This year marks a very special birthday at Oxford High School: the thirtieth birthday of our Russian Exchange! Having started in 1989, long before the birth of our current Russianists, it stands as a testimony to the ability of friendship to endure longer than governments and borders ever will. Now, nine months their incredible trip to Moscow, the OHS Russian students were at last able to host a return visit for their newfound friends. Read Cressy P and Caitlin T, both in Year 12, as they reflect on the events of that week.
Out and About with Caitlin T
The Russians enjoyed a large variety of activities while in Oxford, from cultural gems like Christchurch Cathedral and Stratford-Upon-Avon, to other, slightly less cultural gems, like the big Primark in the Westgate Centre, and the Odeon Cinema (where an unfortunate mouse-sighting ruined our experience of watching Will Smith’s hugely intellectual masterpiece Bad Boys for Life).
Those of us who no longer studied Russian had an opportunity to refresh our language skills, and learnt a variety of more choice vocabulary, which we mysteriously hadn’t had the opportunity to learn in the GCSE and A Level courses… The exchange was, of course, cultural as well as linguistic, and this aspect was particularly relished, as we loved showing our exchange partners the joys and eccentricities of growing up in Oxford.
Between them, our partners enjoyed a huge range of activities, including a weekend away in Yorkshire, browsing through Camden Market, visiting the Emirates Stadium, taking afternoon tea with a view of the Radcliffe Camera, enjoying a formal dinner at University College, and (their favourite), lots of shopping at TK Maxx.
A particular highlight of the stay was the вечеринка (party) held on our partners’ last night, which culminated in the most crucial cultural exchange of the week: they taught us cossack dancing, and we taught them the hokey-cokey.
Cressy P’s Reflections on the Cultural Side of Things
It was not all parties, fish and chips, and hokey-cokey-ing for our Russian guests, however. Yes, there was the occasional outbreak of dancing. But it is generally accepted that parties are the best way of gaining insight into the lives of our fellow beings from across the seas, since parties provide universal bonding arrangements.
We can only hope that these connections continue, and that, between the twenty students who participated in the programme, we can bridge differences in politics and culture which may currently separate our two countries.
On a more serious note, this year’s exchange really did provide our Russian visitors with opportunities that were greatly envied by their English partners, including at least two trips to the Metropolis that is London and a cricket lesson from Mr Gilbert and Mr Lonsdale. (The latter caused some merriment at the time – but I think we may actually have founded the next women’s cricket team for Russia!)
The culture each student was immersed in was, of course, dependent on their partners. However, there were certain universal experiences which we knew our Russian friends couldn’t leave England without sampling. And so it came to pass that they first tried and then revelled in some of our little island’s finest delicacies – including roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips, and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (how could anyone have survived so long without that?).
It is safe to say that this, the 30th exchange programme linking OHS and Moscow, was a truly inspiring, enlightening, and influential ten days for us and our Russian guests. We can only hope that these connections continue, and that, between the twenty students who participated in the programme, we can bridge differences in politics and culture which may currently separate our two countries, and instead enjoy a nationwide friendship similar to that we have now found in our own partners.