By: Ben Farrell
On February 16th, I had the amazing opportunity to travel overseas as part of Chaminade’s annual England Exchange program. For nine nights, I stayed with a British family, and I was able to learn firsthand what it is like to live in the U.K. This trip included lots of sightseeing as well as everyday experiences, such as grocery shopping, riding the train, and attending the local school. Our trip took place primarily in London and the surrounding areas. On March 31st, the British students will arrive in St. Louis to stay with us and to embark on their own international adventure.
For this experience, 12 Chaminade 8th graders were matched with 12 English students from St. Bede’s. To be considered for this program, Chaminade students were required to fill out an application describing why this exchange would be right for them. The middle school faculty reviewed the applications and carefully selected each student. Next, Dr. Wilson, Mr. Hale and the teachers from St. Bede’s worked together to match the American students with the British students, based on personality and interests. It was truly an honor to have been chosen to take part in this journey.
While in London, Chaminade students had the opportunity to visit famous landmarks such as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Beatles’ Abbey Road. We also traveled to nearby towns such as Canterbury, Brighton, and Hastings. One of the most amazing things we saw was Bodiam Castle, which was a perfect example of a medieval castle, complete with a moat. Another neat experience was getting to attend a day of school at St. Bede’s. Chaminade students followed the class schedules of their partners for the day, and learned the differences and similarities between our two schools. Likewise, the British students will soon have the chance to spend a day at Chaminade. While in St. Louis, they will visit places such as the Arch, the Science Center, the City Museum, and even a Cardinal game. To end their trip, the British students will spend their final weekend in Chicago before heading home.
Living with another family was a unique experience, but one that I will probably remember for a lifetime. I learned that British families use public transportation, such as trains and subways, much more often than we do here in St. Louis. They had different television channels and shows than we do in the United States. I was able to try some delicious foods, such as authentic fish and chips from a nearby pub, and a traditional English Sunday roast prepared by my host family. Also, hot tea was served daily in the house where I was staying.
I believe that the most valuable part of this exchange program was creating lasting friendships with so many people that I met while in England. I plan on trying to keep in contact with my host family as well as several of the students who I have become close to during this experience. In addition, learning about another culture by immersing myself completely in it was a rare opportunity for me. I am so grateful to have taken part in Chaminade’s English Exchange program. By being open-minded and trying something new, I was able to have an incredible life experience that I will never forget.