Student Exchange 2019: Reflecting upon Week One | Aga Khan Academies

Student Exchange 2019: Reflecting upon Week One

15 September 2019

Students have already completed the first week of the Exchange Programme at the Aga Khan Academies in Mombasa and Hyderabad. Elizabeth MacFarlane, International Exchange Manager, shares her thoughts on the first week. 

As we reach the middle of the second week of the exchange, life, as one exchange student said to me today in Hyderabad, is starting to feel “normal”. This speaks to how comfortable students are beginning to feel in their new home and to the welcome and support they received last week. Exchange students have two roles: they are simultaneously regular students, and explorers of a new country and new culture, seeking to broaden and deepen their understanding of the world and themselves. 

To do this, students will learn both from “normal life” on campus, and from exploring life beyond the campus “bubble”. This Sunday, students at both schools began to see the country beyond the school gates. In Hyderabad, the Mombasa exchange students and ten “host” students from the Hyderabad Academy, began with a walking tour of the Old City, meeting at the 16thCentury mosque and symbol of the city, Charminar, then exploring the lanes around it, culminating with a visit to the decadent Chowmalla Palace. The timing was fortuitous as it let students see the many different communities that form the city. Students saw both Shia mourning houses during Ashura and kite makers preparing for the upcoming Hindu festival of Dussehra. Driving through the city, they passed trucks with statues of the elephant god, Ganesh, followed by worshippers, drummers and dancers, since it is now the time of Ganesh Chaturthi, a ten day Hindu festival. They drank Irani chai and had a full Indian lunch at an old Charminar institution: Hotel Shadab. 

In Mombasa, a city with a long history deeply linked to its geography, students had a relaxing excursion as part of the residential programme, to the beach for water sports. Mombasa is located on an island by the edge of the Indian Ocean, and draws tourists from across the world to its nearby tropical beaches and coral reefs. This location has also made it a centre for traders for over a thousand years, creating a city and population with diverse influences. Students have already started to explore these different sides of Mombasa and Coastal Kenya, and will continue to do so through a combination of activities including leisure trips, exploration of maritime conservation areas and national parks, visiting markets, villages, historic forts and ruins, and getting to know the local communities. 

While students’ trips off-campus will heighten their awareness of being in another culture, most of their learnings will come in “normal settings”; listening to roommates from other countries describe their homes and families, comparing tastes in music and movies, trying new food in the dining hall, and learning phrases of Hindi, Telugu, or Kiswahili from classmates. 

Over the next ten weeks, students will take over this space, as pairs from each school will write a weekly blog post about different aspects of their experience of the exchange. I’m excited to turn this over to the participants and hope our readers enjoy learning about the exchange: as parents, fellow classmates, or potentially future participants!  

Stay Informed

Stay tuned over the coming weeks to see how the students are getting on with out weekly student blog posts and galleries – and be sure to check our social media pages on Facebook and Instagram!