When young people from such different cultures come together, a lot of negotiation is needed to find the compromises required for mutual understanding and alleviation of culture shock. I am convinced that there is no other way to learn intercultural communication than be thrown in at the deep end, and with careful guiding and debriefing gradually become aware of and learn to appreciate other ways of being and doing things.
As always, it was the genuinely collaborative activities that were the most fruitful. Anyone organising student exchanges should remember to minimize touristy 'showing and telling' things, and rather make students mix and solve problems together as much as possible. It was heart-warming to see our student help their Indian friends who tried ice-skating for the first time.
Introducing some of the sights in town was more fun when done in the form of a treasure hunt competition, where our students were just as ignorant members of the mixed teams, and the tasks needed a lot of collaboration.
The joint assembly brought our whole school together to enjoy a colourful and diverse show of dances and music from both countries. It ended with the song 'We are the world', sung by our school choir together with one Indian singer. You may think the whole idea rather twee, but for me, at that moment, joining in the chorus made the lyrics ring truer than ever. Enjoy!
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