Confidence is key

Student Exchange to India

Claire gives an insight into her experience during her six-weeks stay at ‚Scindia Kanya Vindalaya’ in Gwalior, rated India‘s best all-girls boarding school 2017.

Imagine a quiet, snow-covered Birklehof in the early morning hours in March. In just a few hours, the students will awaken and with them excitement and anticipation for the coming day. Yet the scenery is still white, it is cold outside and we are surrounded by many more rolling white hills in the Black Forest. When I picture this, a certain feeling of calmness can be described.

Now imagine trading this for six weeks at one of India’s best all-girls boarding schools. This past spring, thanks to Round Square’s exchange program, I had the chance to do just this.

The school is located in a city called Gwalior, about 300 kilometers south of New Delhi, India’s capital. With a student body of around 500 students in grades 6 through 12, it was rated India’s best all-girls boarding school in 2017. Life at ‚Scindia Kanya Vindalaya’ could not be more different from life at Birklehof. While we had recently experienced temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius in Germany, in India, I experienced temperatures as high as +40 degrees Celsius on a daily basis without air conditioning. The food, which I loved, was curry three times a day. We had to wear a uniform at all times, even on Sundays. I slept under a mosquito net and was unable to drink the regular tap water. Their daily schedule also differed greatly. Let me give you an insight into a typical day in the life at SKV. Everyone had to wake up no later than 5:30 a. m. for sports, there known as ‚morning games‘. Imagine 500 girls in lines taking attendance at 5:45 a. m. to be followed by all of them working out and see the resemblance to a military camp. Everybody had to choose a sport in which she would train twice a day. During my stay, I was a runner on the athletics team and amongst my teammates I found some of my closest friends from my time in India. Games lasted until 6:30 a. m. and at 7 a. m. we’d go to breakfast. Once each student had been checked to make sure their hair was in a proper braid, their shoes polished and their fingernails trimmed, we’d go to class. The teaching methods were very different. Every day there was an assembly with the entire school. After lunch, there was time for activities such as musical instruments, art and volunteering in the production of sanitary napkins for nearby villagers. From 4:45 to 6 p. m. we had our second sports training, this time in the grueling afternoon heat. This was followed by a snack and a one and a half hour study time in the classrooms. After dinner, all students had to attend a house assembly and a second study time, which ended at 10 p. m. making for a very long day.

I would not have the space or the words to list all the differences between our schools. Instead I’d like to explain why this exchange was such an incredible experience, one that will have a life-long impact. To begin with, despite my fears and concerns in going there, I was at all times aware that the duration of my stay was for only six weeks. I knew that I had come to have an adventure and an exciting experience which gave me the strength to say yes to every opportunity that came my way. It was because of this that I had the chance to try many new things and made friends from day one.

During my exchange, I truly learnt the meaning behind the phrase ‚confidence is key’. Regardless of the circumstances it was inevitable that I would have to make a decision and often I was unsure of what to do. However, if I acted confidently, people would not question that I had acted consciously. On top of this, I became aware that kindness is a universal language, one for which our past and culture do not matter and is understood by all. When people greeted me with a simple smile, it made me feel welcome and belonging. The least I could do was to return this favour.

Claire, grade 10