by Justus Keitel and Julius Ohletz
For many years, the Ratsgymnasium and Abingdon School have been cultivating their close friendship by means of an annual exchange programme. This year, 30 pupils (9 girls and 21 boys) participated. It is a special year because both countries, Germany and the United Kingdom, are celebrating the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. In this context, both our schools planned and organised a special project with a presentation and an exhibition. Let us tell you something about our experience at the boys' school, Abingdon School.
As already mentioned, we worked on a joint history project this year. Five boys from the Ratsgymnasium and their exchange partners did some research in their countries on information about people and their life stories during WWI. In Germany, we went to the Bielefeld town archives and found some very interesting documents from this time. For example we had a look at the original final exam papers in German written by the Rats pupils. They had to write about Germans' role at that time and what they thought about it. We collected a lot of information and material and presented them to the English students on posters. Together we worked out that the students one hundred years ago also thought critically about the war. In both countries students shared the same ideas. Furthermore, people's problems were pretty much the same, e.g. both countries respected and feared each other's power. I, Justus, had not expected that and I was really surprised. Together we contributed to a Power-Point-Presentation, for which we, the ten Anglo-German project pupils, read out some original wartime texts and presented them to the whole of Abingdon School during an assembly.
Abingdon School is an independent, private boys' school. The catchment area is really big. It is normal that it takes a student about one hour to get to school. Pupils are taught in courses or sets, so the students have no classrooms but rather house rooms. In those house rooms, like in the houses in “Harry Potter”, pupils from all ages meet in their breaks. Each house room is different. The school is really well-equipped technically. So in every room there are a smartboard and about seven iMacs. The school is expanding all the time. At the moment, they are building a new science centre. If you want to see something of the school, we recommend going on their virtual tour (http://www.abingdon.org.uk/virtual_tour/). The school offers a great variety of sports activities. Every pupil has to do at least one sport activity after school. We were able to attend lessons on three days. In these lessons, we found out that they are not very different from our German ones. The level is quite similar to ours.
Each student from Germany, of course, stayed in his or her partner's family. All of us were spoiled a lot and everyone was very happy with his or her family. We spent the weekend together with our families and they were so kind as to show us some interesting sights or cities in the region. Most of us went to London with their families.
Together with the other Germans we went on some trips, for example to Stratford, which is William Shakespeare's birthplace, to Warwick Castle and to Portsmouth, where we visited the HMS Warrior, the HMS Victory (Lord Nelson's ship) and the Mary Rose Museum. Of course we also visited Oxford. In Oxford we saw Keble College, Christ Church College and the National History Museum. On each excursion we also had some free time, so we were able to have a look at other places in the cities. We really enjoyed these trips.
After ten days we had to say goodbye to our new friends in England and had to go back to Bielefeld. For the last time, we gave the white cliffs of Dover and Great Britain a wave. It won't be our last time to come over to Britain.
All in all, the exchange was a really nice experience for us and we are happy that we were given the opportunity to take part in it.