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We were all very excited when we left Bielefeld for our journey to Abingdon. We were 29 pupils and 2 teachers, Ms Schütze and Mr Topp, who were all looking forward to a great time in England.

We had a very nice and funny journey and we got a very hearty welcome by our host families when we arrived at the car park of the School of St. Helen and St. Katherine, and then we were able to spend our first evening with our English exchange partners.

Abingdon SchoolOn our first day the boys and those girls who had been matched with boys went to Abingdon School, while the other girls went to St. Helen‘s, a girls’ school. At Abingdon School we were first welcomed by the headmistress and just after her speech the German assistant teacher gave us a guided tour of Abingdon School, which amazed me a lot. The school grounds are enormous because the school has different buildings for special subject groups, but there are also a few sport courts and a theatre as well. There are also some boarding houses where pupils from far away countries live.

We were also allowed to join our exchange partners in their lessons and I noticed that they have almost the same level as we have at our German schools, but there are a lot of modern gadgets which our school doesn‘t have. There are interactive whiteboards in every room and the students have great possibilities to do research and to prepare their homework or presentations by using modern Apple computers.

We also had to get used to the school uniforms the pupils have to wear. The English students on the other hand were very surprised to hear that we are allowed to wear our usual clothes at school.

It was a great experience to try out some subjects that are not offered in Germany. Two of these subjects were Drama and Chinese, which were a lot of fun.

We went to school for four days but we also went on some trips to some very exciting and historically important cities. The first city we went to was Portsmouth, where we visited two old ships called HMS Warrior and HMS Victory. Here we learned something about Lord Nelson and about his battles at sea.

We also went to Stratford, William Shakespeare‘s birth place, and there we heard a great talk about Shakespeare. We even went to see the house he lived in when he was a boy.

Later in the week we went to Warwick Castle near Stratford where we had the chance to see some historical aspects of England and we were even allowed to go onto the towers of the castle.

The highlight our trips was Oxford, where we went twice. It was very interesting to visit and see some colleges and other important or interesting buildings and places like the Radcliffe Camera or Christ Church College.

It was always a lot of fun and very interesting to go on these trips.

279At the weekend we could spend some time with our host families. It was really nice to be with them because they were all very friendly and hospitable so that we always felt at home. Most of them took us to some interesting and exciting places like London or to theme parks like Thorpe Park, which was a lot of fun.

So it was very hard to leave Abingdon and our host families behind, but we kept a diary so that we can always go back to this wonderful time again simply by reading it.

Now we are all looking forward to our partners coming to Germany to show them our German way of life.

I would always want to take part in the exchange again and I can only recommend it to everyone who is interested in making this great experience.

Vincent Adler

From 30th September to 10th October, a group of 22 pupils of the Ratsgymnasium and two teachers, Mrs. Schütze and Mrs. May went to Abingdon near Oxford. After a long journey we arrived at St Helen’s coach park in the evening, where our host families were already waiting. I think all of us were a bit excited to see their exchange partners for the first time, but there was no reason to be worried.

Paula 1 DSC 0267This year only three girls were able to be at St Helen’s because only three girls of that year group had chosen German. The other four girls had partners from Abingdon School. On the first real day in school Mrs. Schütze showed us the School of St Helen and St Katherine. It is much bigger than the Ratsgymnasium! There are many different buildings, the chapel, the cafeteria, the upper school common room, the sports centre with two gyms and a fitness studio, a library, a science building and the school buildings with the Assembly Hall, the Old School Hall, a little theatre, rooms for music and ballet lessons and, of course, the classrooms. Moreover, St Helen’s has some fields for Lacrosse.

Paula 2 DSC 0902School life at St Helen’s is very different from our school life in Germany. Firstly, the girls (there are only girls) have to wear a school uniform (a grey skirt, a blouse and a dark red pullover). Most of the pupils think they are ok because no girl can be judged by her clothes and no girl wastes her time choosing what to wear. Moreover, the school day begins at 8:50 am, sometimes with Assembly, and ends at 4:10 pm. Lessons start late because many girls have a very long journey. At 12:00 there is a long break for lunch. Usually the girls have a hot meal in the cafeteria, but currently a new kitchen area is being built, so everyone has to bring a packed lunch.

Of course we had more programme apart from the school days with our partners. We visited Portsmouth, where we went on the HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s ship in the battle of Trafalgar, on the HMS Warrior, which was the first iron-clad ship of the Royal Navy and to a museum about the Battle of Trafalgar. In Oxford we visited Keble College, Christ Church College and the Natural History Museum. In Stratford we visited Shakespeare’s birthplace and after this we went to Warwick Castle. In every town we had some free time for shopping and other things.

We also learned a lot about English family life. At the weekend we had a great time with our host families; some went to London or they did something typically British and I think everyone really enjoyed the stay and the time in the families.

I´m looking forward to next February, when our exchange partners will be here in Bielefeld!

Paula Brune