Students gain valuable experience of family and school life on German exchange

Students gain valuable experience of family and school life on German exchange

21 June 2023

Six students from Years 9 and 10 enjoyed a wonderful opportunity to improve their language skills and experience school and family life in Germany on a recent exchange with peers from Sophie Barat Schule, a Sacred Heart School in Hamburg. Year 10s Annabel and Livvy tell us more.

Annabel M, Year 10

The German exchange was great, although on the flight over I did feel nervous about staying with people I had never met before and making mistakes in my German. However, my exchange family were very welcoming and helped me with everything. Everyone was really nice and easy to talk to. I felt I was part of the family for a week. My exchange partner was funny, accommodating and such a kind person – the perfect exchange partner.

The family was vegetarian, and I tried things I usually would not eat. I enjoyed everything and was happy that I could experience new things. The meals were all delicious.  When we were in Berlin I also tried currywurst, which was amazing.

The activities on the trip were fun, including seeing the Berlin Wall, rowing, and going to school. School was good and it wasn’t too difficult to follow lessons in German. At the weekend, I went to Stade, where my exchange partner’s grandma lives. It was very beautiful, and we went swimming in the river.

The exchange was a great experience. It helped me understand daily life in Germany, the type of language people use and I met lots of new people, who were all so nice.

Livvy B, Year 10

The exchange was an amazing experience because I was able to try life in a new family, new school and a new country. School in Germany felt completely different to Woldingham, possibly due to the jokes they all made about only having two trees on site – very few compared to the valley. The students don’t wear school uniform, which was quite nice as you were able to show a bit of your personality in what you wear. However, it felt like there was less of a student body as everyone looked different (this feeling might be due to having worn school uniform since I was four).

Students were not set for any of their subjects and stayed with the same people for all of their classes. There were also very few whole year group activities. The classes felt very isolated from one another, as they only really see each other at break in the school yard. Secondly, students stay in the same classroom for all of their lessons, except science and PE, which was very different for us as we are so used to walking around between lessons. The lessons were rather different to ours because there were three or four 90-minute lessons each day. Students also finish school very early compared to us, either 1.30pm or 3.30pm. If they finish at 1.30pm, students don’t have to eat lunch at school.

PE was also very different, as students only did this as a class and always inside in the sports hall. This was a wholly new experience, as we often play sport in the rain here (I have fond memories of playing hockey in heavy rain, which the German students seemed rather perplexed by). Furthermore, I learnt they don’t have any sports teams. Their PE lessons generally are much more relaxed, though there was a competitive spirit between the students. They play a wide variety of sports in their lessons – we played quicksticks (plastic hockey), basketball, badminton, football and dodgeball.

The last difference I found was that the school has very limited extra-curricular opportunities compared to Woldingham. They students can take lots of music lessons, but they have very few clubs/societies. If they want to take part in a sports team or choir, they do this outside of school.

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