by Lisa Stark
We left Bielefeld on Sunday 28th September at 5:30 am. We traveled by coach and ferry and arrived at Abingdon at 6:15 in the evening. There we waited for our partners (we were a bit too early as this time there had not been a traffic jam). I was very excited while we were waiting for them, but when they arrived they were very friendly and nice, so I should not have worried at all! I spent the rest of the evening with my host family and I told them something about our journey.
The next day was our first school day, for the boys in Abingdon School and for the girls in Saint Helen & Saint Katharine (SHSK). At SHSK most of the pupils arrive at 8:30 am on school buses. So school starts later than at Ratsgymnasium, but it takes some pupils an hour to get to school. Then they go to their form teacher's room. At 8:40 am, the form teacher comes in and checks the pupils’ attendance. Sometimes the class has assembly with the other forms of the same year, but that day they had not. In the big assembly hall, a teacher explains something to the girls or discusses something with them. At 9:10 am the first lesson starts, but we German pupils went to OSH, the old school hall, because two older pupils wanted to give us a guided tour of the school. St Helen's is bigger than Ratsgymnasium, but the rooms are smaller because in a lesson there are less pupils than at Ratsgymnasium. SHSK has many different rooms and even a drama studio for drama lessons, a dance studio, a fitness studio or many little rooms for private music lessons. A lesson takes 35 minutes and most of the time the pupils have double lessons because there is no break between two lessons. After the first two lessons there is a little break of about 10 minutes. Then we met our partners and accompanied them to their next classes. After two following lessons, at 12:00 am, there is a big break, in which the pupils have lunch in the school cafeteria, which we had not expected to be as tasty - really yummy! During the lunch break some pupils do activities like badminton or choir for 30 minutes. At 1:30 pm the next two lessons start and then there is a break of about 20 minutes. Afterwards they have two lessons again. School finishes at 4:05 pm. After school some pupils do some extracurricular activities like drama, tennis, etc. Then they go home on the school bus or are picked up by their parents. The school day in SHSK is very long and after school they also have to do much homework, so I am very happy that our school day is not as long as theirs and that normally we do not have to do as much homework.
On four days we went on some trips, for example to Oxford, Portsmouth, Stratford, Warwick and once again to Oxford. On the trips we visited some great sights and had a look at the cities and the buildings, but we also had some free time, during which we could go shopping. I liked the trips to Oxford very much because the colleges we visited were very interesting and the buildings were very beautiful and impressive.
At the weekend we were in our host families and spent our time with them. Most of us went to London or Oxford, visited some sights or went shopping. One of us even went to Birmingham to the big Hindu temple because her partner's family are Hindus. My partner`s family took me to London, where we visited Chinatown and watched the musical “Miss Saigon”; this was very nice of them and I liked the musical very much.
Tuesday was our last day and on Wednesday we went back to Bielefeld. The ten days were over too quickly and now we are looking forward to February, when the English pupils come. We have already got some plans for what we are going to show them.