Learning and Connecting

Although school exchanges are temporarily on hold, our exchange ambassadors have been quick to reach out to our partner schools around the world with messages, letters, diaries and photos to share their own experiences of their adjusted way of life. Although we cannot physically visit, we are still learning and still connecting across the world.

You can read the girls’ messages to our partner schools below.

12 May 2020

Beaulieu College, South Africa

From Sophie (DH Global Exchange student, Easter 2019)

To Beaulieu College, I hope that you all are safe and healthy. We are still in lockdown here in the UK. Whilst learning online is definitely not my strong point, it has proven rather successful and in my free time I’ve picked up some new hobbies. I wish you all well!

Here’s my experience of lockdown in London…

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Beaulieu College, South Africa

From Sophie (DH Global Exchange student, Easter 2019)

Hi, this is Sophie and here is how I’m coping with lockdown in London. I’ve been keeping up with School using Microsoft Teams where we have most of our lessons. We use Teams to do video calls and share our screens. Whilst learning online is definitely not my strong point, it has proven rather successful. Our lessons are shorter than normal because we’ve finished our GCSE courses and it gives us some time to stretch our legs in between lessons. Next week, instead of going on study leave, we will be doing an A-Level bridging course to prepare us for life in the Sixth Form.

In my free time I’ve picked up some new hobbies. I have been doing my homework outside, playing games with my friends, painting (see below) and extensively cleaning my room. I have also a newfound addiction to TikTok!

Dr Nassau College, The Netherlands

From Tilly (DH Global Exchange student, Easter 2019)

I hope that you are all well and that your exams go amazingly. I miss Dr Nassau and all the wonderful people I met there but hope that I shall come back with Ayanfe to visit!

Here’s my experience of the new ‘normal’…

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Dr Nassau College, The Netherlands

From Tilly (DH Global Exchange student, Easter 2019)

Home

In late March we were sent home from School because of a lockdown being announced.

The first couple of weekes were difficult and my family were even more irritating than usual. I ate a lot of food and watched Prison Break which was a welcomed break from the large workload in the run up to GCSEs.

Eventually we got into a routine and Schools has started again which is good as it distracts us from our boredom.

School

We have started online lessons now and although they are rather tiring, they are still interesting and engaging.

It its rather entertaining and hugely different to what we are used to but hopefully we will adjust to the new ‘normal’.

Durban Girls' College, South Africa

From Poppy (DH Global Exchange student, Summer 2018)

I hope all of my friends at Durban Girls’ College are staying safe, healthy and happy.

Please enjoy this poem, ‘An Ode to Isolation’, which I have written for you.

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Durban Girls' College, South Africa

From Poppy (DH Global Exchange student, Summer 2018)

As I sit down to write this ode
Trapped inside my prison of an abode
I remember fondly the days of yore
When it wasn’t illegal to step out of door(s)
Not that I did, don’t get me wrong-
I would curl up and watch Netflix all day long
But now that leaving the house has been all but banned
I find myself resenting the much-heard command.
The Columbus within me longs to break free
And see what’s known as, if I remember correctly, a ‘tree’?

Please be assured that, despite my rant,
I have not taken this free time for grant(ed).
I have watched so many films, Scorsese would be proud
But my baking career is finished, that I vowed
To my family who, much to my chagrin,
Threw my homemade banana bread straight into the bin.

Although I miss my dear compadres so
Solitude has given me some time to grow
Not as a person, no! perish the thought
I meant my hair, it was discouragingly short
I now have a formidable, long, flowing mane
But am told I resemble Hagrid when it starts to rain.

To conclude this ballad, a quick aside
A PSA that I simply could not let slide
To help the Covid cases begin to subside
Respect social distancing and stay the heck inside!

Herschel Girls' School, South Africa

From Sappho (DH Global Exchange student, Summer 2018)

I wish everyone from the Herschel community all the best of luck and lots of good blessings for the coming weeks.

Here is my diary of remote learning, and life in general, in Switzerland…

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Herschel Girls' School, South Africa

From Sappho (DH Global Exchange student, Summer 2018)

Times have changed… The power of adaptation is key in such a situation and it is clear that, at Downe House, the girls and staff have coped incredibly well with the sudden and rather shocking changes we have had to make. I live in Switzerland and thought it wiser to study from home after the Exeat on 15th March as I was unsure that if I went back to the UK, I might not be able to return home to my family for some time. I stayed home and Downe House rapidly organised, through Teams, a way for me to learn and attend my lessons, while my friends sat in class, I too sat in the class but from the comfort of my own dining room, still feeling completely immersed in my lessons.

