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By Luka de Vos, Year 9

I wake up and it’s 7 o’clock. In Germany it would be 8 o’clock – great, I can stay in bed just a little bit longer! I’m lucky because it’s just 15 minutes to the School of St. Helen and St. Katharine from where I’m staying. For some girls it’s 1.5 hours from home to school every day!

My exchange partner and I get on the school bus at 8.15 and we already arrive at St. Helen’s at 8.30. Having arrived, all the girls have to go to their classrooms, where they have to wait for their teacher. This is called registration and means that the teacher checks if everybody is there. At 9 o’clock the girls either go to Assembly, to Chapel or they have a music lesson, for example a piano lesson. On Mondays there is Assembly: You go to the Assembly hall and listen to a teacher talking about something she wants you to think about. Chapel means that there’s a short service in the school chapel. The school reverend reads from the Bible, everybody sings a song and the school choir sings, too.

All this ends at 9.20 and everybody goes to their lessons. A lesson is 40 minutes and there are mostly double periods without a break in between. The first two lessons end at 10.40, then there is a break of twenty minutes. You can eat something you have brought from home or you can buy some cookies or muffins in the dining hall. The lessons continue at 11.00 till 12.20.

It’s lunchtime now. Some girls bring a packed lunch from home, but most of them eat something in the cafeteria. You can choose from at least three dishes, one of them being a vegetarian one. Moreover you can help yourself to other things like bread, potatoes, a dessert like a yoghurt, cake, fruit etc.

Some of the girls have some activities during lunchtime, for example sports like lacrosse or netball, or some conversation classes in German, French, Spanish etc.

Lessons start again at 1.20 and continue until 4 o’clock. After that you can do sports, have some music or drama activities…. or you just go home.

It was very interesting for me to see all these differences between the German and the English school system, the different traditions. But I experienced many more differences, not only at school, but in regard to family life and the country, too. I profited a lot from the exchange: My English got much better and I made some new friends, not only English ones.

By Ulrich Bauer, Year 9

This program, which has, for the time being, been existing for four decades, is and has been of great benefit for the students taking part in it as well as for both schools. The possibility of coming to another country and staying with a local family is a great opportunity for all students willing to discover other ways to academical success. The students experience the cultural differences expressed for example in art and architecture as well as the differences in the behavior and language of the people.

Most of these differences can be seen in school. The first thing you would notice is the way the students are dressed; contrary to how people dress at Ratsgymnasium, the students at Abingdon School have to wear dark, elegant uniforms which consist of a dark blue coat, light blue shirt, dark blue sweater, gray trousers, and simple, black leather shoes (in Sixth Form the colors may be slightly varied) but they all have one thing in common: they have to wear a tie with the school crest or the colors of their houseroom on them.

This leads to the next point, the houserooms: they are not only places which can be used for doing homework after school, but also places where the students can gather during the breaks and that provides freetime activities like pingpong or pool tables. They also strengthen the support between students.

What we at Ratsgymnasium and mainly in all of Germany are used to is that the entire class has the same lessons at all times (except for "Diff" or special (club) meetings) and that either the teacher comes to the room you are in or at least comes to a room that doesn’t 'belong' to him. In Abingdon (and all of England) it is the opposite: each student has his individual schedule and has to come to the right teacher at the necessary time. Although the length of lessons differs (lessons in Abingdon are ten minutes shorter than at Ratsgymnasium) the breaks are similar. But in Abingdon the students get a warm lunch every day in school, which we do not at Ratsgymnasium.

We know about the fact that there are after school activities at Ratsgymnasium like sports or music rehearsals but mostly only the people who also take part in these activities in their free time participate in them. Abingdon on the other hand gives you a choice of either doing homework in school, being in your houseroom or participating in the above mentioned activities, since the buses depart at 5:20 pm – 1 hour and 40 minutes after the end of school. The homework is mainly like what gets assigned at Ratsgymnasium only that they have to do more of it on the computer.

This short summary of the differences experienced during the Student Exchange Program of 2006 – 2007 can give you a clue of what value this exchange program has for the better understanding of other cultures and different school systems and also the benefits of your own school.