyone knew our names. The size of their campus compared to Downe is similar but they had clear blue skies every day which made us feel like we were on holiday!

Pippa: Whilst there, I joined the Lacrosse team, so I played after school for two hours every day and even took part in a match on the weekend. It was really fascinating to see the differences between the way that they train and play and the way we do things here. I also played volleyball on the beach at sunset with my friends and some local Californians which was so different to my average Friday night here in the UK.

Phoebe: In the evenings we took multiple trips down to Carmel with friends, one of the most known streets in California which leads down to one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen, which was only a 5-minute uber from the school. One day after school, I went to the weekly Farmer’s Market with some friends. It was really fun and interesting to look round the market, although I would have to say that going to Trader Joe’s was a highlight.


Pippa: On the first weekend, I went to stay with my buddy Suhana and her family. They picked us up from school on Friday evening and we went for a hike at Point Lobos. Luckily, it was pup season for the sea lions so we saw lots of seals along the beach. The area around the cove was stunning and we had dinner in an amazing Mexican restaurant not far from where we were walking. On Saturday, we drove from San Francisco to the California Academy of Sciences which had an indoor rainforest and a planetarium. We then went to Stanford University in the afternoon and it was really interesting to see an American College. On Sunday, we explored Carmel with the family dog before going back to school.  

Phoebe: On my first weekend, my buddy took me out and we went straight to the country club called ‘Pasadera’; it was so pretty and we had delicious food and then went swimming afterwards. The next day we visited multiple places, including Standford mall and Santana row, the prettiest shopping streets I’ve ever seen. We also stopped at Crumble Cookies on the way home, which was definitely a fun experience. I have to say they did not disappoint! On Sunday, we started off at Brunch in the best Breakfast Restaurant in Carmel. We then walked down to the famous Carmel Beach before continuing to explore the area.  

On the second weekend, the school took us kayaking and we got to learn all about the area and see lots of otters and their pups.

Overall, we both had an amazing experience that we will never forget, and we are so glad we signed up for the exchange programme. We couldn’t recommend it more – we got to meet so many people and try so many new things.

None of this would have been possible without the fantastic Global Exchange team and we would like to thank Mrs Adams, Ms Akhtar, and Miss West for all they put in to making our exchange as unforgettable as it was.

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


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