I have now gotten used to online lessons and it is true that knowing all my friends and people worldwide are under similar circumstances makes me want to take advantage, as much as I can, of the wonderful resources Downe House have supported us with.

Switzerland has not been on a lockdown as strict as other countries but it is clear that people are taking all the necessary precautions when leaving their homes; the streets are filled with people in masks and rubber gloves and social distancing facilitations have been put in place. It feels like a sci-fi movie at times!

I have been keeping in contact with my friends from School and from other parts of the world, including my exchange and her family. It was one of my friends’ birthday the other day, so my friends and I organised a surprise call in costumes from home to dance along to music and chat together.

My grandparents and their friends have been struggling to go to the supermarket as it may be more dangerous for them. I have been going to the supermarket with my mother to buy their groceries and deliver them to their doorsteps to ensure they remain safe, which has been very heart-warming as their gratitude is very obvious and it feels like the right thing to do.

I have really enjoyed getting to spend time with my family as I have not been home for this long since I was 13! We’re being able to really enjoy each other’s company through family board games. Movie nights and discussions at the dinner table have probably been some of the best things that have come out of this situation for us. My 11-year-old sister has nourished her creativity greatly through spending afternoons painting by the window and making projects such as creating a home cinema.

My favourite things to do are going running with my mum at 7am in the morning by the lake, walking over to the lakeside with a book and music at sunset, and going on walks in the countryside. It is so important to maintain a strong mind and body, and this is something which I would like to focus on during this time to take care of my family’s and my mental health. There are so many simple ways of nourishing one’s wellbeing positively from home.

Mayo College Girls' School, India

From Heloise (DH Global Exchange student, Summer 2019)

I really hope that everyone at Mayo College Girls’ School (MCGS) is safe and healthy through these uncertain times. It has been great keeping in touch with my friends from MCGS and I very much hope that this will all be over very soon.

Here is my quarantine experience…

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Mayo College Girls' School, India

From Heloise (DH Global Exchange student, Summer 2019)

During these unprecedented circumstances, life for me and my friends from School has changed a lot. I left School a couple of days early as I live in Portugal and we were unsure if the borders would close. Owing to GCSE exams being cancelled, the most challenging thing for me over the Easter holiday, being an only child, has been finding productive things to do. My original plan was to fit in as much exam revision as possible, I have held group facetime chats with friends in the same position to discuss what we had been up to. I have particularly enjoyed are baking, practising piano, walking, and partaking in Downe House’s virtual book club during my spare time.

To help our community during this difficult time, my family and I have been buying groceries for a vulnerable elderly couple. Similarly, we have been making protective masks out of scrap fabrics and old clothes (see below). Although Portugal is not as badly affected by the virus as the UK, it is still unnervingly silent in even the most bustling towns and all the beaches are closed. Lockdown has taught me not to take a lot of things for granted; I have learnt a lot of wellbeing techniques and fitness workouts that have helped me to make it through this strange time.

School is being held online through Microsoft Teams which means we can still hold full class discussions whilst being able to work through OneNote. It is fantastic that we can still participate in clubs and activities and we can all stay connected and have the same opportunities as if we were at School. At the beginning, taking part in lessons online was a big adjustment but I have got the hang of it and am really enjoying them.

Methodist Ladies' College, Australia

From Tilly (DH Global Exchange student, Summer 2019)

To all at MLC, I hope that everyone is keeping well at MLC and that we will all be able to go back to normal life soon! Stay safe and well!

Here is my experience of making the most of life during lockdown…

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Methodist Ladies' College, Australia

From Tilly (DH Global Exchange student, Summer 2019)

Being in lockdown has been such a strange time. After being at School all term, its sudden end has been a shock to us all. It has been so different to not see any extended family or friends over Easter, and it is particularly unsettling to then not go back to School and do GCSE exams. This time has, however, given us plenty of opportunity to get on top of jobs that we kept avoiding. For example, in my house, we have done so much gardening and clearing of old clothes and toys. Despite not being allowed to go out, there are many positives that have come out of lockdown for us while we stay home. With my two siblings, also at boarding school, we have spent so much more time together as a family using the time we wouldn’t normally have; we have been playing endless card games, board games, jigsaws as well as resurrecting our trampoline!

