False Bay College and College of Cape Town in North South Friendship

During September and October of 2013, students from Haugaland Upper Secondary School and Bergeland Upper Secondary School visited South Africa as part of a funded exchange from a Norwegian Government Agency, Friendship North South.

The reciprocal visit took place this year from 22 March – 7 April when South African students from False Bay College and College of Cape Town visited Norway.  This visit saw 5 students from False Bay College with Melanie Vermaak from False Bay College as well as 5 students from College of Cape Town with Nizaam Pasha from College of Cape Town travel to Norway for a 17 day exchange.

The main focus of the exchange was to develop relationships between the students and staff from the four institutions and look at issues of similarity and differences relating to diversity, communities and language.  The Norwegian programme MOT that is run at False Bay College and College of Cape Town played a defining role in the selection of the students.  Students who showed a commitment to their studies, found ways to give back to their communities and embraced the principles of MOT were considered for this exchange.

Our adventure started with a trip to Pretoria to obtain our Visas.  This was the first trip on an aeroplane for many of our students.  This reinforces the tremendous doors that this kind of exchange opens for our students.

The first weekend was spent in wooden cabins on a fjord in Midtvik.  This was a wonderful opportunity to reunite with our Norwegian friends and spend time reflecting on the principles of MOT and what it meant to be a MOT Youth.  Students were encouraged to reflect on their future dreams and what they need to do to make these dreams a reality.

During the visit we spent one week at each of the schools.  Students were allocated to host families and were immersed in the Norwegian family’s daily activities.  This was a wonderful experience for our students and they made lifelong bonds and friendships.  This was evident in the many tears and hugs at the farewell dinners at both schools.

During the time spent at Haugaland Upper Secondary School, the South African students and Norwegian students were divided into working groups.  Each group had a different topic of Norwegian politics or way of life to research.  Groups then had an opportunity to report back on their findings in the form of wonderful presentations.  This was a good opportunity for student to work together and to discover the areas of similarity and differences in the way of life of young people in the two countries.

There was still a lot of snow around and we had wonderful fun learning how to ski and toboggan downhill.  Some of us were better than others and some found a soft landing in the snow!

During our week at Bergeland, the South African students attended classes with the Norwegian students and the South African staff that accompanied the students had the opportunity to teach some English classes.  Elements of the MOT programme was also used to create an understanding of diversity among people.  

The students took part in an art class and we were very impressed with the creative talents that emerged.  Song and dance formed a huge part of our visit.  The students burst into song at every opportunity and this was a wonderful way to bring all the students together.  

We attended a soccer match at the soccer stadium in Stavanger where the Vikings drew against the Stomsgodset.  We cheered and encouraged the Vikings in true South African style but they were unable to score.
There were so many highlights and wonderful experiences during the exchange.  We visited the Oil and Gas Museum where the focus was on the development of the Norwegian Oil and Gas industry and the job opportunities that this has provided in the Stavanger area. We visited Edward Grieg’s home, the Stavanger Concert Hall, the Norwegian History Centre and an old Viking village.  The students were caught up in the wonderful history of the places that we visited.  We had our first experience of snow with a day of skiing at Roldal.  A special trip was a train ride on the Flamsbanen into the wonderful snowy mountains.  This train goes up 18 m in gradient for every meter travelled.  We were also treated to a spectacular overnight stay at Ullensvang Hotel where the indoor warm pool leaves the building and goes outside next to a glacier lake.

For the students that have been part of this experience, they have seen new places and experienced a different language and culture.  This has opened their eyes to what is available in our “global village”.   What was very inspiring was to see how the South African students embraced the experience and at the same time shared what is special about South Africa.  The comment that I often overheard was that our students were so open and willing to communicate and engage.  We were very proud of the manner in which our students conducted themselves.  They were true ambassadors for their respective colleges, Cape Town and South Africa.

It was an absolute privilege for Nizaam and I to accompany the students on the journey and watch them grow in maturity and see how they embraced this opportunity to learn.