Students Cat Goreham and Gemma Watts report:

The joint Loreto and Aquinas exchange to Lübeck took place in March. The exchange involved a German school, the Katharineum Gymnasium, and we stayed with host families during this time.

The Katharineum Gymnasium was very different to Loreto College. The students‘ ages ranged from 10-18 and it was very old fashioned in terms of looks and teaching styles. We went on a tour of the school, conducted by the headmaster, on the first day, in which he showed us the church attached to the school and some classrooms and the old fashioned library. Whilst we were there we learnt that participation in class is worth 60% of their grade, and so teaching styles were much more relaxed and class discussion was widely encouraged. We also learnt that the day starts earlier, with many pupils finishing at lunch, but not all, as there is a wide range of after school activities available, and most were organised by the pupils themselves. These included rowing, volleyball and the musical “Spring Awakening”, which we had the chance to see during our visit. Many of us noticed the difference in the way the pupils travelled to school: many used bikes or walked, choosing eco friendly methods over public transportation. We enjoyed the lessons, as they were very different to ones we were used to having at college and we thought it was great to experience this. We liked mixing with the students and getting to know about them and what subjects they study at the Katharineum.

As well as spending time at the German school, we also went on several day trips in and around Lübeck. An example of this was a visit to the Border Museum in Schlagsdorf, where we learnt a lot about the Berlin Wall – something that will help us a lot with our A Level studies. We also spent a day in Hamburg, which was great because we could go shopping and take pictures of the city.

One of the most important parts of the exchange was having the opportunity to lead the life of a German teenager for a week. As previously mentioned, this involved attending a German school and staying with their family, but also speaking the language outside of the classroom setting. The exchange was a chance for us all to bring together the knowledge we’ve acquired over years of studying German and apply it to real-life situations. Of course this was nerve-wracking at first, but the German exchange partners and their families were really encouraging and wanted us to practise our German as much as we wanted to. It’s safe to say that new friendships were definitely built during this week, and we are all really looking forward to hosting the German exchange partners when they come over here in June.