School lessons have been online after all schools in the country closed in March. This has been a new experience but it has been fun to see all our friends’ and teachers’ faces again as well as continuing our learning. Sport has been particularly fun – we have been set challenges to do in our homes and to keep a sports diary. This has been a really great time to keep fit! We have had nice weather (for England) which has motivated me to go on a run or a walk outside to stay healthy. The School has been great at communicating and keeping everything as normal as possible with assemblies, chapel, House meetings and breaks all taking place.

We have done lots of cooking and baking in this time. The other day I made a Victoria sponge cake (see below), although for a while there was no flour in the shops which made baking slightly more difficult!

To keep up with friends, I have used Houseparty, Facetime and Zoom which allow lots of people to be on a call at once.

Sansuena College, Spain

From Marina (DH Global Exchange student, Summer 2019)

Hola Sansueña! A quick message from me during lockdown…

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Sansuena College, Spain

From Marina (DH Global Exchange student, Summer 2019)

Hola Sansueña, 

I hope you are all well. During this lockdown I have had a lot of time to reflect  over some of my best memories including my time in Spain with all of you! In my room I have a framed photo of Thea and I with Carlotta, Alejandra, Merry Betty and Blanca on my last day at Sansueña. I hope you are all healthy both physically and mentally; I know Spain’s lockdown measures are a lot stricter than England’s but I know that you will all be doing well because you are such a close community. Thank you to everyone who has messaged me over this time to ask how I am – it put a big smile on my face!

Please look after your friends and family at this time and remember there is so much to look forward to.

“La esperanza es lo único más fuerte que el miedo 

Best Wishes, 

Marina 

Waikato Dio Girls' School, New Zealand

From Rosie (DH Global Exchange student, Easter 2019)

To my friends at Waikato Dio Girls’ School in New Zealand, Kia Kaha! I miss you all and hope to return sometime soon to what is the most beautiful country on Earth.

Here is my diary of a week in isolation…

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Waikato Dio Girls' School, New Zealand

From Rosie (DH Global Exchange student, Easter 2019)

My Diary: Week 5 in isolation

Monday 20 April 

Today marks the start of the fifth full week, and the 33rd day spent at home since I left School (rather abruptly) due to the closures triggered by COVID-19. March 18th was the day that symbolised change, a shift in lifestyle, for me and my friends, as we ran around the boarding House shoving all our belongings in bags, and then read the BBC notifications on our phones, ‘GCSEs cancelled’. I, for one, simply stood there in shock, and then experienced a collective crying breakdown with many of my peers. However, we recovered pretty quickly with aid in the form of some reassuring words from the School, our teachers, friends and family, without which we would not have been able to cope nearly as well.

Since then I have been staying home, as per government advice, with five other family members in a relatively chaotic household. I believe this time has meant, for the majority of us, that we are now in closer-than-usual contact with our families; this has brought both happiness and bonding, but also various fights over Monopoly and a discussion with my 6-year-old sister as to why we were unable to buy her favourite ice-cream from the shops. She is not pleased!

Yet, the most prominent feeling in the household is gratitude. Gratitude for each other, for a steady food supply, for health, for a roof over our heads, for our neighbours who leave the safety of their houses each day to protect us. This situation has represented a variety of things for each individual; for some, it has provided the break that we needed, to organise our lives or improve our mental health. For others, it has worsened it and confined them to an unhappy home environment. For the vital few, it has meant risking their lives over and over, for their country and its people. While I try to learn a new language, they learn how to comfort the sick who cannot be with their families during their last moments. For today and for tomorrow, we are grateful.

Tuesday 21 April

My cookery skills were expanded to sweet potato pancakes today, in accordance with a newly acquired vegetarian diet. It was rendered a big success by the family, and thankfully all the ingredients were available at minimum of one of the four supermarkets on the island where I live. However, one of the barely noticeable – and certainly less talked about – sentiments emerging in smaller communities is, in fact, animosity.

My mum and I, as well as some other people living near us, have had a few dirty looks emerging from the fishmongers, or a snarky comment here or there. We (as a public) are inclined to judgement now more than ever; one does not know the number of people you live with, their situation, or how often a member of the household is off work for long enough to get to the supermarket. As a result, buying larger quantities of precious food is not welcomed, and understandably so. Yet, the cliché encouragement ‘spread love not hate’ truly has taken on a new meaning now, and I would urge anybody who comes across this to consider all possibilities of someone’s circumstance prior to acting unkindly. Optimism and love are key!

