Global opportunities for girls abound!
The Summer Holidays offered an amazing array of opportunities for girls choosing to go on a Global Student Exchange organised by the Downe House Higher Education and Global Initiatives (HEGI) Department.
This year, the destinations included Durban, Zaragoza, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cape Town and Jaipur.Twelve Fifth form girls set off in pairs for between two and six weeks at one of Downe House’s 15 partner schools across five continents. The trips are designed to give these pupils an immersive cultural and educational experience in the country of their choice, staying in the school’s boarding house and with their buddy’s family.
Here is a selection of their Global Student Exchange experiences in the girls’ own words.
Sappho and Lotte who went to Herschel Girls School in Cape Town said, “Climbing Table Mountain, travelling the famous Garden Route Tour and visiting the iconic Robben Island were some of our highlights and whilst we were there, we were also lucky enough to experience the Lunar Eclipse. We loved going to Herschel School and our buddies and their families were so welcoming.”
Whilst Emily and Poppy were on their exchange trip to Durban Girls’ College, they went to a #GirlTalk Conference which they found inspirational, volunteered at a local primary school for underprivileged children, saw three out of the ‘Big Five’ at the Zebra Hills Game Drive. Poppy said, “It was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life as we saw parts of South Africa that you wouldn’t usually experience as a tourist including teaching in two schools in the townships and celebrating Nelson Mandela’s birthday with our buddies.”
India tempted Saskia and Imo who were welcomed by the Mayo College Girls’ School in Jaipur. They were overwhelmed by the Taj Mahal describing one of the Seven Wonders of the World as ‘Beyond unbelievable’. Both the College and the buddies’ families with whom they stayed went over and above to ensure that the girls sampled the delights of Anasagar lake, Agra Fort, Moradabad and Mumbai and the girls were very grateful to experience the warm traditional Indian hospitality extended to them.
A new initiative is the introduction of a staff exchange with partner schools to share best practice and give staff a unique travel opportunity. English teacher, Dr Atherton spent two weeks at Melbourne Ladies College (MLC) as their ‘Expert of English in Residence’. Kate and Mia also travelled to MLC in July and they loved every aspect of Australian life from the koalas and kangaroos to attending a Mid-Winter Festival, penguin spotting and going up the Eureka Tower. Mia said, “I enjoyed studying at MLC because their educational system is very different to ours and they learn in a more kinetic and visual way. During my stay I loved the surfing and tried lots of new things. I really enjoyed driving down the Great Ocean Road and visiting the animal sanctuary. Mia summed up her experience, “Although we did have some challenges on this trip such as flight delays and learning how to use the public transport system, I think that those experiences will help us to be more independent in the future. I would like to thank my buddy’s family who considered my interests and introduced me to some unique places in Australia.”
On the same continent, Gardiner and Bella went to St Hilda’s in beautiful Brisbane where their families took them on a tour of the Aussie outback. They really enjoyed watching the sunset and catching tadpoles and Gardiner also visited Grafton and beautiful Byron Bay. The girls went whale watching and enjoyed time on the beach enjoying the sunsets.
Spain presented the additional challenge of going to a school where the lessons are all in Spanish for Daisy and Matilda who travelled to the Sansuena Colegio in Zaragoza. As Matilda said, ‘All of our lessons were in Spanish, apart from English of course and at first, we only managed to understand some parts but already by the end of the first day, I felt that I had learned so much. Sansuena Colegio is a day school for girls and everyone was very welcoming and going to a day school was definitely a nice change, it meant that in the evenings we could relax, swim and see the city. For anyone who might have worries or concerns about the language barrier, I would say there is no need to worry as everyone was so helpful and didn’t mind speaking more slowly to help us understand. The exchange really improved our Spanish and I feel much more comfortable speaking to native spanish speakers now and learned lots of new vocab.”
Zaragoza is equidistant from Madrid, where Matilda went for the weekend with her family, and Barcelona which Daisy visited with her family. These trips gave them both the opportunity for sightseeing and an experience of Spanish food and culture. Daisy said, I absolutely loved Barcelona and would love to live there one day. I stayed the night at my buddy’s beach house and spent Sunday at the beach. My buddy's father was an amazing cook who prepared mussels, paella and loads of other Spanish delicacies in the evening.”
Upon their return all the girls are asked to make a presentation in the Whole School Assembly to share their experiences and to encourage younger girls to think about taking part in the Global Student Exchange programme.