By Lynne Neilson
International travel is not a new concept at Durban Girls’ College (DGC), situated in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
Former pupil, Ann Scott, who matriculated as Ann Clarke in 1953, fondly remembers a school trip on the good ship Stirling Castle1 to England, Holland and Belgium in 1951 (with 100 boy scouts on board too, headed for the World Scout Jamboree in Austria, much to the consternation of then DGC headmistress, Elizabeth Middleton). A letter from the Durban mayor, Percy Osborne, was written to the Lord Mayor of London, introducing the headmistress and her party of girl students. In 1953, again with Middleton, a party of staff and 20 girls travelled to Europe, sailing via the Suez Canal, and to London to watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1993, a group of Grade 11 DGC girls spent as long as two months in schools in Canada and Australia as part of a fledgling exchange programme. This has now developed into one of the fastest-growing opportunities on offer at DGC. The school currently has exchange relationships with Argentina, Canada, the United States, Scotland, England, Australia, Germany and Namibia, as well as shorter local exchange offerings in Cape Town, White River, Hoedspruit and Johannesburg.
The first element of this unique offering is the Reciprocal Exchange Programme, where Grade 10s spend four to six weeks in a foreign country, attending school and living in the culture of their host family.
Christine McGladdery is the exchange coordinator at DGC, and is currently doing her PhD on the impact of educational travel on developing global awareness in high school children.
“Girls are chosen in Grade 9, based on a motivation they have written, as well as their academic abilities and, more importantly, their emotional maturity, their ability to cope abroad and their curiosity about where they want to go,” says McGladdery. “By hosting girls from the exchange countries, we are able to broaden the global awareness and knowledge of our girls not currently in the programme.”
DGC has also linked with the US-based Experiment in International Living Programme2 for the July holiday experience. Girls are able to take part in a global initiative that gives high school students from around the world the opportunity to connect with the richness and complexities of another country.
Making the most of it
Our Language Immersion Programme presents another travel opportunity for DGC girls to visit a destination, with the purpose of learning the local language while engaging with the art, culture and cuisine of that country. Girls participate in programmes run through the Experiment as well as the FSA Youth Exchange (FSA = Freundeskreisfür Südafrika/Friends of South Africa).3 A pupil spent four weeks of the past school holidays in Germany on this programme.
Providing a taste of university life, DGC facilitates visits to top universities in Europe and the US, through a programme named College Tours. Another initiative, Oxbridge Academic Programmes,4 gives girls the opportunity to study a ‘major’ and ‘minor’ subject, taught by professors, giving girls a real taste of tertiary education and their chosen fields of interest.
Our current school-generated special interest tours are tailored to specific areas of the curriculum. This year the girls travelled to China, to learn more about this nation’s rise as a major economic power. Since their return, they have been able to link their learning to business studies and consumer studies. An ecology-based tour to Ecuador is being planned for 2017. There, senior DGC life science students will experience the fauna and flora of the Galápagos Islands in the context of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.
When DGC Old Girl and journalist Glynis Horning (1970) was guest speaker at the school’s Founders’ Day some years ago, she spoke of clambering down from the Galleon (the school emblem) into the rowboat of life. After discussing the need to cultivate self-discipline, passion, dedication, tackle hardships and take responsibility for oneself, her excellent address ended with these words: “Then, when each of you steps from the security of the Galleon, it won’t be into a rowing boat but into a powerful little motorboat with someone unstoppable at the wheel. Relish the ride!”
Enjoy the ride!
DGC was founded in 1877 and, while steeped in history and tradition, the school strives to be relevant and successful in the modern world. By offering our girls a range of international and educational travel experiences, they are encouraged to broaden their way of thinking, to challenge their perceptions about other cultures and to become global citizens.
With the plethora of opportunities available to our pupils today, the Galleon is speeding “across uncharted seas” – the prophetic words of June Drummond, author of the school song,which was composed in 1940.
1. See,forexample:http://www.shippingwondersoftheworld.com/stirling- castle.html.