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By Friederike Stadtmann 

On 9th October, our group of 23 pupils from Ratsgymnasium Bielefeld and two teachers, Dr Schütze and Ms Geuting, went on a trip to Abingdon, England. After a long journey interrupted by some traffic jams and a delayed ferry departure we finally arrived at the School of St Helen and St Katharine, where our host families were waiting.

The next day the girls were shown around St. Helen´s while the boys had a guided tour through the boys’ school:  Abingdon School.

abingdon201101At St Helen´s there are a modern library, an assembly hall, a theatre, rooms for individual music lessons, a room for ballet lessons, two gyms, a fitness room, nice fields for Lacrosse, a swimming pool and upper school common rooms. Apart from the size, the main differences are that it is a school only for girls, who have to use a code to get inside the school building, and the length of the normal school day, which ends at five past four. Because of that, the school has a big cafeteria with lots of different meals. Other differences are that the girls have to come to the teachers´ rooms and that they have to wear uniforms. Most of the German girls’ attitude towards school uniforms has been changed by the experience of our short stay. Now we welcome the idea as a sign of community. Moreover, the students can choose between lots of different sport activities that they can do after school.

abingdon201102But of course we had a programme apart from our partners´ timetable, too. We went to Portsmouth, Oxford, Warwick Castle and Stratford-upon-Avon. In Stratford we saw Shakespeare´s birthplace, visited a museum about his life and his plays and we were shown around the theatre of the Royal Shakespeare Company.  In every city, we had some free time for shopping or other things and I think we had some very nice trips together.

At the weekend most of us also went to London with their host families. All in all I think everybody was happy with his partner/family and nobody had any problems with communication or anything else.

So it was a great exchange, we had a fantastic time and I´m very happy that I was one of the lucky girls who were allowed to take part in this exchange programme.

I already look forward to February, when the English pupils will be here in Bielefeld. I´m sure it will be a great time, too!

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.

Abingdon ClassroomAlthough 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!