Nebelswall 1 - 33602 Bielefeld
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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.

AbingdonHomepageBilder2014

My stay in England was one of the most wonderful times in my life.To begin with, we had a very long but funny journey to the ferry in Calais. When we were getting closer to the English coast, the White Cliffs of Dover impressed me a lot.

On our arrival at the School of St Helen and St Katharine, the host families and our exchange partners gave us a very friendly welcome and we Germans couldn’t wait to see the houses where we were going to stay. At our host families’ houses we could all relax and recover from the trip.

On the first day at school two St Helen’s girls took us on a guided tour around the school. They showed us some of the many rooms, for example the theatre, the library, the dance studio, the music rooms for private music lessons, the kitchens and the gym. They have so many possibilities for activities and creative workshops in the old, beautiful building. I’ve never seen a school like this in Germany before and the whole site impressed me a lot.

DSC 0036It was amazing to take part in the lessons, but unfortunately the inspectors were in school during the time we were in Abingdon, so we sometimes had to do some other activities than St Helen’s had planned for us. But we all enjoyed the German lessons because we laughed together a lot. The girls have to wear school uniforms and they were very jealous that we can wear our normal clothes at school.

I loved the trips we went on with our teachers. We went to Oxford three times, walked along the beautiful meadows on the Thames and went shopping. We also visited two wonderful, old colleges and the Natural History Museum. In Portsmouth we had a tour around the HMS Victory and the HMS Warrior, two very old ships. In Stratford we got a great talk about Shakespeare at his birthplace, and we had an exciting quiz about his whole life.

At the weekend we had some free time in our families and we all enjoyed the time with our exchange partners. Some of us visited London, some of us went to other great cities or took part in the lives of truly English people.

I was very sad when we had to leave. During these ten days we experienced so much and we all loved our exchange partners and families a lot. Just like everyone else I am very happy to have had the chance of taking part in the exchange. Now I am really looking forward to seeing my English friends again in February!

Luisa Zöllner