Following discussions that began at a 2011 Round Square Conference, St. Clement’s new exchange with the Vidya Devi Jindal School (VDJS) in Hisar found Grade 11 students Kate and Naomi and Grade 10 student Kaitlyn experiencing life in India for close to a month.
The girls and Principal Martha Perry ’85, who accompanied the three to India for the first few days, were greeted at VDJS with a lively music- and dance-filled assembly led by the students. It quickly became clear how many values and beliefs are shared by the two schools: a commitment to rigorous girls’ education; a rich co-curricular offering that allows students to explore their individual passions; a belief in the importance of giving back; a shared feeling of responsibility to ensure that we all reflect the goodness of humanity.
Being immersed in Indian culture allowed Kate, Naomi and Kaitlyn to learn a lot about themselves. They also became more aware of the diverse learning techniques and classroom structures at SCS, when compared to another school. Naomi recalls how the lessons were taught differently than she was used to because of the large class sizes. While she found the class size stimulating, Naomi recognized individual learning styles can be challenged in a lecture-style class. “So many people care about me and how I learn. This has helped me develop as a person,” remarks Naomi. “I realized when I was there that I’ve taken our small, engaged community a little for granted.”
Kate was amazed at how little the students used technology in and out of the classroom. “Without a calculator in math class, I was forced to use only my knowledge – this task was challenging,” says Kate. “Where we would usually use calculators for graphing complicated equations, at VDJS we didn’t have access to the same technology.” The limited time allowed for technology usage also gave the students an appreciation for it as a research and communication tool.
There were interesting variances outside of the classroom too. Kaitlyn recounts how a siren would wake the students up every morning, if the peacocks living on the school grounds didn’t accomplish that task first! They embraced Indian cuisine, eating traditional vegetarian dishes while learning how to make Parathas and Dal. Being in a boarding school environment and eating in the Cafeteria every day felt different as well; the students all sat together for meals, which Kaitlyn enjoyed. “The girls at VDJS were very welcoming and always wanted to make us laugh. I also noticed how close the girls were; it actually seemed like they were all sisters, and truly acted like they were.”
Kate, Kaitlyn and Naomi took the courageous step of moving outside their comfort zones during their time at VDJS, embracing Indian culture, values, and the daily structure of the school. “You don’t go somewhere to change it, you go to observe it,” states Kate. The girls did indeed return with intriguing and unique observations to share with the SCS community.
“They’re such lovely girls, so affectionate and have blended so marvellously into the social fabric of our community. We will really miss them when they go.”
– Principal Nandita, Vidya Devi Jindal School