Reach British School in Abu Dhabi welcomes students from The British School of Almería in Spain as part of a global student exchange programme, with local families hosting the students to give them first-hand experiences of UAE culture and traditions.
Reach British School is the first school in the Middle East to take part in the International Schools Partnership (ISP) Buddy Exchange Programme (BEP).
The programme enables reciprocal exchanges between ISP schools for a period of one month for students aged between 14 – 17 years of age. It is an experience that promises to offer students amazing and diverse learning opportunities within a safe and secure environment.
Two students aged 14 and 15 from The British School of Almería in Spain spent three weeks at Reach British School, where they spent time making new friends, learning English (and some Arabic), and experiencing the unique UAE culture. One of them stayed with an Emirati family while the other one was hosted by a Portuguese expat family in Abu Dhabi, who were proud to welcome the students into their homes and introduce them to the local culture.
All students taking part in the programme go through a rigorous application process, where they must demonstrate good behaviour and attendance, be nominated by a number of their teachers, and are required to write an essay about their aspirations, which covers their cultural experiences, participation in various school clubs and initiatives, and a rationale about why they think they should be selected for the programme. Each application is screened by the Buddy Exchange Programme team and the participating school’s leadership team before final selection.
“At first, I felt a bit daunted, as it was the first time I had been away from home. But it wasn’t very long before I started to feel more comfortable, as everyone was so welcoming, and I made new friends very quickly. I was lucky to be able to experience a completely different culture, especially during the Holy Month of Ramadan which I had no idea about before, in this way. I’m very grateful to my host family, ISP and my parents for giving me this opportunity,” said Alejandra.
“For me, this experience has been very rewarding; I have expanded my knowledge, I was able to get a real insight into the local culture and traditions as I stayed with an Emirati family, and I also improved my English. My host family also took me on a trip to Dubai with them, which was amazing because it was just so different to anything I’d experienced in Spain. I want to thank the school and my host family for treating me like a daughter, and of course to my parents for allowing me to go,” said Irene.
The BEP was implemented in 2018 and delivers unique international and cultural learning experiences; enabling students to develop their language skills, share good practices and cultivate long-term friendships across the world.
“The Buddy Exchange Programme encapsulates the notion of all our schools being truly international, working in partnerships within and across regions, cultures and languages,” commented Bruno Ramos, Group Head of International Opportunities, ISP.
“So far, we have facilitated 50 exchanges from 20 of our schools, and the feedback has been extremely positive. The most memorable parts for students have been discovering new schools, meeting new friends from across the world, and experiencing different cities and cultures. They have enjoyed learning new subjects, developing their language skills and building their confidence and independence. We are also very lucky to have a remarkable group of host families that have created long-term links with each other too,” he concluded.
ISP is a focused, growing and financially secure group of 40 schools located within nine countries in Europe, The Americas, The Middle East and Southeast Asia. There are six ISP schools in the Middle East, which includes Aspen Heights British School in Abu Dhabi, and Nibras International School and The Aquila School in Dubai.