Central to the way Woodbridge pupils learn is by broadening their horizons through international travel and exchanges. The School’s long standing International Programme emphasises linguistic and cultural enrichment and takes children all over the world to Russia, South Africa, Oman, Australia, Japan, China and India. The memories and experiences from these trips are instantly recalled as major highlights of school life by all those who have experienced them.
From Year 9, pupils are encouraged to take part in these highly stimulating and varied cultural exchange programmes which enable students to both live with and learn from people and lifestyles far removed from Suffolk.
Josie, Upper Sixth
“After a solid eighteen hours of travelling, we arrived in Delhi, buzzing with excitement even after the long flight. We were amazed. The heat was the first element to hit us, along with the dusty tang of the air and the hustle and bustle of everyone around us, not to mention the raucous noise of the Delhi traffic. An interesting six-hour train journey later and we arrived in Jaipur, the Pink City. Here we were amazed by the beautiful red hue of all the buildings and after visiting the Maharaja’s palace, we were immersed in their ancient culture. To the girls’ excitement we found some small street markets, where everyone bought a pair of harem trousers, which we were all delighted by. Soon we were off to Agra, the third city of India’s Golden Triangle and we were not disappointed. After lunch we saw the Taj Mahal. It was easily one of the highlights of our trip, definitely a sight many of us would return to and a very memorable attraction that we recommend to everyone.
Later we found ourselves at our respective schools, the girls at SKV and the boys at the Scindia School. With the girls spending a few days at the boy’s school, we enjoyed their Founder’s Day. We spent our evenings relaxing at Sunset Point, watching the sun set over the hazy smog of Gwalior. Soon it was time for the boys to come to the girls’ school and by now the girls had arrived; the school was alive with voices and hushed whispers of our party. A few of the most artistic girls hennaed our hands and arms, transforming them into striking pictures of intricate patterns and shapes. We also took art, cooking and dance lessons to fully experience their culture. We had to learn a Rajasthani dance to perform to the whole school.
After emotional goodbyes, we headed back to Delhi, where we treated ourselves to spending the remainder of our money in the Connaught Place market. We also experienced our first tuk-tuk rides, which were surprisingly less scary than we had expected! We were fascinated by the huge variety of delicious dishes we were served whilst at the schools. Everyone fully enjoyed themselves, with some of our group not wanting to return home. It was a truly unforgettable experience.”
Laura , Year 11
Eight students from Woodbridge School participated in the exchange with The Sultan’s School in Oman. It was a great opportunity to appreciate a different culture whilst going on many extremely enjoyable excursions that provided some long-lasting memories.
On arrival at Muscat Airport we were all pleasantly surprised by the noticeable climate change: gone was the chilly English February and we were welcomed by the warmth of the Omani sun. We had already developed strong friendships with our exchange partners when they had visited England in November, so it was very exciting to see them again, but this time in their home country. For selected days of our stay we attended school lessons with our partners. I found it fascinating to see the different approach used by some of the teachers.
The students and staff from the Sultan’s School went out of their way to make us feel welcome in their country, whilst also involving us at any time possible. This kindness was replicated in all the Omani people I met. We were very fortunate to take part in trips and excursions which provided our personal highlights of the whole exchange. We visited the Souq, the traditional shopping market, in the well-known cities of Nizwa and Muttrah. As English visitors we thoroughly enjoyed bartering with the market traders in order to secure the best bargains. Our favourite purchases included organic perfumes, scarves, silver jewellery and also traditional clothing and footwear. A very memorable trip was the guided tour around the famous Grand Mosque in the capital city of Muscat. The ambiance of the place was so tranquil and the religious significance of this important building to the local Muslim population was obvious to us. We were all struck by the beautiful Swarovski crystal chandelier that is the largest in the world.
The exchange offered the unique experience of spending the night in the desert at the campsite Wahaiba Sands. The diverse range of activities we took part in included sand boarding, quad biking, camel riding and dune bashing. In the evening we also went on a walk along the sand dunes just in time to see the gorgeous sun set.
Thanks to the two weeks we spent in this amazing country, I gained confidence and independence in addition to experiencing a different culture. We would all definitely hope to return to Oman in the future.
