Returning after the long summer break, we are delighted to hear of the adventures of five intrepid students who have spent their School holidays living and experiencing another culture and language. During Assembly, Mackenzie Leyden introduced (in Japanese) Hayley Cottrell and Madeleine O’Brien.

Hayley spoke about wonderful cultural differences, but also reflected upon the linguistic benefits:
Hinari and her mum live in a country town called Yatomi, which is famous for breeding gold fish. Their house was surrounded by rice fields and those narrow Japanese roads that you see in classic Japanese animations you watch in class. In fact, despite her house not being traditional, I had to pay attention to the customs that are shown in the movies, such as taking your shoes off when you enter a home.

With the second family Shiori’s mum only spoke Japanese to me, which was extremely hard but I know it has made a huge improvement in my hearing. In fact a lot of my Japanese skills have improved, even though I did not realise it until I arrived back in Melbourne. For any exchange program that you might go on, this the best advice I can give you: Take every opportunity you are offered, because you may not have another experience like it.

Next Georgie Sitch introduced (in French) three students who travelled to France : Isabel Gray, Sidonie Bird de la Coeur and Sophie Seng Hpa.

Sidonie delighted us with her customary humour:
My exchange sister’s neighbour was the producer of the Assassin’s Creed movie with Michael Fassbender, and he used to come to our house and show us the new trailers for the film on his phone. He ended up taking us to the French premier of Assassins Creed, in this beautiful cinema with moving clouds and stars projected on the ceiling, which were almost more entertaining than the movie itself.

Some of the highlights of my French experience include mishearing directions to the bathroom and accidentally walking into the backstage of Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake or the time when we couldn’t find the entrance to a museum so my exchange’s mum just climbed over a wall right as a security guard was walking past. All in all, I will never forget the amazing friendships that I made, the great food, all the Orangina that you could want and my incredible host family who made the experience so unforgettable.

Please click here to read Hayley’s and Madeleine’s full Assembly speeches.

It was great to hear students’ stories of embracing the challenges of everyday life in another country. Embarking on Exchange is a significant personal learning experience. Teachers are also delighted to see the development in students’ linguistic abilities: better aural comprehension; improved pronunciation and fluency, the confidence and willingness to engage in impromptu conversation.

In studying a language, St Catherine’s students have many opportunities for cultural immersion. In December 2017, Kanako Yokouchi will lead nine students on our next Japan Study Tour. Tours to China and France are scheduled for 2018. Students can also apply to participate in Exchange to either France or Japan in December this year. Your daughter can contact Ms Anna Pianezze at or her Language teacher if she is interested in participating in an exchange.

I thank students, colleagues and parents for warmly welcoming me to St Catherine’s and look forward to working with your daughters.

Ms Anna Pianezze, Head of Languages