German exchange: a visit to Walsrode, Niedersachsen

Esther Davis, a German teacher at St Helen’s, recounts a recent school trip with students from our Senior School.

We were so excited to make the return visit to northwest Germany at the start of the Christmas holidays and meet up again with our exchange partners. When we arrived in Walsrode, our partners made us really welcome in their homes and families. One family had even ordered scones and clotted cream to make their English visitor feel more at home!

We spent the weekend with our host families and did many different and fun activities together. Some of us went to restaurants or the theatre and everyone visited one of the many Christmas markets in the big cities, sampling traditional food and buying gifts. A large feature of our weekend was food, and we particularly enjoyed eating the traditional German breakfast of cheese, eggs, sliced meats and bread rolls all together with the families.

Visiting the Miniatur Wunderland

We were due to visit VW Autostadt in Wolfsburg on the Monday but unfortunately it was cancelled, due to red weather warnings that meant all the schools in the region were closed. We made up for this on Tuesday with a long day trip into Hamburg, where we walked through the old tunnel under the river Elbe. This was followed by a visit to the amazing ‘Miniatur Wunderland’, a model railway and mini world where you could see planes take off from the airport, view different countries around the world and even experience night-time. This was followed by free time with our German partners in the Christmas market and shops around the town hall, which we really enjoyed.

Our final day was spent in Gymnasium Walsrode and we found the huge school really friendly. The lessons were much longer and started earlier, but the longer breaks made up for it and school finished at lunchtime, so it felt more sociable overall. We thought there were many chances to meet new people and chat with friends during the day.

A fantastic cultural experience

One student commented that “this German exchange was one of the best foreign trips I’ve ever been on for many reasons, not least the fantastic cultural experience.” Another said that “the family I stayed with were very friendly and treated me as if I was part of the family”, while someone added that “most of the family were not completely confident in English, but it allowed me to expand my German vocab a lot.” Another student said that they “made some amazing friends and had loads of fun with both English and German people and made amazing memories”, while someone else commented that they “met lots of new people, tried new foods and saw new landmarks, experiences that I am very grateful for.”

This was our first visit to our new exchange school in Niedersachsen and all schools are very pleased to develop this new partnership in the future.