By Pauline Ellermann
I know, it sounds really strange, but I'm telling you the truth: This year we didn’t have as many school days at St Helen's during the ten days of our exchange in Abingdon as usual, but - and I know it's unbelievable - we really enjoyed these lessons!
It was simply interesting to see the many differences between St Helen’s and our Ratsgymnasium.
Let me say something about the buildings first: St Helen's consists of several buildings, which are all protected by a security code. (of course this is not given away here :)!) There you can find, for example, a studio for drama and dancing, the Assembly Hall, a large sports and music complex, which I liked best, and of course the ' Old School Hall', which was our meeting point.
Although Ratsgymnasium has got more pupils than St Helen’s, we haven’t got these facilities, but Rats is a state school, whereas St Helen’s is a private school, so they have got much more money.
There's another thing that we don't have at our school: A school uniform! Some people dislike the idea of having school uniforms, but it would be very helpful because no one would be judged by his or her clothes. Nobody at St Helen's likes their school uniform, but I think it looks nice: A grey skirt, a white blouse and a sweatshirt or pullover, the colour of which corresponds to their form. Maybe it's good that we have our Rats-hoodies, but remember that the word 'rats' means 'Ratten' in English, so you can get into trouble very easily ;) .
In England school starts at 8:50 am with Assembly. I think it would be great to have Assembly at our school as well because you talk about things which are not really talked about in class. People (sometimes teachers, the headteacher or pupils) give a lecture about different things. We took part in an Assembly about 'consumerism' and it was very interesting. It is impressive how quiet the girls are on their way to the Assembly Hall. Nobody even whispers…
Then they have eight lessons of 40 minutes, almost all double periods... We've got seven single-lessons of 45 minutes, but there aren't as many breaks as at St Helen’s: After every 2nd period they've got a 10-minute-break and a lunch break of 1 hour and ten minutes! The food was....well, it was okay! The subjects are almost the same, but they've got Drama, too, which I really like.
At 4:10 pm school finishes, but then you have to wait for the school bus to go home (this can be a very long journey) and then there's a lot of homework. The pupils get many more worksheets, but remember: they have a lot of double lessons...I think we've got a lazier day at our school than in England. School ends at 2 o'clock and we've got less homework, but for each subject. My partner also had to work on a Geography project for hours! Something like this is called 'course-work'.
Of course, it's forbidden to chew chewing-gum or to leave the mobile phone on at school just like at Rats, but at St Helen’s you are not allowed to wear strong make-up or nail-polish either. I think that's just like with the uniforms: It shouldn't be important what you look like, but rather how you really are; your character is important and it's also a good way to concentrate on school, I think (which we always do, of course!).
All in all, St Helen’s is such a great school, but our 'Ratsgymnasium' as well, of course. It was really interesting to get a few impressions of St Helen’s and to see how an English school works. Every school has its advantages and disadvantages, but I think I have never enjoyed my time at school more than at St Helen’s. Well, 'enjoy' and 'school'... you wouldn’t think that these two go together well, but at St Helen’s they do!