Eight Wales High School students were part of an exchange programme with the school’s partner school Mirsa High School in Sibiu, Romania.
This was one in a number of exchanges that have taken place between the schools over the past 22 years.
“As a new teacher to the school, I was honoured to be given the opportunity to lead this trip and be a part of such an amazing experience working with wonderful, supportive staff and eager learners,” said Wales staff member Rachel Walker.
“It was a pleasure to be able to get to know and support the students outside the classroom, and I was so impressed with the way they willingly embraced their new community by living with their chosen Romanian family.”
“The way our host families welcomed us with generosity and kindness over the five days was the most amazing experience and reflected how important this partnership is on both sides.”
Georgia Mason, one of the students on the trip, described the whole experience of visiting Romania as ‘eye-opening’.
“I was staying with a girl called Bianca who I had only ever spoken with over Facebook before,” she said.
“I was quite anxious to meet her and her family.”
“When I met Bianca she greeted me with cheek kisses (similar to the French) and we travelled back to the school on a mini-bus playing (surprisingly good) music.”
“Upon arriving at Mirsa High School, our group parted ways and I walked through the neighbourhood with Biana to a block of flats.”
“The small school catered to one zone, meaning we were all staying within five minutes walk of each other.”
“We entered the flats, hurried up the five sets of stairs, and opened the door to her home.”
“I was invited in by her mother, a smiling, happy, caring woman, who lovingly told me ‘for this week, I have two daughters!”
“And she did, my week was enjoyable and amazing thanks to them, for I had no reason to be nervous at all.”
Each day meant a new day trip – ice hotels and ancient towns and, of course, Dracula’s Castle.”
“When night came I experienced what Bianca would normally do, staying out late, sitting on parks, and visiting friends, seldom arriving home before 11pm.”
“For me it was an eye-opening visit into an amazing country of culture and interest which will stay with me forever.”
“An experience which has sparked an interest in me of European culture and travelling and I hope to visit again in the years to come.”
“I was delighted to be asked to participate in this year’s Romanian exchange, it felt such an honour to be included in a venture that really is so special and unique to Wales High School,” added Chris Brailsford, another staff member on the trip.
“I had already been briefed beforehand on the kind of hospitality to expect.”
“However, I wasn’t quite prepared for the obvious, real affection the staff and students clearly have for us.”
“The relationships that have been built up over many years are truly special.
“After a wearying but relatively straightforward flight we were met by our host families.”
“The teachers were whisked off to Sibiu and the students, along with Mrs Chapman, were taken to Mirsa village.”
“It was quite strange for me to be detached from the students like this as on most trips in the past we have been together all the time.”
“However, my concerns were soon allayed and the teachers were entertained in a typical Romanian restaurant in a cellar. The food and the company were exceptional.”
“Over the next we days, we were treated to some amazing experiences.”
“A few took cable cars into the snowy Carpathian Mountains and looked round an Ice Hotel with carvings made to represent signs of the Zodiac.”
“Snowball fights broke the ice both metaphorically and literally. The headmistress of our exchange school was a mean shot I can confirm.”
“We also had a tour of the beautiful city of Sibiu which was really informative and good fun too.”
“In terms of trips out, Bran castle was most people’s highlight. This is a very spooky, gothic castle where Bram Stoker based the novel Dracula.”
“There were also many fascinating historical facts we discovered about the castle, including the links between the Romanian and British Royal Families.”
“The castle was also used in the defence against the Ottoman Empire.”
“The headmaster, Mr Di’Iasio, bought some Dracula mugs which were well received by his colleagues upon our return.”
“It was fantastic to spend some real fun, quality time with eight amazing students and their hosts.”
“The colleagues we met are now our valued friends and on a personal note, I cannot wait to go back to Romania to see more of this amazing country and sample more of its history and culture.”
“What I will remember most of all, however, is the warmth and affection that was bestowed upon us.”