“The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page”. Bearing in mind this inspirational quote, on 23 March 2013, thirty-four Settlers students accompanied by three educators and a parent set of for England, to participate in what would later be recognised as an amazing cultural exchange with our partner school, Helsby High.

Enthusiastic and wide awake, we all set out for Cape Town International airport with our 35kg of allowed luggage, bidding an adieu to our friends and family and eagerly anticipating this new adventure upon which we had begun to embark. For many of us, myself included, this would be our first international travel. With this daunting idea drawing upon us, we bravely ventured forward into the somewhat unknown with our friends and educators supporting this adventure and hereby leaving a sunny Cape Town at a friendly 22 degrees Celsius.

We boarded our flight for Dubai excitedly and passed our time by sleeping (with some snoring) and a collection of movies, series and games as offered by the Emirates Airlines service. As we landed in Dubai and met with our connecting flight, the reality that we were officially on our way to England finally set in, and this excitement thrilled us immensely. We boarded our next flight and seven hours later, we landed in a snowy and cold Manchester. This extreme change in weather came as a surprise to many of us, as we were not accustomed to experiencing temperatures below zero. I remember updating the weather app on my smart phone and gasping at the reality that the weather was, indeed, -2 degrees Celsius!

Helsby High Visit - Snowy SceneryDespite the bitter cold, we were all warmly welcomed by our new hosts, many of whom we had already met on their exchange to South Africa. We then set off in different directions to begin experiencing this new English culture and to attempt to adapt to this foreign weather.

Over our first weekend, many of our hosts engaged us in various fun activities, mainly involving the snow, such as sledging (which after a few attempts and a few embarrassing falls, many of us proudly mastered), building snowmen and snow fights. We were introduced to their style of living, the local cuisine and all in all, a different culture which throughout our stay, always proved to be educational and enlightening.

Monday, 25 March was, believe it or not, back to school! However, this school was approximately 14 809km away from The Settlers High, and register only started at about 09:00, which made us all very happy.

A friendly assembly welcomed us to Helsby High before we separated to attend classes with our hosts. The classes were quite unlike our own, as the lessons were an hour long each and the subject variety greatly differed from our own subjects. Many classes such as English Literature, Advanced Mathematics, French and Chemistry and Psychology were fascinating and our learners enjoyed engaging and interacting in this new learning environment. This all formed part of some of our most cherished experiences and broadened our horizons to a different style of teaching, from a different country. The tour group spent the next day at Helsby Hillside Primary, interacting with younger learners and participating in fun activities such as painting, attending classes for years 1 to 6, and of course, playing the famous European sport, football at recess. We later engaged in our much anticipated Netball match against Helsby High, and I am proud to say that Settlers played to the best of their ability and enjoyed the experience.

On Wednesday, we participated in various activities such as the attendance at examination presentations for student study projects, and art workshop and a session working in the community gardens. We were later invited to attend Helsby High’s annual Spring Concert, and they extended their invitation by allowing us to participate as well. Considering the immense magnitude of the “Settlers Spirit”, we graciously accepted their invitation and put our best foot forward to impress our new hosts with our talents. After two vocal performances, a solo rendition of David Guetta’s Titanium by Delwin Okkers and a group performance of local artist Jimmy Nevis’ Heartboxing by Lynne Vigeland, Michaela Philander, Delwin Okkers and myself, Zakiyyah Hoosain, I am pleased to announce that we did our school proud by exhibiting what Settlers has to offer and impressing our hosts.

We spent the next day touring the beautiful town of Chester by visiting the Roman Amphitheatre and learning about the rich heritage of this fascinating town. We also spent quite some time doing some shopping and leisurely walking through the streets of Chester. Friday was spent in the marvellous Liverpool, enjoying the World Museum and Slavery Museum as well as visiting the Catholic Cathedrals for a Good Friday service.

Sunday called for our new and exciting departure to London. Although our goodbyes to our hosts and their families left everyone a bit emotional and sad, we waved goodbye with the amazing memories of making new friends and sharing new experiences. We arrived in the lovely London after a five hour bus ride, and checked in at Generator Hostel, our temporary new home. The rest of the evening was spent at the local Nando’s where we all enjoyed a delightful meal and then rest to prepare for our next adventure.

Helsby High Visit 2013 - Oxford StreetMonday the 1st of April was spent sightseeing and shopping on the famous Oxford Street before tour attending a spectacular performance of Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. On this day, we also experienced what would become our daily mode of transport, being the super-fast London underground, which in itself provided a true meaning to the phrase “Living life in a metro”. The next day, we boarded an open-top Big Bus Tour and set about sightseeing more of London. We the embarked on a river cruise to visit the London eye, which at a height of 135m offered a splendid view of the magnificent London skyline.

Wednesday was spent on a trip to Stratford to experience the life and times of the great playwright, William Shakespeare, as well as touring Christ Church in Oxford, which excited many of us as we recognised the famous Hogwarts High from the Harry Potter series.

The next day, our tour group visited the must-see Madame Tussauds Wax Museum which housed many familiar wax replica faces of celebrities. This provided the most perfect photo opportunities for many of us, as we got to “meet the stars”… or a brilliant, lifeless wax replica of them. After our hours with the celebrities, we visited the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for some theatrical enrichment, before heading back to our hostel to pack and struggle to squeeze in those extra few kilograms of shopping into our already hard-to-close luggage cases.

Our final day in London was spent through a division of activities from touring the London Dungeons, visiting the extravagant Harrods shopping centre and Stamford Bridge.

Finally, our time for our final departure back home came. We made our way to Gatwick airport for our departure, tired but elated and buzzing with stories to tell about all our new experiences. After a long, sleepy flight, we were at home in fantastic Cape Town with the memory of an amazing experience of travelling over thousands of kilometres and experiencing the startling adventures of our tour to England.

By Zakiyyah Hoosain

Helsby High Visit 2013