Who We Are ...
- Kategorie: International
- Erstellt: Samstag, 08. September 2012 12:39
- Zuletzt aktualisiert: Sonntag, 10. März 2013 20:06
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KIS students enjoying a snack in the school cafeteria
Information for prospective exchange students
Gymnasium Andreanum was founded in 1225. Andreanum prides itself on having served the citizens of Hildesheim for nearly 800 years as a school dedicated to academic excellence. The school is proud of its alumni, ranging from the Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767) to Nobel laureate Sir Hans Adolph Krebs, discoverer of the citric acid cycle. Today Andreanum ranges in the top five group amongst the upper secondary schools in the state of Lower Saxony. Each year its students receive top honours results and are awarded scholarships from Germany’s prestigious academic body „Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes“.
The school traditionally focuses on three aspects which define its profile:
- A broad spectrum of languages: apart from English, French and Italian the school lays particular emphasis on teaching the classics. Each and every student becomes proficient in Latin, and Classical Greek is offered as an elective. Spanish is taught as an extracurricular activity.
- Dedication to the liberal Arts: Music and Art play an important role in the school’s offering. Two symphony orchestras, a brass ensemble, drama and musical groups are firm institutions.
- A focus on Social and Religious Experience: each year about 100 students from form 10 work in institutions serving the special needs of socially, physically and mentally challenged persons. Regular school devotions and services marking turning points of the academic and church year enrich life at the school.
During the past decade, however, the focus has shifted somewhat towards a more science-oriented profile, as well as to providing long-term guidance to students regarding their future professional and academic careers. Our achievements in these areas have been recognized by several academic bodies. Our students have been highly sucessful in recent science fairs (experimentation projects for the Juniors, research projects for the Senior years) on the state and national level.
International school partnerships
Andreanum is partnered with a range of schools in Europe and abroad. These include schools in Great Britain, France, Italy, India and the USA. We are currently looking into starting a partnership with a school in the PRC. Regular visits to and from our international partners are highly valued events in the school calendar. Field trips to India and concert tours of our musical group and the senior symphony orchestra to France are among the most important of these events.
KIS students visiting ANDREANUM for a music exchange
Each year a number of our form 10 students go abroad for one or two terms in order to broaden their cultural awareness, to improve existing language skills or to learn an entirely new language. Andreanum actively encourages such activities.
In return, Andreanum welcomes exchange students coming through international non-profit organizations such as Rotary Club, American Field Service or Youth for Understanding, as well as our own exchange programme with Kodaikanal International School (KIS) in India. As of 2012 we also host students from Perkiomen School, PA, USA.
Basic concept for exchange programmes
In line with the above-mentioned non-profit organizations we run our exchange programme as an Immersion Programme. We welcome students with little or absolutely no knowledge of German to immerse themselves in the German language and culture. Students are accommodated in the homes of their respective exchange partners and participate fully in all aspects of family life there. At school they take part in the complete academic curriculum of their respective form (usually form 10) with the exception of the foreign language programme. It goes without saying that all regular lessons are taught in German. There are, however, always Andreanum students at hand who are more than willing to help out and to guide exchange students through the lessons and to help out with doing homework assignments in the initial stages of the exchange. The regular academic programme is augmented by lessons in DaF (German as a Foreign Language), which are designed to give students a quick grasp of the basics of German, allowing them to communicate in school and family contexts and to follow the basic outline of the German academic curriculum. Past experience has shown that, provided the exchange students make good use of the extra coaching in German, they achieve a remarkable degree of fluency in German by the time they have finished their programme.
It follows from these basic principles that the aim of the exchange programme is NOT for the students to participate fully in and benefit from the German academic curriculum, which would be a complete misunderstanding and is hardly achievable with only basic German language skills. The focus is to give the exchange students a “gap term”, allowing them to learn a new foreign language and to immerse themselves in German culture, lifestyle and outlook.
The place of learning in the Immersion Programme is therefore twofold: the school AND the host family play vital roles. In terms of actual time frames, the family is probably of even more importance than the school.
Integration into the German school system
In the context of the German tripartite school system, Andreanum belongs to the upper academic level, meaning that students graduate after 12 years with a university entrance certificate on the same academic level as the IB.
In Middle School students are all part of a closed “class” or “form”. The entire class participates in the academic programme set for their respective level, with the exception of foreign languages, which are partly elective. Students do not get to chose individually which subjects they take. Each class has a form teacher who serves as advisor and counsellor. Exchange students in the 15/16 age bracket will be assigned to one of several form 10s.
