On 27th January 2019, 13 Chis & Sid students boarded a plane bound for Frankfurt international airport for what was surely an experience that they would never forget. We were going to be part of the Yr9/10 German exchange of the academic year 2018-19; and we were all adequately excited. Having been informed of our German partners about 5 or so weeks in advance, we were all immensely excited and nervous to be meeting our new German friends. As we walked out of arrivals, all indescribably exhausted from our 4am start; we were greeted with a large banner held up by all of the Frankfurt students welcoming us to their beautiful city. It was quite an awe-inspiring moment as we shook hands and exchanged embraces with who we would come to regard as lifelong friends. We all then returned with our host families home, and were treated with such activities as black-light mini golfing, ice skating, and being given either a walking or driving tour of some of Frankfurt’s most historic and culturally significant landmarks. I’m sure everyone else will agree; we must’ve all slept soundly that night!
The next day we visited Schillerschule- a perspective changing experience if ever there was one. We got to witness first-hand the way another country was educated, and got to meet some more Germans! Frau Dunstan and Frau Allen dropped in on our English lessons with our partners- another strange experience. It was slightly scary how advanced they were in their learning of English compared to ours of German. Maybe we should take a leaf out of the continental book and begin educating ourselves on other languages at a younger age.
We then spent the evening in our host families, no doubt engaging in another round of bonding and exciting activities.
On the third, day, we were permitted leave from Schillerschule (more for the pleasure of our partners may I add!) to visit Frankfurt properly. We crossed the Main, and headed for the Main tower (the 4th tallest building in Frankfurt). We ascended and soon found ourselves gazing out over a model-sized Frankfurt. For the few who didn’t appreciate heights, I can imagine their fear! We then made for the Old-town, where we witnessed the historic site on which the first German Parliament was held; signifying the beginnings of a united Germany. It was quite humbling. After some lunch we were made part of a film workshop creating some short stop-go animation clips. The end results were highly amusing. Upon arriving back at Schillerschule, our partners then immediately whisked us away to go shopping at a huge complex we had passed earlier. We all had Starbucks, meeting each other’s exchanges for the perhaps the first proper time. As it got darker, we all slowly drifted off back to our host families.
The final day was an emotional rollercoaster to put it lightly. After a brief stop at Schillerschule to bid farewell to all those we had met, we were then dragged back to our host families for a quick meal and to pack (presumably!). It was snowing that day, which was a welcome break from all of the dismal looming clouds and brief spattering sessions of the days prior (more similar to our native London weather than anything else!) We then congregated at the airport, where many tears were shed and pictures taken to remember the occasion. It would then be another 2 months before we would see our foreign friends again.
We communicated with our partners via a WhatsApp group on which all of the pictures were shared. We all anxiously awaited the arrival our friends- until the day came on the 10thof March. Their stay with us was perhaps slightly more interrupted than theirs with us, what with DofE practice and unaccompanied visits to London by our exchanges to London (Unaccompanied being without us- we were not about to let them explore London alone!)- But these events certainly did not detract from our enjoyment of the visit! Upon collecting our partners from Sidcup train station, we then embarked on various activities such as feeding squirrels, visiting London and exploring some local culture.
The next day we attended Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar- once again a humbling experience but this time for our German friends. No least due to the presence of a school uniform! We all then spent the evening at a local bowling alley; glad to be back in each other’s company. The next day was spent by the Germans in London and us in School. On the final day we were out of school, performing DofE prep or wandering Sidcup. We then met for the last time to bid our final farewells. Many pictures were taken, and again many tears shed. This was surely to be an experience we would never forget!
I am sure I and all of the others will agree to recommend this trip to any further students wishing to explore another culture- it is truly the best way to learn a language!
By William, year 9.