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An exchange visit between two Sion Schools

14/07/2006: United Kingdom

Earlier this year Our Lady of Sion School in Worthing (England) had an exchange with Collège Notre-Dame de Sion, Saint-Omer (France). Here is an account of their visit to each others school
Having decided to set up a pen friend link with one of the three Our Lady of Sion schools in France, with a view to establishing an eventual exchange, contact was made with the one in St-Omer, due to its size and ease of access from Worthing.

In May 2004, two of the English teachers from the Collège visited us for the day to discuss a link between our schools and it was decided to start with an e-mail correspondence between interested students in Years 8 & 9 (5e & 4e in France) at the start of the new school year.

Despite our best efforts, the e-mail link proved impossible, due to the lack of computer facilities at the French school. However, good contacts were made between staff and dates for the exchange visit were finally settled for March & May 2006. Interested students were put in touch with each other through their personal e-mails.

On Thursday 23rd March, a group of 18 students (14 from Year 9 and 4 from Year 10), accompanied by two members of staff, made the journey from Worthing to St-Omer… "…... We went by minibus to Dover and ferry to Calais. We arrived in France at 3pm and took a French bus to the school. There was a warm welcome from our penpals ….. We went into the canteen to find out as much as we could about our families and to have a drink, before being whisked off to our correspondents' homes".

Over the four days of our visit we had many interesting experiences, including a day in school with our French hosts, a walk round St-Omer, and visits to various attractions in the area. Activities enjoyed by the students with their French families included: bowling, rollerblading, a meal in a local restaurant, eating "Raclette", visiting a war museum, going to Mass, shopping in the Cité Europe and the local market, and for one student, helping to teach English in a local primary school where "..they were just starting to learn English... so I sat on a chair at the front of the class and they asked me some basic questions"; and also delivering food to a wedding: "there were plates in the shape of hearts, houses and fish piled with ham, pâté and all sorts" All of our students had been trying to speak as much French as they could and there were lots of stories and photos to enjoy on the return journey, with everyone looking forward to hosting their French friends in May.

The French group of 23 students and 2 staff arrived on Tuesday 16th May, having visited Brighton en route from Dover, and were given a reception in the School Hall before dispersing to their families.

They spent the morning of the next day in school with their partners, taking part in a variety of lessons such as maths, cookery, drama and swimming. These last three subjects are not taught in their own school, so they provided a unique experience for the French students! In the afternoon they went on a walking tour of Worthing, after which we all met up with them at the Bowling centre for a game and a bowl of chips! Everyone had a great time together.

On Thursday, we had arranged for the French group to be taken by the school minibuses to Arundel, where they enjoyed the best weather of their stay and were able to visit the town, Swanbourne Lake and, of course, the cathedral and castle. It was even fine enough for them to have their picnic lunch in the grounds before buying postcards and souvenirs in the shops.

On their last morning, Friday, the French students were delighted to attend a traditional School Assembly (a real novelty for them!) where the head of school welcomed them in excellent French, much to the rest of the school's surprise!