An unexpected yet long-lasting friendship

Back in 2017, an enthusiastic Spanish teacher from the North-West region of Germany decided to make an ambitious attempt at setting up a school exchange with his Secondary school in the tiny village of Oberpleis (Bonn). After sending out about 50 emails to schools all over Spain, luckily, one of our German teachers decided to get back in touch, and that, you could say, was the beginning of what is now a 7-year working relationship with our dear contact, Christoph.

We quickly rallied 10 of our families into action to house 10 excited young Germans who were eager to get to know our school, Elche itself and sample a bit of culture, “ilicitano” style. After returning to Germany with our own students in March 2018, and seeing what a great opportunity this represented for our language department, and school as a whole, we haven’t looked back, and this year we are about to embark on another trip to Deutschland.

Earlier this year, in January, we welcomed 8 students from the Gesamtschule Much, a small comprehensive school in the small town of Much, near Cologne. Our students from 3rd year of Secondary school acted as hosts, and as well as giving their German partners a warm welcome at home, they also took part in excursions to localities such as Villajoyosa, Alicante or Guadalest. Over the course of the week, Spanish-German relations were cemented further as the students took part in a culinary workshop in our school dining hall and kitchen, as well as our students acting as an audience for their German counterparts’ presentations on their hometown and country.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable week was had by all, and our students are now almost ready to return to Much. You may ask, why should I (or my child) take part in such an exchange program? The benefits are numerous, the first being communication skills, which are enhanced by interacting with students and host families from another country. Our 3rd year students have had the chance to practise not only their German, but also their English when communication may have broken down.

Moreover, independence and self-reliance are two wonderful aspects of going away from home for a period of time, as you have to “survive” on your own, without your parents’ help and “get on with it” as we say in English. It truly is character-building. Cultural adaptability, empathy and understanding and resilience are other soft skills that are acquired through such an experience and the social skills and confidence boost that are gained from being part of an “austausch” cannot be underestimated.

We cannot wait to return to Germany, and we hope that this fantastic opportunity to grow as language learners and citizens of the world continues for many a year to come. If you’re currently a 2nd year student in Secondary school, and you study German, 2024-25 is the perfect year for to you put those German skills into practice and head to Much to make new friends!

Paul O’Neil

Head of Modern Languages