Today also marks the one-year anniversary of my return journey, landing in Heathrow after a flight from Singapore, and before that, Auckland. The month I spent in New Zealand at Waikato Diocesan is one that I class as one of the best in my life, and so it comes with a twinge of sadness looking back on all the memories and experiences that my wonderful exchange family and friends provided. We are still in contact (of course), and will hopefully be able to meet somewhere in the middle of the 11,512 miles between us next year for a reunion!

Wednesday 22 April

Summer term has begun! It feels slightly unreal without the last-minute panic packing, or happy hugs seeing everyone again after a break, but it’s comforting having a sense of the old ‘normal’ routine back, and having some structure in the day. The virtual start of term assembly brings with it some nostalgia and sadness, but a reminder too that just because we are not on site, does not mean we are any less of a community; I expected to feel isolated by online lessons, but they’ve proved to be thoroughly interactive and engaging. Overall, in spite of the painful 7am wakeup, feeling a part of something makes dealing with the current situation easier to deal with- you are not alone.

Outside of class time, I completed a half-an-hour workout with my brother in which he quite literally ran circles around me (mildly humiliating), and continued on my quarantine mission to self-teach Italian with the help of Duolingo. My progress so far is questionable, but will hopefully come in handy once travel is permitted again, and provides a sense of productivity which lots of us are struggling to secure right now. Stay tuned to discover whether native fluency has been accomplished by September…

Thursday 23 April

We’re back into the swing of things with a full day of lessons now, with the majority of classes running smoothly and only minor technical issues. Although it isn’t the same sense of satisfaction as walking out of the exam hall for the last time, it’s nice to have a slight sense of closure on the courses which we poured all our energy into for the last 2-3 years. Despite this time, I for one still feel as though our teachers haven’t had the congratulations they deserve, and there is a certain level of guilt at not being able to give a proper goodbye to them of their subjects as we move on to the next academic phase in our lives.

On a separate note, my family and I have also been trying to support more vulnerable, local businesses at this time; everyone, including the multi-million dollar corporations are struggling at this time, but it is vital that we make sure that the shops without cash reserves and a board of directors are receiving help from the communities too. Therefore, we are now primarily buying from these e.g. all fruit and veg from the local greengrocers, whereas before we may have chosen only to travel to a singular chain supermarket for convenience. I was already aware of the importance of reducing food miles for the sake of our environment, too, but my stance on this became reinforced today when I discovered the basil in the fridge was from Ethiopia! In a time where, ironically, this pandemic is having a positive effect on nature, the act of sacrificing a couple of items on the shopping list for the future of coral reefs should be automatic, but I do believe this is something that should be spoken about even more – shipping lamb from New Zealand to the UK is not sustainable (no offence to the Kiwis, your lamb is great!).

Friday 24 April

Another packed day of learning, with the schedule including a home workout, chemistry, French and geography, and some tie-dyeing of t-shirts as an arts & crafts activity with the family after lessons. Although I think the current system is the most efficient approach at off-site learning possible, and specific adjustments like shortening lesson time have been made to help us, I’m finding it quite hard, after a couple of days, to stay indoors for the majority of the day. It’s hard not to the miss the times of free movement and socialisation, even though we are all fully understanding of the reasons behind the current restrictions. Learning the meaning of what it truly is to be selfless is occurring to a lot of us right now; it is one thing to talk about sacrifice for others (whether large or small), and another to have it enforced on you. People’s reactions – reluctant acceptance, anger, defiance – are interesting to watch, and may reveal a certain part of their personality that you had not noticed before, whatever it may be.

On the theme of selflessness, next week my friend (recently 18) will be starting work on a COVID ward to help with the NHS struggle to cope with what is going on. They are young and healthy, so the risk is comparatively small, yet undoubtedly an admirable and brave move to step up and aid the nation. We are not, thankfully, in wartime, but there is still a group of individuals on the frontline fighting, and we must remember to put them first; we quite literally would not survive without them.

Moving forward, we should keep others in our thoughts, but also ourselves, and make sure that we aren’t getting lost in the strange new reality that this is. To our friends in New Zealand, Kia Kaha, I miss you all and hope to return sometime soon to what is the most beautiful country on Earth.

