Classroom swap

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  • Published 9.04.11

It was Janina Welker’s first visit to Calcutta but she took to pav bhajjis and other street food like a regular. She was as ecstatic when she went shopping, stuffing her bags with danglers and bangles to take them back home as gifts.

Janina was not here on a pleasure trip. She and five other students along with their teacher from Carlo-Schmid-Gymnasium in Tubingen, Germany, had come down to Calcutta recently for a 10-day exchange programme with Lakshmipat Singhania Academy (LSA).

These students lived with their host (students of LSA) to enjoy the local flavour and get a glimpse of a different lifestyle. So, during mealtimes, it was not a continental spread that was offered but an Indian fare of naan and dal makhani.

“Here, the hospitality is more pronounced. My friend’s mother would insist on feeding me even when I had enough,” smiled Class X student Vincent Annemarie Ludwig, another member of the exchange team.

Bonding with students of a different country was just as fun. “When we went shopping, Janina got so excited at the sight of colourful bindis and bangles that it was difficult to veer her from them,” said Class XI student Ankita Bansal, with whom Jenina stayed during her visit.

The schedule for these students included attending school in the morning and sightseeing in the evening. They were also taken to Birla Mandir, Belur Math and Dakshineswar Temple.

“Such exchanges are helpful. They promote a cross-cultural interaction and barter of ideas,” said Meena Kak, the principal of LSA.

Exchange programmes are on the rise, as more and more schools are sending their students to other countries. In 2007, the Heritage School, in partnership with the British Council and Youth Sports Trust, set the ball rolling for an exchange programme between them and the Whitecross Hereford High School and Specialist Sports College in the UK.

Since then there have been many such exchange programmes between the two schools. Another group of Heritage students will travel to Sophie Scholl of Germany this May.

“In 10 days, students get a taste of a whole new life in a different country. It broadens their perspective greatly,” said Seema Sapru, the principal of the school.

In January, another set of students from Whitecross Hereford had come to Calcutta for a two-week stay. “They almost freaked out when they were taken to South City Mall. They could not imagine that India was so advanced,” recalled Class IX student Ahan Ghosh.

At Calcutta International School, exchange programmes take place with The Dwight School in New York.

“We also organise collaborative projects with a French school, where our students work on a French magazine,” said Anuradha Das, the director of Calcutta International School.