Belgium School Exchange 2023
School Exchange - Belgium 2023
For the very first time in our school’s history we undertook a school exchange with a Catholic secondary school in western Belgium — Spes Nostra Kuurne, situated on the outskirts of the Belgian city of Kortrijk, just a short distance from the border with France. Spes Nostra is taken from the Latin motto Deus spes nostra, meaning ‘God is our hope’.
In November, students from Spes Nostra Kuurne visited St Mary’s for three days, learning about school life in the UK as well as experiencing the sights and sounds of London. From 28th February to 3rd March, fourteen Year 11 students, along with Miss Wheeler and Mr Saint-Prix, undertook the return visit to Belgium. Travelling by the school minibus, through the Channel Tunnel, the group set off to experience life as a school student, staying with their partner families for the length of the visit.
Favour, in Year 11, wrote about her experience on the exchange visit.
Studying in a school in Croydon, London, where we wear uniforms, have tutor classes and have the freedom to decide which subjects we would like to study. I had believed that this was a worldwide normality until going to Spes Nostra in Kuurne, where none of these things happened.
In the school, students wore clothing of their choice, enabling them to express their own individual style. They went straight to class in the morning instead of to tutor groups. I also found it rather peculiar that all students would have to take the same classes with an exception of two, where whatever they picked would only contribute to the addition or reduction of hours in other certain subjects.
The classes were different too, as each room was equipped with green chalkboards, as-well as brand new smart boards. The use of chalkboards gives off nostalgic feelings, as they were used in old teaching styles; they proved to be beneficial, as they provided the students in Spes Nostra a helpful visual aid and help with enforcing structure.
In this exchange programme, we were also given the opportunity to have free time with our partners after school hours, where we were able to explore the city and also see what life in Belgium was like in general. Through this, I was able to see the difference in culture and foods, as well as what they liked to do in their free time. I was able to notice the grand love that they held for mayonnaise, biscoff and chocolate; perhaps because they had originated from there as the quantities were immense.
While visiting the city of Kortrjik, I was able to visit many places varying from shopping malls, restaurants to churches. I was shown around the city centre, where I was informed of a war that had previously occurred there. Throughout the city, the floor was covered with little golden arrows, pointing towards the direction where the battle had taken place; this was a nice story, as I was able to dive a little into Belgian history.
The greatest shock that I learned on this trip was the site of an uncountable number of bicycles. I had seen more bikes in their school entrance than in the whole of Croydon. Every single student, including my partner, owned a bike, which was used everyday. On my journey to and from school, I would be able to see endless lines of bicycles — quantities so great that their own personal part on the sidewalk was created and painted with red. I was beyond amazed!
Overall, I would describe it was a wonderful and enjoyable experience, where I was able to explore a foreign country and make some lifelong friends. It is worthy to be called one of the best experiences of my life. I would definitely do it again.