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By Ulrich Bauer, Year 9

This program, which has, for the time being, been existing for four decades, is and has been of great benefit for the students taking part in it as well as for both schools. The possibility of coming to another country and staying with a local family is a great opportunity for all students willing to discover other ways to academical success. The students experience the cultural differences expressed for example in art and architecture as well as the differences in the behavior and language of the people.

Most of these differences can be seen in school. The first thing you would notice is the way the students are dressed; contrary to how people dress at Ratsgymnasium, the students at Abingdon School have to wear dark, elegant uniforms which consist of a dark blue coat, light blue shirt, dark blue sweater, gray trousers, and simple, black leather shoes (in Sixth Form the colors may be slightly varied) but they all have one thing in common: they have to wear a tie with the school crest or the colors of their houseroom on them.

This leads to the next point, the houserooms: they are not only places which can be used for doing homework after school, but also places where the students can gather during the breaks and that provides freetime activities like pingpong or pool tables. They also strengthen the support between students.

What we at Ratsgymnasium and mainly in all of Germany are used to is that the entire class has the same lessons at all times (except for "Diff" or special (club) meetings) and that either the teacher comes to the room you are in or at least comes to a room that doesn’t 'belong' to him. In Abingdon (and all of England) it is the opposite: each student has his individual schedule and has to come to the right teacher at the necessary time. Although the length of lessons differs (lessons in Abingdon are ten minutes shorter than at Ratsgymnasium) the breaks are similar. But in Abingdon the students get a warm lunch every day in school, which we do not at Ratsgymnasium.

We know about the fact that there are after school activities at Ratsgymnasium like sports or music rehearsals but mostly only the people who also take part in these activities in their free time participate in them. Abingdon on the other hand gives you a choice of either doing homework in school, being in your houseroom or participating in the above mentioned activities, since the buses depart at 5:20 pm – 1 hour and 40 minutes after the end of school. The homework is mainly like what gets assigned at Ratsgymnasium only that they have to do more of it on the computer.

This short summary of the differences experienced during the Student Exchange Program of 2006 – 2007 can give you a clue of what value this exchange program has for the better understanding of other cultures and different school systems and also the benefits of your own school.