02:20 on Sunday 17th March and stood outside St Gregory’s are six weary looking students and two members of staff. Some of us had managed to get a few hours kip before our taxi to Heathrow, others were risking the power of adrenaline and excitement. Never before had the M4 and M25 seemed so devoid of traffic, allowing us to arrive nearly 4 hours early for our flight from London – it was good practice for the week of standing around, ready and waiting, that we were due to encounter in Germany.
Sunday was a day of getting to know host families and familiarising ourselves with the area of Hannover before the week’s activities began at 8.15 on Monday morning. After some introductions, students were thrown straight in at the deep end, standing up to give presentations to one another on a variety of subjects linked to the project aims of healthy living and fairplay. The morning continued with an opportunity to learn the German game – ‘parcour’, which translates as an obstacle course, much to the relief of some of us who wondered how we were about to instantly become experts at ‘Parkour’ (free running!). For the football fans amongst us, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the afternoon as we were given a in depth tour of Hannover 96’s HDI Arena. We were lucky to be able to enjoy the delights of the dugout, explore the extensive executive areas, sit in the press conference seats and stand in the ultra terraces which were strewn with antagonistic stickers.
For the car lovers, Tuesday was heaven! We travelled by efficient European rail early in the morning to nearby Wolfsburg in order to visit the biggest car factory in the world – Volkswagen. It was truly incredible to be put on board a ‘mini bendy bus’ and transported through the plant, seeing every stage of the construction of Volkswagens, Skodas and more. The sheer size of the plant was hard to grasp, with incredible figures bandied at us such as: The plant is the size of Gibraltar, with over twice the workforce as inhabitants of the Island; 1,000 trucks deliver to the factory each day; it takes a mere 10 seconds to marry a car body with it’s control unit; the site has two of it’s own power stations a police station, doctors and hundreds of shops! As impressive as all this was though, to Mario nothing could compete with sitting in a sports car, so he and others were delighted to sit in Porsche’s and ogle the engine of the Bugatti Veyron at the end of a wonderful day.
Two more of the days in the host school sandwiched a day exploring the city of Hamburg. Our students were able to take part in a mixture of team activities around the glorious Lake Maschsee, sit in on German lessons, sample a ‘MOT’ lesson (sessions based on courage) and compete in the final tournament of the project. This tournament would include every game that our schools had created in the spirit of fairplay spread across an afternoon. Our students competed admirably coming in a credible 2nd, 2nd, 3rd and 4th – with the Norwegian’s running away with the majority of the prizes. The final gala on Friday evening gave us all a chance to thank our host school and family, as well as demonstrate a little light hearted British humour with our performance of ‘Time to say goodbye’ and ‘So long, farewell’ complete with EU and Union Jack flags.
Never before on a school trip have I seen friendships blossom so quickly, both between our own students and with those from other countries. All six were an absolute pleasure to spend the week with, they were a credit to us in every way.
Mr M Robinson