Language exchange visits to France and Spain have been a regular part of the Year 10 programme for some years.
Unusually, the whole year group participates in the Exchanges, regardless of whether the students are studying the language or not, as there are so many other cultural and personal benefits in staying abroad, making new friends and taking part in lots of different activities.
Our language exchange programme with France and Spain is firmly rooted in the curriculum, with visits to our hosts in September and return visits from France and Spain in March.
The main aim is, of course, language acquisition and to increase our pupils’ confidence in the use of languages in practical everyday situations. It is also central to the exchange programme that pupils achieve an understanding and appreciation of the host country’s culture and traditions, by getting involved in a wide range of cultural, social and leisure activities.
Educational visits (undertaken by the British and the French groups together) such as the visit to the battlefields of Verdun, also give our pupils the opportunity to experience our joint European history and heritage.
During the return visits, we have established an “International Day” at St Christopher, where our French and Spanish guests join in a variety of activities.
During the preparation period for our exchanges, topics in History and Geography prepare participants for their trips.
The outcome invariably is a greater understanding of the partner county, new friendships reaching across national borders, openness to cultural values and, not least, greater confidence and competence in the use of the foreign target language.
Language exchange reports
Last year, thirty students went to Metz. All students stayed with a French family for the whole week.
In France, the exchange programme involved a variety of activities and educational visits, such as a tour of Metz, the Verdun War museum, the Robert Schuman E.U. museum, the Roman city of Bliesbruck and a visit to a mine.
We also spent time in lessons with our exchange partners, where we became accustomed to the French way of learning and working, which we found quite different from St Chris. Not forgetting the social activities that were organized for the whole group, such as an ice-skating session, theme park visit and an afternoon in the biggest indoor ski-slope in Europe!
Being with our exchange partners gave us the opportunity to practise the language and gain cultural awareness: “At times it was hard to adjust, but it soon became easier to interact with our exchanges partners and their families. By the end of the week we felt that we had achieved something we will never forget”.
“The French exchange is a rewarding experience that definitely helped us to further our French language skills and our knowledge of the culture."
For over 11 years St Christopher School has been visiting La Salle School in Alcoy, close to Alicante, to experience Spainish culture at first hand.
Last September, 19 English Year 10 students were hosted by their Spanish exchange partners and their Spanish families for a week. There were a wide variety of cultural activities that La Salle School organised for us: a visit to a Turron factory, a trip to the Oceanographic (Valencia) and a visit to Santa Barbara Castle (Alicante).
Students also participated in lessons in the secondary and Junior School and helped the younger Spanish children in the Montessori Nursery.
There were fun activities during the trip, such as a barbecue in the countryside with the hosting families, sport competitions and a visit to Terra Mitica (a theme park in Benidorm).
Here’s what some of our students said about their visit to Alcoy.
“Alcoy is really fun and beautiful, the buildings look brilliant.”
“On Sunday, I stayed at home with my family. I had so much fun. I met my exchange partner’s whole family. I was really impressed that everyone tried to speak to me.”
“My exchange partner’s name was Javier. He was a very good partner and always asked if I needed anything.”
“On Sunday we went to Fuente Roja. We had a look around the National Park; we had a really great lunch!”
“We looked around the aquarium and saw millions of weird and wonderful sea creatures.”
“We got off the coach and saw the bright, smiling faces of exchange partners waiting outside their school.”
“My exchange partner’s family was extremely thoughtful.”
“When we arrived in Spain I was the first to meet my exchange partner. She is sooooooo nice."