Welham Girls' School, India

From Mathilda (DH Global Exchange student, October 2019)

I hope that everyone at Welham Girls’ School is adjusting to this new way of life and I hope that all the girls and staff are staying safe and healthy.

Please enjoy an update from lockdown in the UK…

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Welham Girls' School, India

From Mathilda (DH Global Exchange student, October 2019)

Online School

This term our classes will be started online due to lockdown. We are currently finishing our GCSE courses, but in early May we will be moving onto our A level bridging courses, which is something that I am really looking forward to. Although we are separate from each other, the School is still trying to maintain the sense of community by continuing our weekly assemblies and chapel services. We also have ‘in-House’ activities, such as baking and quiz nights along with weekly check-ins with all our Housestaff.

Life in the UK

Obviously things in the UK are very different from a few months ago – there’s the lockdown but on a deeper and cultural level, things have also changed. I have found that in my local community people are a lot more friendly and the village has bonded more than before, which is especially prominent during the NHS clapping. Currently the supermarkets are experiencing shortages of items such as flour and eggs and there are restrictions to prevent people panic buying. We also have new volunteering schemes to help the NHS and at risk groups such as the elderly, which I think all reflect on the positive attitude that the UK has to dealing with Covid-19.

Family & friends

To survive quarantine as a family we now do more family-based activities; such as family film nights and game nights (although no Monopoly!). We are using these times to get closer and relax together. I’ve also been baking a lot more (as pictured!) which I enjoy and I assume my family do too as everything seems to be gone in minutes! It has been sad not knowing when I’ll see my friends next, but thanks to technology it’s easy to stay in contact using Facetime or Houseparty.

I hope that everyone at Welham is adjusting well to this new way of life and I hope that all the girls and staff are staying safe and healthy.

Westover School, USA

From Maddi (DH Global Exchange student, Easter 2019)

Dear Westover, I hope you are all doing well. In England we have been in lockdown for many weeks now. I hope you are all staying safe and hopefully once this is all over, I can come and visit!

Here is my lockdown experience in England…

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Westover School, USA

From Maddi (DH Global Exchange student, Easter 2019)

Life has been very different since lockdown started; the biggest change has been online school. School closed a week before our Easter Holidays, so we had a week of online lessons, three weeks holiday and now online lessons again. Online lessons have been very different, they have all been on Microsoft Teams. The main difference is not being able to see my friends but I am staying in touch with all of them through social media. The teaching is also very different; some classes are mainly discussion-based, whilst in other classes we are set work to do individually. We have also been having virtual breaks which is a really nice way to catch up with people and to talk to the house staff. There are also a lot of co-curricular activities happening virtually like book club, current affairs club, and cookery club. They help make things feel a little more normal.

The lockdown rules in England are that you should only go out to buy necessities. You are also allowed one form of daily exercise outside your house, like a run or cycle. All shops apart from grocery shops and pharmacies have been closed as well as playgrounds, gyms and places of worship. I am currently at home with my mum, dad and brother and we are all working and studying remotely. We have started to get into a rhythm now that we have had a while in lockdown. We have also tried to plan out what we eat for dinner, so we can make interesting things after we have finished with the day. When we go shopping, we have to queue outside two metres apart from each other and only a certain number of people are allowed in the shop at once. There are special hours at the supermarket for our health workers and at-risk people to give them a chance to buy food. Before the lockdown started, there was very little in stores as everyone was panic buying and stores couldn’t keep up with the demand, but now almost everything is available again.

My family has done a lot of baking, workouts and walks together and we have played lots of cards and games. The highlight of my week is clapping at 8pm on Thursday evenings for the NHS workers (doctors and nurses in the National Health Service and carers), who are helping people recover. I really like the applause because it is a way to show how thankful we are for those who have put their lives on the line, and we can hear our neighbours as they cheer, bang together pots and pans, and even set off fireworks! Our road has many trees on it, so although we can’t see the neighbours, the applause unites us all.

I hope you are all staying safe and social distancing, and hopefully once this is all over, I can come and visit!

Best wishes

Maddi

   

 

Global Schools’ Exchange Programme

Downe House girls have the very special opportunity to study and live abroad with a choice of sixteen partner schools in eleven countries spanning six continents.

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