Students at Round Square schools have the opportunity to go on exchange to fellow Round Square schools. There are now more than 100 Round Square schools around the world with 60,000 students between them. So far, ICS students have visited Kenya, England, Peru, Denmark, Australia and Japan on school exchanges and more are planned.
"Being away [on a school exchange] meant I had to be responsible for myself and all my actions; and while that was a scary concept at first, it became better with time and I felt that it really boosted my independence and confidence. Because of this new-found independence, I am now able to go places or try new things on my own and feel comfortable."
Those are the words of Grade 9 student Joanne after returning from an overseas school exchange trip to United World College in Singapore.
Joanne is one of four ICS students who went on exchange trips to fellow Round Square schools overseas during winter 2014-15. Robert and Antoni, both in Grade 9, spent six weeks at Scotch College in Perth, Australia. And Grade 10 student Alexandra went to Methodist Ladies' College in Sydney, Australia. All of them stayed with an exchange student and ICS then welcomed the exchange students when they came here.
The exchange programme gives students opportunities to go to new places and experience different cultures. It also gives them the opportunity to discover their indepence and learn to be more responsible for themselves.
Grade 10 student
Alexandra (pictured here in Australia) says: "There were times when I missed my friends but I was so blown away by all of the incredible experiences that I barely noticed. I think that, coming out of this exchange, I feel much more confident and independent. Now I know that I am capable dealing with unfamiliar situations without the support of my friends and family."
Robert says: "My host family was very accepting and fun to be around. I had a couple of short bouts of homesickness but the family was very supportive. I had to be ready to be around people I didn't know previously, especially the first week of school and that required a steely self confidence. The school was different to ICS in many ways, the best being the colossal amount of sporting options - and the biggest downside, probably, was having to wear a uniform." (See picture.)
Antoni says: "The whole experience of coming to a place I've never been before was very interesting. This exchange has definitely showed me a lot about the world and showed me many new experiences."
Martin B went on exchange to Tamagawa College in Tokyo for a little over two months. As well as spending time at the College, he also got to see Tokyo and Hiroshima and to visit Guam.
As he explains here, at first he found it hard being in such an unfamiliar environment. But once he had settled in, it got better and now he feels that "the entire exchange was an absolutely fantastic experience that I definitely recommend to anyone." Here is his story.
After arriving in Japan, "it took me a week or two to get used to the routine in my new family and school," he says. "Everything was new and I didn’t know what to think of it all. I also missed my friends and family in Switzerland. At school, the students talked Japanese and were either shy to speak english or they didn’t want to make an effort. At that point, I didn’t feel too well in the new environment and would rather have been back in Switzerland in a situation I’m used to.
"However, after giving it two weeks, things really changed. I got used to life at my new home and people started talking to me at school and I managed to make plenty of friends. After those first two weeks I really enjoyed the exchange until the moment I came back home.
"Looking back at the first two weeks I think I became more independent as I didn’t always have someone to talk to, which in my opinion is one of the many good things I gained from the exchange. I was lucky I got a great family and got on very well with my host student. That made the entire exchange so much better.
"Overall, I think the entire exchange was an absolutely fantastic experience that I definitely recommend to anyone. It’s a great experience to be in a different country, ‘living’ with different people, hanging out with new friends and exploring the city you chose to go to.
"Some advice to people going on exchange: once you arrive not everything will be as you expected and you might not really like the exchange. Just give it some time and after a couple of weeks the exchange becomes amazing and you’ll likely enjoy it until the moment you leave.