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Round Square organisation

New England Girls’ School is one of only three NSW schools, but more than 80 internationally, that are members of the Round Square organisation

As a result, NEGS girls have an almost unrivalled opportunity to go on student exchange for a term to one of dozens of overseas schools. Similarly, students at overseas schools have the opportunity to learn more about Australian culture by spending some time at NEGS.

We speak with visitors: Harshini Manikandan from The Indian School Al Ghubra, Muscat, Oman; and Seerat Grewal from Vivek High School, Chandigarh, India; as well as Isobel Vivers from NEGS, who attended Woodbridge School, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, about their exchange experiences.

NEGS is the smallest of the four schools and the only all girls’ school, while the Indian school has 2,000 students, and Vivek High more than 1,700. Harshini and Seerat, what are some of the similarities between your home school and NEGS?

Harshini: Both my school and NEGS are very well disciplined, and both the schools offer many interesting subjects and extra-curricular activities. But my school is a day school and has no boarders.

Seerat: The studies are the same and the way all students respect their teachers is the same here at NEGS as well. However, at Vivek High School we have classes in the same room, and it is the teachers who hop from one class to another.

Isobel, like Harshini and Seerat, you were a day student who has had the boarding experience – and in the case of Woodbridge, co-ed boarding. How was that?

Isobel: Boarding was a whole other experience, but I loved it, and it was great to live with the people you went to school with. I slept next to a black African girl, who knew four languages. I also loved the fact that your teachers are also involved in the boarding house and get to know you out of school. Every afternoon there was something organised that brought everybody together. It was very refreshing to have boys around and being in an environment learning with them – some have become good friends.

What have you liked about the countryside of your exchange schools?

Seerat: I have enjoyed the blue sky the most! The kind people, beautiful Sydney and green Armidale. I love Australia; it is the prettiest country.

Harshini: I have only been here for about three weeks, but hope to see something of Australia during term break before I go home.

Isobel: The landscape was beautiful and of course, there was all the amazing South African native wildlife – outside our dorms we had monkeys running around!

And other things?

Isobel: It was wonderful to get to meet new and different people all the time and experience new things, such as going to a safari park or even just soaking in the great atmosphere of an India versus South Africa cricket match! By getting to stay with other families, you get to know their culture.

Harshini: NEGS is what I thought it would be – fun and interesting, and by being part of a boarding school you get the complete experience of an exchange program.

How do you think the experience of overseas exchange has developed you as a person?

Harshini: This exchange experience has made me a better person. It has made me more responsible, caring for others, more friendly, taught me values for life. Being a boarder has made me more independent and responsible.

Isobel: It’s definitely made me a lot more independent. Since I came back, I feel I have matured and broadened my horizons, and I’ve experienced a whole other life and really opened my eyes to a whole other life beyond Australia.

Literally … with the daughter of one of the first overseas students now boarding at the Armidale school.

In 1982, Tomoko Ogato was the first student from Kichijo School in Tokyo to spend a year on exchange to NEGS. She loved her time so much, that after studying teaching at Dokkyo University, she returned to NEGS 10 years later to relieve the Japanese teacher for 12 months, prior to her marriage.

Now married and living in Tokyo, Tomoko last month enrolled her eldest daughter Mana at NEGS after the Japanese tsunami and concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants.

“My daughter wants to study a different culture and loves horse riding. I have many good memories of my times at NEGS and made good friends I have kept in touch with for 30 years,” she said.

“With the tsunami and the concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants that have been damaged, I thought about it more – that having some time at NEGS would be good for them.”

On a walk around the campus with Mana and her youngest daughter Junna (13), Tomoko reminisced about her time at NEGS and was impressed by the development over the past 20 years.