Year 8 USA exchange
Early-very early for most-on the morning of Sunday 11 June, an eager group of thirty seven Year 8 boys and girls, from two Melbourne independent schools, accompanied by their eager (but also anxious!) parents, clustered in small groups around the arrival terminal at Tullamarine airport, awaiting Flight UA847 from Los Angeles.
For them, it was the culmination of months of anticipation and, in most cases, regular e-mails and long distance phone calls, designed to put them in touch with their American exchange partners.
They were not thinking about the sleep they had missed out on or of how their football team had played or was going to perform that weekend. Nor were they thinking of what they were going to do that afternoon after they had taken their billet home and discovered that he had a different body clock, routine or diet to what they had expected.
They were certainly not aware that they were taking part in an exchange programme that had actually begun in 1998 when Scotch hosted then, in turn, travelled to stay with students from Canada or of the months of organisation, planning and work carried out by parents, staff and students in order for the exchange to happen. No! They were focussed on only two things
would I recognise him/her (after their 18 hour plane trip) and, above all, what would he/she be like? In the course of the next three weeks, they were to find out
Through a combination of camps, excursions and school-based class and extracurricular activities, the students of five separate schools ( Kingswood-Oxford, Renbrook and Ethel Walker Schools in Hartford, Connecticut, USA and Scotch College and MLC in Melbourne, came to know and appreciate one another in a new or changed environment.
While the visitors discovered a different landscape and culture, as well as important differences (especially in language!), even the locals came to view differently such familiar landmarks as the MCG, the Rialto, Scotch-at-Cowes, kangaroos, wombats, wallabies and penguins.
Particularly memorable encounters with Australian culture included a Sunday lunch at Emu Bottom Homestead (where all experienced the vagaries of hand shearing, boomerang throwing and didgeridoo blowing); being taught how to play Australian Rules football the proper (ie. Collingwood) way by resident champion ex-player Mr. Barry Price, and a full day trip to Sovereign Hill on a typically warm Ballarat day.
The American students gave a most informative presentation of their own city, state and country to a special full Year 8 assembly, which meant that other students not directly involved in the exchange also benefited.
After two weeks of intense activity on and off both campuses, our visitors were treated to a week's vacation, Oz style, by their host families before regrouping at Tullamarine for sad farewells. There were promises to stay in touch until the Australian students visit the US, to enjoy the reciprocal hospitality of their American hosts in September.
The proposed itinerary includes trips to New York and Boston, while the academic focus will sharpen with Australian students taking an active part in American classroom project work. They will give their own presentations before a wide American student audience of their country's culture and background.
All those associated with the exchange so far can hardly wait
Mr Barrie Burton