In Upper School students chose an academic profile and are free to chose courses/classes. Exchange students aged 17 or older will be advised by the coordinator about putting together a meaningful course programme.
The focus of teaching in Germany is less about learning content and repeating facts than about developing competence in problem-solving. Official guidelines and curricula set by the education authorities do not contain many references to content but describe accurately which competences in various fields have to be achieved. Classroom discussions in the context of explorative learning therefore play a key role, with the teacher abandoning the role of a lecturer and focusing on guiding and mentoring his or her students. Participation in interactive classroom work is the main source for grading students’ work.
School starts at 7:50 each morning. Depending on where they live, students will leave home between 7 and 7.30 and travel by public transport or by bicycle to school. Periods are 60 minutes, with short breaks in between, and a three-quarter hour lunch break. Depending on the timetable school finishes at around 3:15 p.m. The school offers a range of extracurricular activities which exchange students can choose from, ranging from the performing arts to electronics.
The rest of the day is spent at home doing assignments, taking part in sports or other activities, meeting friends and taking meals and sharing family life. The weekends are spent with the families, who will take the student around an show him or her some of the sights within reasonable driving distance of Hildesheim. In October there is a two-week recess, and school closes around the 20th of December for the annual Christmas holidays.
Andreanum, being a day school, therefore does not offer a 24/7 programme for students to participate in. With the help of their host families, exchange students will have to learn how to manage their spare time, which, compared to their home schools, might seem quite considerable at first. German students would, of course, disagree with this assessment, because they are used to taking care of themselves and finding things to do.
Requirements for international exchange students and their parents
It follows from all of this that exchange students are faced with considerable challenges. The most important requirement to master these is NOT academic brilliance, although being academically quick on the uptake has never hurt. Prospective exchange students should first and foremost be willing and able to let go of their home country, their regular habits, their preconceptions about what life has to offer them and be willing to make new experiences, to involve themselves actively in their new surroundings, to be curious about the way their host family and friends at school live, work and play, and to share and participate in the culture that they are now confronted with. An outgoing personality and good communication skills are essential.
This means that prospective candidates must be willing and able to actively find new friends, to communicate (with hands and feet at first), to join their classmates in their activities and to persevere even in the face of setbacks. Holing up oneself in one’s room at home and playing computer games or non-stop skyping with loved ones back home has never helped. Also hanging out with other exchange students during school time or only inviting other exchange students home for sleepovers etc. is not very helpful.
At the same time parents will need to consider their position and expectations. If parents feel that despite their child being tens of thousands of miles away they still have to communicate on a frequent, perhaps daily or hourly basis and, above all, solve their child’s problems instead of giving their child a chance to grow more independent, sending their child on an exchange might need to be reconsidered. We ask parents to let go of their children, entrust them to the care of their German host family and the Andreanum’s Exchange Coordinator and only be in touch on a very irregular basis, perhaps fortnightly. Past experience has shown that, particularly at the beginning of the exchange visit, frequent calls by the parents have been extremely counterproductive as they intrude upon the privacy of the host family, remove the child from its hosts and cause intense homesickness to develop. It is our school policy to advise parents that apart from a call to make sure their child has safely arrived they restrict communication to a weekly rhythm at most.
While we see and respect that exchange students might want to keep up with the academic programme of their home school (for which we make ample time available), parents will have to understand that both keeping up with the academic programme at home and immersing themselves in learning a new language and culture are beyond the scope of a 15-year old adolescent and therefore mutually exclusive. If academic achievement remains the dominant hidden agenda behind the exchange programme we strongly advise parents to reconsider their position, because the experience will result in disappointment for all the parties involved.
Initial difficulties / culture shock
Exchange students might find some of the following disturbing at first:
- not understanding a word spoken at home or during lessons at school: but you will very soon - give yourself a chance.
- Germans, particularly in the north, are sometimes perceived as not being as outwardly friendly and warm as, say, Americans or Australians: but they are, really - it just takes them a bit more time to show it.
- Life here is free of too many rules, regulations and safety precautions - at school and at home. There are no security guards at the school gates, few locked doors at home: we are a trusting people, and we expect you to benefit from our trust. We also want you to plan ahead for yourself instead of others making all the decisions for you.