Established 1588 ffree Grammer Schole of Newport

    Dutch Exchange 2016

    Posted On: 13/06/16

    On the 6th June, 2 teachers and 18 year 8 students from the Joyce Frankland Academy, Newport flew out to Landgraaf in the Netherlands to participate in the return stage of the annual exchange between the Joyce Frankland Academy and Eijkhagen college which is now in its 17th year.

    The full programme of activities saw the Joyce Frankland students visit Aachen in Germany, Maastricht in the Netherlands as well as take part in a Europe day in which the students represented the 4 countries of the UK. They were joined by a school from Germany and the other countries that make up the EU were represented by students from Eijkhagen. Each stall told the story of their country from its national food, to its history, geography, national sport and culture. On the final day, the school party visited Cologne in Germany and returned home exhausted but delighted with the successful outcome of another exchange.

    When you think of the Netherlands, what comes to mind? Before this exchange, I knew very little about the Dutch, simply some stereotypes: windmills, clogs, their frugality and cheese.  However, after just 5 days with a host family in the very south of the Netherlands, I have a much better understanding of their culture which I hope to share with those who have never visited this wonderful country.  

    Monday the 6th of June 2016 commanded an early start for those on the trip.  We were all at Stansted airport at 4:45 am and passed through customs without a problem.  We were on the plane at 7:30 after a brief shopping excursion.  The flight was enjoyable and we arrived in Düsseldorf, the Weeze, Germany on schedule.  To our surprise our exchange buddies had driven down to meet us and joined us on the hour and a half coach journey to Aachen, a charismatic German town with an interesting history.  Intriguingly, King Charlemagne, for which the Dutch students’ school is named, resided in Aachen’s cathedral.  To learn more about this city and to encourage us to explore, we were set a picture quiz which almost everyone completed.  That night we all returned to our Dutch families and had a traditional Dutch dinner.  

    Tuesday was our day of lessons, taught to us by a range of Dutch teachers, all exceedingly enthusiastic about their subject.  The timetable was divided into periods of fifty minutes, and the first was designated to the introduction of our day, and the next to learning a little of Dutch culture.  I now know the importance of mashing food, of cheese, liquorice and chocolate sprinkles, as well as being introduced to stroopwafels, a Dutch biscuit with a treacly centre.  Windmills, bikes and cycle lanes are an ever-present remainder that you are in the Netherlands.  This lesson was followed by science, where we were told about the magic of physics and the mysteries you can solve by studying it.  Geography and the study of volcanoes preceded a maths competition where anyone had a chance of winning a prize.   The day ended with us returning to our exchange families and the realisation of the cleanliness of the entire school.  In fact, all week I did not even see one piece of litter, and the school had considerably more students than ours.  Now our class know that it is possible I hope that we will all make a conscious effort to improve our school and its litter issues.

    Europe day marked the middle of the week and of our trip.  Half term had been spent preparing information and traditional products from one of our 4 designated countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. German students from a nearby school were present to exhibit German products and information.    The “Exhibition Room” was packed with stalls and students willing to showcase another country to their peers.  We all experienced a feeling of pride in belonging to the European Union and I sincerely hope Great Britain remains in this community. 

    Our last full day was one of respect to the American Soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom in World War II.  The “Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial” is a war cemetery which lies in the village of Margraten six miles east of Maastricht.  It is home to the graves of 8,301 Americans, despite being home to many more immediately after the cease fire.  America was the only country who gave the families of the dead the option to bring them home to be buried in their own town. The majority chose this option but the cemetery still has the atmosphere to silence a group of children without a word.  After a guided tour of the beautiful grounds, we were each presented with a rose to place on a grave of their choice.  Many chose a grave of a man who died on a personally influential date; a birthday or anniversary, whereas others simply chose at random or gave their respect to a man whose name could not be deciphered by dental records.     It was a moving and unforgettable experience. 

    The day continued with a trip to Maastricht and a guided tour.  The beautiful city was one we enjoyed immensely and was the majority favourite.  The river Maas provided the perfect backdrop for many memorable photographs.  A quiz night at the school finished a perfect day and provided a welcome meal of pizza.

    Friday was the day we made board game at the school, a time where we and our buddies could come together to make something, and then to play with it for an hour or more.  Cologne was the final city we went to and provided enough time to shop for last minute gifts.  The impressive cathedral also made an amazing photograph.  The trip home gave me time to reflect on the generous people, the clean buildings and streets and the wonderful experience the school has provided. 

    - M Sellers, Year 8