My Experience In London
Exchange program with St. Paul’s Girls’ School
Sightseeing in London
I was filled with joy when I was selected to take part in the exchange program between St Paul’s Girls’ School in the UK and the African Science Academy (ASA) in Ghana. Being a first time out of country travel experience, I was scared and excited at the same time.
On departure day, I was very vigilant and careful because I did not want to miss the check in process and details. It was quite difficult for me because I also wanted to observe other travellers and guess if it was their first time too. I had a sound sleep when I finally boarded the flight. ‘Excuse me ma’am, tea or coffee?’ that was when I woke up and realised we had 15 minutes to land at Heathrow airport.
I had a lot of first time experiences during this program. My first culture shock was the weather. As someone who grew up in a country where the weather is mostly warm, London was extremely cold for me. On some windy days I could feel the wind carrying me back to Ghana. Another thing that took me by surprise was how cashless London is. Every transaction is about swiping and tapping. It took me some time to get used to the oyster card especially. I recall instances where I had to go back home for my cards so I could live a normal London life. I was open to trying most of the food I came across. There are some I enjoyed so much and there are some I will never try voluntarily. I ordered smoked salmon and Fiorentina Pizza at my first dinner out. I may never try those meals again because I struggled to eat them. The fish felt like jelly in my mouth and the pizza bitter because of the spinach topping. My favourite meals were fish & chips and burgers. I found myself eating more of those during my stay because it felt close to home.
I had the chance to present my story and experience so far at the St. Paul’s Girls’ school Assembly on the Monday after my arrival. Ella Boot and Miriam Agiru also shared the experience they had in Ghana. Ella and Miriam are the two exchange students who came to Ghana in December 2018. They were also my hosts during my stay in London. I lived with Miriam and her family at Bromley South for 4 days and later moved to Hammersmith to live with Ella and her family.
I experienced teaching and learning at the school during the week. The senior school had just ended their mock examinations and were going through the papers in class. One thing that was completely different from ASA was their school day structure. There are free periods and a lot of peer-to-peer tutoring. ASA does the A-levels in a year instead of two so free periods are rare. The senior girls’ had a whole rest room with a kitchen where we would go relax, have tea and toast when we had no class. The study room is also very conducive for prep studies. The school setting in a whole is fantastic. I was also amazed that the students could use their mobile phones in class. At ASA, phones are allowed only on the weekends or during emergencies.
I spent my free days sightseeing at Central London. I visited the Colleges at the University of Oxford, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, the Tower of London, Tates Modern, the Science Museum and the Oxford Museum. I also had the opportunity to watch the musical of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 at the Savoy Theatre and went shopping at Primark.
I spent my last Friday evening at the ASA fundraising gala. Ella and I left school quite earlier than usual since we had no class and rushed home to prepare for the evening. It was an informal dinner setting coupled with fundraising and fun activities. I interacted with a number of influential people and some past ASA students from Edinburgh University. Together with the old students; Adwoa and Aisha, we sang a song from Becca titled “African Woman”. There was also an Adowa performance by Adwoa and a poetry recital by Aisha. I also had the platform to share my story and show gratitude to our sponsors, supporters and trustees.
My trip was a memorable one. I felt like I had experienced every bit of London especially Central London the few days I was there. I am grateful to ASA and St. Paul’s Girls’ High School for giving me this incredible opportunity.
Blogpost written by Emily Janet Tetteh.