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In March this year, Mr Paul Taylor, the Deputy Head (Academic) at Trent College talked to the Sixth Form about an opportunity to undertake a cultural exchange with a school in South Africa for three weeks during the summer holidays.
The School for the exchange was Crawford College, La Lucia, one of a group of independent schools in South Africa. La Lucia is in Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – a long way from Nottingham.
I don’t know quite what I expected of South Africa. From what I had heard, it was a sunny place on the other side of the world filled with exotic animals and colourful culture. My experience in South Africa met and vastly exceeded my expectations.
Four students set off from Trent College, me (Will Garner), Rudi Reed, Pip Ryder and Romani Kakad, together with our teacher, Mr Price. We flew from Birmingham via Dubai - setting off at 9:30 pm on Sunday and arriving in Durban about 20 hours later on Sunday night. We were each staying with a different host family in South Africa and were met by them at the Airport. Although it is about 6,000 miles from Nottingham to Durban, it is almost straight down, so the time difference was only one hour – which meant no jet lag and, regretfully, an early rise for the school run on Monday morning.
Despite researching the school online, we were definitely unprepared for the building; unlike the traditional red brick school building at Trent, Crawford College is housed in a modern building reminiscent of a 5-star hotel, with its giant columns and grand arches. The outside impression is deceptive however – inside it was definitely a school with all the classrooms and equipment one would want.
Not only does Crawford La Lucia look good, but the welcome we received from staff and students alike was fantastic and we were overwhelmed by their universal kindness and hospitality. We were given a free choice about what we did during the school day. My decision was to try out some of the classes and it proved a great way to make new friends and enjoy new experiences. I tried out some interesting new languages, such as Zulu and Afrikaans, as well as some more conventional subjects like maths and physics (and I am still waiting for the result of my physics test!). By coincidence, the physics teacher, Mr Collard, turned out to be from West Bridgford – just a twenty minute drive down the road from my home!
Personally, I had a lot of fun attending drama classes, experiencing a different kind of literature – studying Hello and Goodbye by Athol Fugard, a book which I would have otherwise never come across.
Each of the students from Trent stayed with a different student from Crawford. All of the host families were very warm and generous in making sure that we all had lots of exciting opportunities to experience South African culture and get to see the local area.
We were in South Africa for two weekends and I was lucky enough to be taken by my host family to Cape Town and to Phinda (a beautiful private game reserve). Cape Town is a beautiful city and I enjoyed a trip around Table Mountain (because the cable car was unfortunately closed) and an entertaining visit to a vineyard at Constantia – South Africa makes some excellent wine.
One of the main experiences I hoped to have in South Africa was to see in the wild the vast array of animals we can only experience in captivity and my experience at Phinda far exceeded my expectations. I wasn’t quite sure how close I would get to the animals on safari or what I would see, but I was really lucky to see the “big five”: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos. I also saw lots of inyala and other antelope, giraffes, zebras and even a fleeing porcupine! I was lucky enough to see a cheetah with five cubs - overwhelmingly cute!
We went on lots of other local trips too including to a crocodile farm, where we were taken into the pen to meet an alligator up close. Whilst I wasn’t expecting people to be herding lions or riding their elephants to school, I definitely wasn’t prepared for monkeys to try and steal my lunch from my hands. There were monkeys everywhere – and they were much more persistent than seagulls at the beach in England.
This wouldn’t be a proper British-written article if I didn’t at least mention the weather. Over the three weeks we were in Durban we frequently received sympathy about the “cold Durban winter” and how “unlucky” it was that we came during the fresh weather. The winter in Durban was never colder than our English summer and we all really appreciated the beautiful warm winter weather.
I am looking forward to seeing all of the exchange students at Trent at the end of September – Crawford have given us a lot to live up to and I hope that we can give our visitors the same fantastic welcome and experience that we enjoyed in South Africa. I feel I should end on a tip for our visitors to help them prepare for their forthcoming trip – bring a lot of coats.