Last Friday saw a cohort of Challoner’s German students depart for an incredibly busy and rewarding week as they took part in the annual Bensheim-Amersham exchange with the Liebfrauenschule.

Over the course of the weekend, Year 10 and 11 students were quickly immersed in German language and culture as some were taken on a range of excursions by their host families, including visits to a theme park and famous Schlösser (castles), whilst others were able to spend time in Bensheim. As Monday came around, they delved into an action-packed itinerary of day trips and evening activities including games of bowling and mini-golf. Monday itself kicked off with German and French lessons, each lasting 45 minutes. This was then followed by a tour of Bensheim, which featured a quiz about the famous landmarks around the town.

The next few days brought outings to the vibrant German cities of Heidelberg, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt. In Heidelberg, the day began with a tour of the famous castle, where the world's largest wine barrel is kept (it holds up to 220,000 litres of wine), with a trip to the all-year Christmas shop on the mile-long high street in the afternoon. The trip to Stuttgart involved visiting the Mercedes-Benz Museum and the Mercedes-Benz Arena, where VfB Stuttgart play. The Year 10 and 11 trip to Frankfurt, meanwhile, was completed with exchange partners, during which the group took a tour with a very engaging guide, the mood only slightly dampened by the fact that Arsenal had won 3-0 just the previous evening. Free time was spent in the central business district where we were able to have an ice cream and finish the day off by climbing the Main Tower, which is the 4th tallest tower in Germany.

Since this year marked the 25th anniversary of the exchange, the GCSE class was tasked with creating videos around the school and Bensheim, interviewing various members of staff, such as the librarian, languages teachers, and the deputy head. A demanding day of filming resulted in everyone, including the parents of the exchanges, coming to the school to watch the videos and celebrate the life of Frau Haas, who began the exchange.

The A Level class faced what was by no means an easy task as they made their way to daily work experience placements during their time in Bensheim. The students undertook placements in a winery, nature conservation centre and a cafe, with all agreeing that being in such a new environment proved to be an exciting and unique opportunity to develop their spoken German, despite a few being invited to do physical work on their first day, which resulted in some muddy stains.

Of course, it wasn't all work and no play for the Year 13s as every day included, along with a morning of work, either an excursion to Heidelberg for a stroll, a viewing of German Toy Story 4 in the local cinema, a train ride to Frankfurt and the famous German film museum or a memorable visit to the Odenwald UNESCO site, where we climbed a geological formation named the Felsenmeer (literally 'sea of rocks'). The centre of Bensheim was also a lively place to be due to the Fridays For Future climate strike which the group from the conservation centre were able to take part in.

Unfortunately, the time eventually came for everybody to say their goodbyes, but all students could agree that they learned a great deal about the German language, whilst also making great contacts and friends to keep in touch with.

Many thanks to Mr Cadman, Mrs Sealy, and Mrs Whittle for organising the trip, as well as the host families and the German teachers.