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Exchange in Leer, Germany, November 2008

On a cold and frosty Saturday 22nd November, a group of 16 students from years 9 to 11 as well as Mrs Jackson-Man and Mr Dumper made their way to Bromley South station for the start of a very long journey! It journey began at 6am and ended at Nieuweschans station at around 5pm German local time, some 10 hours later. The trip started off at Bromley South where the parents said their goodbyes to the students and we made our way down to the platform where our trip began.

The journey consisted of at least five trains plus the underground. Whilst on the trains, we were able to listen to our iPods, play our games consoles as well as play Who Am I with the teachers where the answers varied from Kermit the frog to Mr Chenier! We stopped at Brussels, Rotterdam and Groningen where Mrs Jackson-Man made us run from platform to platform to get the right train. Then, as we got on the train from Groningen to Nieuweschans, the nerves started to kick in for the year 9s with the virtue of meeting their host-families for the first time just minutes away. Meanwhile, the fact that Arsenal had lost to Man City 3-0 had completely pushed any of my nerves aside.

Then, we arrived. The host families were ready and waiting to see their son's exchange for the first, second or even fourth time for Steven Barker. We all met up with our partners and set off in our different directions for the weekend. On the Sunday, the students were with the exchange partners for the day where they did a range of activities from sightseeing, to bowling to even swimming in George's and my case! I can't really say a lot about this as I was only with George on Sunday, however, what I can say is that we all had a great day with our partners taking part in whatever we were doing.

Monday. The exciting prospect of being in school again! Thankfully it was our partner's school which was called Teletta-Groß Gymnasium. It was also exciting for many of the students, particularly the year 9s, seeing other Ravens Wood students for the first time in more than a day! We spent the first two lessons with our partners (getting constantly stared at by German students) I found the experience very interesting compared with Ravens Wood. There were many differences such as the school uniform (they don't have one), the leniency of the teachers and another difference, which was observed by Tom Frost, that they have a sink in every classroom. We then met up with some very happy people, the other Ravens Wood students! We were then introduced to Frau Bakker who took us on a tour around the town of Leer.

After this, we wandered into town in groups and explored and then had to come back to meet our exchange partners. Next, we were introduced to the headmaster who gave a speech. We were then invited for some food and drink. After this, we spent the rest of the day with our partners either going back into town or going home. On Tuesday, we had our first big trip of the exchange trip, a visit to the Dutch city of Groningen. We got the train from Leer straight to Groningen. Firstly, we went into a Maritime museum which was all about ships. All of the Ravens Wood students had to go round the museum looking at different parts of a ship but whilst doing this we were to answer questions about ships and the goings on in them. We were then invited to see the different types of engine that would've been on ships throughout the last few centuries. I think we all thought the museum was pretty interesting overall. Next, we had a 2 and a 1/2 hour wander round the city where we bought our lunch and also some presents for our families. After this, we got back on the train to Leer where we met up with our partners and went home.

On Wednesday morning, all the Ravens Wood students met up and got the chance to go ice-skating which was extremely good fun! Some of the students were brilliant at ice-skating however, some were not so good (such as myself) but it did not matter as we all had a great time! What made it better was that for the majority of the time it was just us in the ice rink so no-one saw us fall over every 30 seconds! Then we had a long walk back to the school where we met our partners and went home. Later on, we all (the Ravens Wood and the German students) went bowling in Leer. Bowling was very good and was quite interesting to see how good the Germans were at bowling and I was pleasantly surprised how good some of them were.

The Thursday of the exchange brought a trip with our partners to Bremen. When we got to Bremen, our first exploration was around another museum! But, it was unlike another museum, as it was very practical and was and probably still is the best museum I've been to. Secondly, the chocolate museum. This was a real treat as we got free chocolate which was heavenly. After the museum, we walked into the city where we were let loose for over two hours which was brilliant. The Christmas markets in Bremen looked amazing. During this time, we ate food, looked round the markets and the department store and bought more presents for our family. This day was probably my favourite throughout the week!

The last full day of the exchange. Once again we went with our partners to their lessons and then met up with Mr Dumper and Mrs Jackson-Man. Our next task was to write a postcard in German for a Ravens Wood teacher of our choice (I chose my form tutor, Mr Mosedale) as well as write up some of our experiences and observations about the German school and the German families. We then walked into town where Mr Dumper and Mrs Jackson-Man kindly bought us chips and a drink. We then had a small amount of time to look around the town and were then with our partners for the final afternoon!

The return journey! We arrived at Nieuweschans station at 8:45am German time. The families waved us off and we were on the way home. This trip would also be extremely long as it lasted more or less 12 hours! We arrived slightly late at Utrecht which meant missing our scheduled train to Rotterdam Central. Fortunately, we only had to wait another 15 minutes for the next train meant only a 30 minute wait for the train to Brussels rather than the expected 45 minutes.

When we reached Brussels, we had a bit of time to roam around the station where we found a massive vending machine which had everything from drinks to tissues and from crisps to ladies essentials! Mr Dumper also bought everyone chips which were very tasty! Then, we went through passport control and luggage check and I'm pleased to say no-one is still at Brussels under suspicion of carrying weapons! We got on the Eurostar which seemed to take ages (until I realised the time change), we got off at St. Pancras, got the tube to London Victoria and then a fast train to Bromley South to complete the journey. All of the parents were there waiting for us after a day of travelling, we all said danke and auf Wiedersehen to the teachers and went home after a great week in Germany!

To conclude, I would like to say a massive thank you to the German exchange partners and their families for putting up with us for a week! I felt, and I'm sure everyone else felt, extremely welcome and look forward to seeing them again next year. And finally, without a certain two teachers this would never have been possible so a massive thank you to Mr Dumper and Mrs Jackson-Man for all of your hard work to make this exchange such a big success!!!

Tim Gibney, 10GM