Millie, Upper Sixth
“Having been on quite a few school exchanges over the years we all agree that this was without doubt one of the best, if not the best, exchange that Woodbridge School has. After walking along the beach with friendly deer at the Miyajima shrine, taking the bullet train to Hiroshima and developing an addiction to watermelon soda, we were all sad to leave.
We were welcomed at our sister school, Omi Kyodai, with an opening ceremony which included a traditional Japanese drum display, speeches and introductions in Japanese. Although we then spent the majority of our time with our partners at school or in their homes, we also spent a few days in Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima’s Peace Park, a visit which ended with a spontaneous trip to a karaoke bar. Perhaps most memorable was a soulful rendition of Beyoncé’s ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ from Saffron and Chloe complete with actions and two-part harmonies that led to reactions like ‘I laughed so hard I forgot how to breathe.’
The trip to Miyajima Island in particular was incredible. We spent the day eating green-tea ice cream, watching deer try to get into restaurants and getting stuck in sandbanks when the tide came in. Then we watched the lanterns being lit along the shore from the boat on the way back to Hiroshima.
Overall the trip was very successful. Everyone’s Japanese noticeably improved and we will all have memories that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.
Experience: South Africa
Rob, Lower Sixth
Whilst I initially believed my exchange would revolve heavily around rugby, it did not take long for me to realise that there was much more to life at Bishops College, Cape Town than the sterling reputation in sport suggests. For me the experience was a stark contrast to the daily routine that I enjoy at Woodbridge. This was most prominently captured in the boarding house where I quickly became embedded in their traditions and routines. Over the course of six weeks I was fortunate to experience all that the country could offer, organised by both the school and the Gregorys, my very welcoming host family. This was certainly a summer to remember, forging friendships which remain strong to this day.
Charlotte, Upper Sixth
When I was first asked to write about China, I was asked “what were your favourite experiences in China?” and it seemed impossible for me to pick just one. After long consideration, I finally realised that while the new experiences in China were so unlike anything I had done before, it was in fact the people of the trip that made the exchange so wonderful. Every student in Taichang School greeted my fellow English students and I with a smile on their face, no matter how jet-lagged and grumpy we were. Always attentive and thoughtful, our exchanges fed us until we couldn’t eat anymore, introduced us to their families and accommodated our every need. The exchange wouldn’t have been so successful if wasn’t for Mr and Mrs Lubbock, who turned every day into an exciting new task and didn’t give any of us the chance to become bored.
Before the trip I didn’t know all of the people coming with me, and was unsure whether we would all get along. Luckily my worries were completely unfounded, as we all became fast friends and got stuck into every activity; including 7am Tai Chi, with the usual Woodbridge Spirit. It is my firm belief the exchange would not have been what it was without my fellow students’ personalities making everyday something different and exciting and just plain brilliant.
The Chinese exchange is something I would strongly suggest to anyone, no matter how out-going or shy, as it is the perfect way to make new friends from both sides of the world and it gave me memories I will be carrying with me for a very long time.
Ben, Year 10
Prior to my trip to Australia I was quite nervous. Although I had already briefly spoken to my exchange partner, I did not know his family and therefore I felt like I was venturing into the unknown. However I soon discovered that worrying had been unnecessary, as I received a warm welcome by my host family and fitted straight into Australian life. The school I attended was very different to ours, as it was an all-boys school and much bigger than Woodbridge School. Lessons were very similar to ours apart from the fact the every pupil used a laptop. My exchange partner did a lot of rowing, which is something I had never tried. I gave it a go and I really enjoyed it, as it was very different to any of the sports I had done before. At weekends we would go out to Sydney and soak up the sights, I also went up north where the beaches were amazing. I had so much fun! I spent a lot of time with my exchange partner and his friends and because of this his friends then became my friends. This made it very upsetting when I had to leave, as I had grown so close to all of them and to my host family.
Overall it was an amazing trip and I enjoyed it very much. I will definitely remember it for a long time. I would recommend the exchange to anyone who is willing to leave their family for five weeks: it is an amazing and unique experience you will never forget!