Trips abroad were surely my favourite aspect of teaching, but also my biggest nightmare – a girl without a passport, homesickness; and yet, the wonderful nocturnal cruises on the River Seine, the roller-skating café in Futuroscope and hot chocolate in the gardens of Versailles.
In humility, we languages teachers know that a language is best acquired in the native culture, best of all in a family. We arranged numerous exchanges to our partner-school in Lyon, and the girls returned to England eager to express themselves, having broken through a linguistic barrier.
Then came Mandarin in the new millennium, and this brought a whole new dimension to the Department, with tea-ceremonies, chop-stick skills and the possibility of cooking with a wok in lessons (soon forbidden by Health and Safety). We were quick to find a partner school in Beijing, and the following year, I led a trip with 14 girls to stay in the Old Town of Shanghai. Water-cities, water-chestnuts, eye-exercises in school, a grotto for meditation in the school-grounds. All so different.