Opportunities to travel with School instil greater cultural understanding and broader perspectives and personal awareness. Our Australia Exchange Program provides Year 8 students with the chance to participate in a week-long interstate adventure and prepares them for future international exchanges.
This year, 23 St Catherine’s girls participated in the Program. Five girls exchanged with Pymble Ladies College, Sydney, eight girls with the Wilderness School, Adelaide and 10 girls exchanged with St Michael’s Collegiate School in Hobart.
The Exchange Program took place over seven days, with the interstate girls arriving in Melbourne on Saturday 18 November, where they were collected by their St Catherine’s host families and taken home for the weekend. Over the course of the weekend the girls and their families enjoyed a variety of activities across Melbourne. Of the 23 girls participating in the Exchange we had two exchange students board in Illawarra, St Catherine’s boarding house. Two St Catherine’s girls experienced boarding in the Wilderness School boarding house.
Whilst in Melbourne the exchange girls were lucky to experience so much of the culture of Melbourne and the key tourist destinations, including the Eureka Tower and the Edge, a visit to Luna Park, dining in Melbourne and a visit to the Night Noodle Markets.
The St Catherine’s girls accompanied their host sisters to School on Monday 20 November, spending the day with them in class as well as participating in the Emotional Intelligence Program, which focused on mindfulness.
On Tuesday 21 November all of the Year 8 girls and their exchange sisters participated in a City Spectacular event, were small groups were required to navigate their way around the city and find key Melbourne landmarks. All of the girls managed to do this successfully using maps and following clues.
On Wednesday 22 November the St Catherine’s girls on exchange to Pymble Ladies College, left for Sydney on an early flight. The girls flying to Adelaide and Hobart participated in some sporting activities and yoga and then left for the airport.
Upon arrival in each state, all of the St Catherine’s girls were collected by their host families and taken home. The remainder of the Exchange Program saw each group of students attend their host school for a day of classroom based activities. On Friday 24 November each of the schools embarked upon different activities, the Pymble girls went on a tour of Sydney and Manly intersecting across Sydney Harbour and eventually participating in a surfing program at Manly beach. The Wilderness girls went paddle boarding and to Bounce and then enjoyed a dinner together. The Hobart girls undertook a history challenge around Hobart town, using maps and clues, visiting major historic and waterfront sites.
Finally, the girls completed their exchange at their host schools and spending the weekend with their host families. Each family offered the girls the most wonderful opportunities as they explored their adopted hometown, taking in all of the major sites. On Sunday 26 November it was time to say goodbye at the airport and return to Melbourne.
Exchange activities such as this provide our girls with the opportunity of stepping outside of their comfort zone and challenging themselves. For many at this Year level, it is the first time they have been away from family, other than attending School camps, sporting camps and programs and holidaying with family members and friends.
When the girls were asked what they felt the benefits of the Exchange Program were, we heard:
“To live with another family, experience a different way of life.”
“Making new friends.”
“Making conversations with people I didn’t know.”
“Adapting to another environment.”
“I learnt to get along with someone I wouldn’t necessarily have been friends with.”
“Experiencing a different lifestyle.”
“Experiencing a different school.”
“I gained a lot of independence and confidence.”
“I developed the skills of making new friends.”
Most girls believed the challenges of the Program were being away from parents and family, homesickness, making conversations with new people, getting along straight away with a girl that you have never met before, not knowing anyone on the first day in a new school and fitting into a new family’s lifestyle.
Most of these observations are natural and whilst there were initial misgivings all of the girls indicated the most rewarding aspect of the Exchange was developing independence, meeting new people and making new friends.