Exchange Impressions

Head of High School Anthony Dennehy reflects on his time visiting our students on exchange in Europe.

In November a group of 24 High School students in Years 10 and 11 departed Sydney bound for their six-week exchange adventures in Italy, Germany, Spain and France. 

Shortly after Head of High School Anthony Dennehy set off to check in on our students and visit our friends at our sister schools. 

We can’t wait to welcome our exchange students back to IGS in Term 1 and are looking forward to hearing their stories from their time overseas.

Here, writing from Portugal at the end of his trip, Anthony shares a little bit about the experience. 

IGS: Where have you been and what have you been up to?

AD: We started in Paris in November and then visited the students in Evreux (Normandy) which was our first exchange there so that was exciting. The local media interviewed the students and we signed the memorandum between the two schools. We then made our way down to the south and Montpellier. France was gripped in World Cup fever and we saw both sides of Morocco’s experience which was something to remember. The students in Montpellier seemed to be adjusting well.

From there we went to Bad Salzuflen in Germany after some snow and delays in Lyon. Definitely, the coldest there with -10 degree days but our students Emma and Scarlett were being very brave and even got up early to show us around the castle in Bielefeld. 

Then we moved on to Italy and to Rovereto and the group that I think was enjoying the exchange the most. They had their own classroom and had been assigned a cultural and language attaché who even made them tiramisu. 

After Christmas and New Year’s, we arrived in Madrid and visited Ajay who was completing the exchange on his own which is pretty incredible. He was having a blast and the staff were in awe of how independent he was.

Ajay received a warm welcome in Madrid from his Spanish exchange family.

We were once again treated like family by the exchange coordinators and staff at the various sister schools, who gave up days of their time including weekends to organise meetings or activities for us or just to show off their schools. 

Special mentions go to Tina in Germany, who we met in 2018, both in Sydney and in Bad Salzuflen, and Luciano in Rovereto who has been in charge of every IGS exchange group. He reminded us of stories dating back to visits by Marc Richards, Robyn Maloney and even Rosalba Genua. We also had a wonderful time with Jean-Michel in Evreux who was previously the Principal in Montpellier and arranged the new exchange with Shauna. He was extremely kind and gave up huge amounts of his time. 

IGS: How were the students managing? What surprised or impressed you most when you visited them? 

AD: The students were managing well. We saw them at very different stages of their exchange experience. The French students were only a week or so in whereas the Italians were veterans by the time we arrived.

The cold had taken quite a few by surprise; however, we were told it was unseasonably cold and bitter this year. 

I wasn’t surprised by anything, to be honest. IGS kids are very flexible and adaptable so they can cope when things don’t go according to plan. I think that they are also able to reflect on the context of where they are, and what they are experiencing and know that even though it may be a little out of their comfort zone that they will be better for the knowledge and experience at another point in their lives. They all had a really good attitude too and it is always nice to get a warm welcome when you see them.

IGS students on a historical tour of Nîmes in France.

IGS: How are the schools different or similar to IGS? 

AD: Far too much to narrow down really, both in similarities and also differences…

The biggest similarity continues to be the value that we place on exchange and language study. All our partner schools have a similar appreciation for celebrating culture and differences and how those things can help us connect and interact. 

The most significant differences were that their schools are very large, mostly with more than 2000 students with sprawling campuses.

IGS: Any favourite funny anecdotes from your visit? 

AD: A duo of German IGS students are now the Badminton Champions of the Rudolph-Brandes Gymnasium School in Bad Salzuflen after talking their way out of outdoor sports and conning a warm indoor sport instead. 

Some other very funny things… but I’ll let the students share those when they are back at school!