EXCHANGES

Cecilia’s volunteering adventure in India

Increasing access to an education can improve the overall health and longevity of a society, grow economies and make a nation socially and economically developed. When we leave school we are set to soar high in life, enter the world in pursuit of our dreams. Yet in many developing countries children’s access to education is limited by numerous factors. 113 million children worldwide are currently not in school. Around a billion people are illiterate. India is amongst the countries which hasn’t been able to provide even the most basic elementary education for all its children despite the Right to Education.

A local Indian policeman, tired of seeing the people around him drowning in poverty decided to start his own school. He saw education as a way out, a bridge to a better life. Education is vital in your health, in escaping poverty. It is crucial to establish equality, social justice. It doesn’t just impact individuals, universal education is a huge benefit for society.

17 year-old Cecilia Nogueroles González (Year 7 English section), who volunteered at the Red Cross and in Ecuador was set on lending her helping hand at that school in Jipour for three weeks. When arriving, her first immediate reaction wasn’t excitement, appreciation or wonder for India, it was one of complete and utter shock. “I just wanted to leave, I didn’t think I could handle it.” “I saw a little seven year-old girl, holding a dead baby in her hand, asking for food.”  The poverty was overwhelming and unlike anything she had ever seen or could have even imagined. There was an awful lot of pollution.  The food they gave her was scarce. It was emotionally draining to see what their daily life, their reality was like. This experience definitely forced her beyond her natural comfort zones. But isn’t that where the magic happens?

These children live their entire lives like this. “I had an opportunity to help them as much as I could, and I wasn’t going to let that slip through my fingers. “ So she toughened up and jumped right in. There was no learning plan. She had to figure it out on her own. It wasn’t easy. 4 and 17 year-olds were in the same class. Some knew how to write and read some didn’t. Most of them were hungry or malnourished, felt dizzy and their faces were yellow and pale. But boys and girls were all filled with aspirations and dreams and determined to learn. “The relationships I had with the kids, the volunteering made up emotional drain and shock. Seeing them improve their English and learning all the continents and capital cities brought me so much joy. It motivated me. I had to stay there. I had to teach them. I wanted them to learn.”

“Despite being their teacher, I think I learnt more from them than they did from me.” Their eagerness to learn made her appreciate the opportunities we’ve always taken for granted. We often unwillingly drag ourselves through the school gates, counting down the seconds until the sound of the bell fills the corridors. But they were so curious and eager to learn. Going to school was their favourite moment of the day. In fact they didn’t want to leave. And some didn’t. They stayed at school, all night from Monday to Sunday. Everyone’s aspiration was to work for the government in India. They worked as hard and as much as they possibly could to try and achieve this. They didn’t want to play games. Because all they wanted was for their family to have money, to have food. “ The fact that a 9 year-old kid wanted to learn non-stop, just warmed my heart and broke it at the same time.”

She bought them pens, notebooks and food. She even gave away all her clothes that she brought with her. They wore the same thing every single day, full of holes but yet they didn’t want to accept it at first. “They told me to give it to someone who needed it. I was so surprised. They didn’t have anything.”

We take everything we can get our hands on and always want more and more without realizing how much we have.

“The experience and memories you get from it is incredible and irreplaceable. I got to see a small part of the world while changing a small part of it for the better. And it changed me too.”

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EXCHANGES, SCHOOLTRIPS, Uncategorized

BIGMUN 2018

Learning and debating about world issues while meeting lots of like-minded students our age – we had a great time during the first week after the February half-term. A group of 16 of us travelled to Denmark to take part in BIGMUN. We travelled to the school on the driverless metro and were very well greeted by staff on our arrival.

BIGMUNpic1

The opening ceremony really kickstarted the whole event, and we were honoured to listen to the inspirational words of a special guest and incredible speaker, Christian Friis Bach, the Secretary General of the Danish Refugee Council.

BIGMUN is a conference hosted by the MUN (Model United Nations) Society of Birkerød Gymnasium, situated in the beautiful Danish countryside and just 25 minutes from the centre of Copenhagen. Although we cannot compare this conference to any other, we were very impressed with the organisation of the event all round, especially as it was primarily organised by students. It was a truly international event with over 400 participants coming from local and international schools in Denmark, Europe, America and Asia.

