Why school exchanges?
Despite the immeasurable benefits for pupils, teachers and parents, international exchanges are on the decline. We aim to show you that the outcomes make the effort worthwhile - but don't just take our word for it; here are some comments from parents and pupils!
We know that exchanges can be daunting not just for pupils, but for parents, too. The thought of sending your child off to an unknown family where the culture and language is new can be a scary prospect for most, but the benefits for young people can far outweigh the initial sense of apprehension, as parents from our German Pupil Courses explain:
"The family were incredibly welcoming and enthusiastic about having an English guest, and their interest and very positive response to her was the icing on the cake."
"The trip enabled him to take another step in his young adulthood as he got to grips with a culture and a family that were very different from his own and found that he felt very much at ease in his new surroundings."
An effective joint project not only boosts confidence and linguistic ability, but gives real purpose to pupils' language-learning, helps young people expand their intercultural awareness, and equips them with many valuable skills. Pupils Adam and Holly, two of our Youth Ambassadors, reflect on how their exchanges changed their perceptions of languages and Germany and had a much wider impact on them personally:
"As a student lower down the school, studying languages was something I had never imagined was for me. In Year 9, however, I started to thoroughly enjoy my German lessons and signed up to the exchange programme. This profoundly changed how I felt about learning languages. For the first time my German was something that I relied on to get by and my language improved immeasurably. What really fascinated me though were the small differences in culture; how students at the Gymnasium came home early and had lunch together with their families, how school felt much less regimented and strict, the lack of uniform or how everyone used a bike to get everywhere. For the first time I appreciated how fruitful learning another language and getting to know a different culture could be.
After that, German became something that I very much looked forward to and I now understand how mind-expanding languages can be. Not only are there social customs and traditions that you discover only through experience but you learn to approach things in ways you never would have before because you look at them through a different perspective. I have seen how valuable a foreign language can be in deconstructing barriers." (Adam)
"The whole trip was the first time I really realised how enriching and fun learning about and visiting other countries and cultures is." (Holly)
"Not only did my language skills improve immeasurably - and much quicker than it ever had done in the same space of time at school - but I had the chance to talk to young people not from the UK."
"Having a partner school and engaging with them has been essential in my interest in Germany and its culture, and I believe this is the case for most students studying German in the school - even if they haven't been on a physical exchange, every year German pupils visit our school in England as well and this gives everyone the opportunity to talk to them and ask questions." (Holly)
"It's such a perfect opportunity to improve/grow more confident, meet new people, visit different places, try new things and experience another culture. The exchange trip made me 100% certain that I wanted to apply to take a German degree at university and spend a year abroad in Germany." (Sophie)
"I have formed a valuable bond with a new family and know that I now have a 'home away from home'; people who would welcome me to stay with them and a place where I could happily live." (Claudia)
"It was particularly interesting to spend some time in a German school and I think our exchange partners' fantastic English skills motivated us to continue with our German language studies and certainly helped me to decide to take German A Level next year." (Mollie)
"I feel that providing opportunities like this for pupils is something that will really benefit the whole range of education and enable our pupils to become more rounded and confident children."
(Headteacher, Towcester C of E Primary School)