Through simulated UN conferences, students are able to debate numerous international issues in the manner of the actual parliamentary procedures of the real UN, which promotes international awareness and understanding, as well as being a platform for forming friendships through educational and cultural enrichment. As delegates we had to carry out research before the conference and formulate the positions that we then debated in the committee, staying true to the actual position of the member we represented. This year our school represented Italy and Sweden.

We were also very lucky to have seen some snow but nice and sunny weather as well. As part of the conference programme, we went on a canal tour of Copenhagen which was very interesting, and discovered more of the city walking around the centre that afternoon. On the last day we stayed the night at a hostel in Copenhagen, some of us visited the little mermaid and in the evening we all had great dinner at a cosy restaurant a short walk from where we were staying.

We want to thank Birkerød Gymnasium for hosting this fantastic event, Mrs Meredith for organising this trip, Mrs. Nicholson for accompanying us and a special thanks to our own host Niels and his family!

By Julia Whitehead and Aitana Verdú

EXCHANGES

Going on an Exchange: A Student’s Perspective

Have you ever wondered what it is like to wake up in a completely different country than your own and going to a different school with different people? That’s exactly what hundreds of European School studenexchangets are living every year. Six exchange students from all over Europe tell us about their story at our school in Alicante.

“The people you get to meet were definitely the best thing so far”, most of them said. It is an incredible experience to meet new friends, explore their culture and discover the city they live in. Everyone greatly enjoyed the summer temperatures in December, the beach, all school trips and evening activities. Wherever you go you will be amazed by the way of living in your exchange country. The differences can be so overwhelming that they open up a completely new way of perceiving the world around you!

You acquire more skills than you think!

Academic work is fairly similar in most European schools. What you really learn is something completely different. You learn how to manage time and money, you gain independence and you become able to rapidly adapt to change and to find a way out of tough situations. You answer questions about yourself you had never even asked, you master the skill of opening up to others and daring to speak that third or fourth language you have chosen. Believe it or not, “you learn a great deal of Spanish only by engaging in idle chit chat!”. And even though you are only travelling to one specific place it makes you realise how immense the world is and how much there is still to discover.

Challenges you face

Not everything is a piece of cake. Just the fact that you are in a different country by yourself for the first time is quite scary. Travelling on your own is not easy and not having anybody to talk to about your worries sometimes makes you feel lost and alone. But you soon realise that there are so many people in your host family and at school who are ready to help! Many of them will become close friends and you will quickly feel at home. And just like that, what looks like a huge mess of fears, worries and inexperience turns into the most exciting semester you’ll ever experience at school!

It is perfectly fine to miss your home, friends and family sometimes!

After a few weeks, when you’ve got used to the new environment and you are engaged in countless activities in and outside school there is hardly any time to miss your family! Some don’t miss their home at all! But after 4 months you do naturally miss them a little. All were keen on staying, but were also looking forward to going back to their home country. “There’s nothing wrong with missing your family”, they said, “it’s another side of an exchange that makes it an unforgettable experience”.

What about our school as an exchange destination?

Although the school is much smaller than most schools like Brussels or Munich, it is seen as a great advantage! You aren’t always late, you’re not constantly rushing through the hallway and it is very nice when all the students know each other so well.  “Your school is so small and cozy!” they say. The whole community, including students and teachers, are very welcoming.

“We would recommend going on an exchange to everyone!”

It does require some extra work, which can become a struggle if you’re not well organised. But everything you need to go on an exchange you will learn when you’re already there! It is an eye-opening experience which everyone should have the opportunity to live. “It has boosted our confidence and we’ve made friends for life”

by Aitana Verdu (S7DE)
A special thanks to all exchange students having contributed to this article: Romane (Strasbourg – Year 4), Sofia (Munich – Year 4) , Mia (Bruxelles II -Year 5), Anissa (France- Year 5), Emma (Bergen – Year 5) and Katrinna (Bruxelles II – Year 5)