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Sweden (Donner) – India (TOS)) Student & Teacher Exchange Program 4th – 25th September 2011
Sweden (Donner) – India (TOS)) Student & Teacher Exchange Program 4th – 25th September 2011
4th To 25th September 2011
The Orchid School received a group of 14 students and 2 teachers from Donner Gymnasiet, Gotland - Sweden under the exchange program. The group arrived on 4th September, 2011. Members from the school were there to welcome them with hot breakfast, chai and of course a lot of warmth.

The students are studying Natural Science with one group specializing in Environmental Science and the other in Computers. They were here for 3 weeks and the main objectives for this visit were to understand and experience:

  • How Environment related issues are handled in India.
  • For Computer students – Doing a course in Gaming
  • Observe the cultural festivities in the city on account of Ganesh Festival. See the idol immersion process and the efforts of various organizations to make it environment friendly and restrict pollution.
  • Indian culture, traditions and value system
  • Drawing parallel to their subject area interest.
In order to meet these objectives, a crisp, meaningful and relevant program was neatly chalked out well in advance. Organizations working on environmental related issues were contacted; experts were roped in so that interactive sessions and seminars could be planned.

To get acquainted with a new culture, find their bearings in a foreign land, and make a smooth transition to the host families, the group opted to stay in a Hotel for the first 4 days.

We shared the idea of hosting them with the 9th Grade parents, as some of these students will be going to Sweden in April 2012. Similarily the teachers were co-hosted by the TOS staff.

The children were very excited with the idea of hosting Swedish students and their parents were very generous to open their hearts and doors to these kids. It was a ‘home away from home’ for them. The parents who volunteered to host were:

1.Mrs. Shalini Mehta

2.Mrs. Asha Andrews

3.Dr. Vaishali Biniwale

4.Mrs. Varsha Khandait

5.Mr. Rajesh Bhatawadekar

6.Mr. Shailesh Malpani

7.Mr. Ashok Dhiware

8.Mrs. Anita Sharma

9.Mr. Aniruddha Adhikari

10.Mrs. Swati Barhate

11.Mrs. Sandhya Joshi

Initially there were lot of apprehensions from both sides, about food, adjustment issues in a family etc, hence we organized a Tea Party for both the hosts and the guests. After an ice-breaker game somefears were put to rest, and the families were really happy to meet their guests and host them over the next two weeks. Soon there the kids started calling their host parents as ‘My Indian Mom and Dad’. Now there was a competition amongst them, whose mom is the best? Whose mom is packing a yummy snack?

Our students were also happy with their new friends and had fun going for shopping, Dining with them.

One of the Swedish students turned 18 on this trip. His host family, Mr. and Mrs. Malpani threw a party to celebrate his birthday, and the entire group was invited for it. It was evident when the children were to leave for home, that they had truly become members of the family, naturally crossing all boundaries that existed in the mind ,at the onset.

An Overview of their program:

Each day of their visit was planned in a manner that it would be learner rich in terms of academic content and cultural exposure.

The first week comprised of:

  • An orientation program, with survival inputs in our school.
  • Ganesh Darshan with TOS members.
  • A cross cultural seminar by Lakshmi di.
  • A talk by Deepak Dalal – (author) on 'Wild India - An illustrated journey’.
  • An introductory talk by Dr. Parag Mankeekar for the computer group.
  • A heritage walk covering the ancient peths & wadas of Pune, organized by Vaibhavi Agarwal, a passionate and enthusiastic collegian in collaboration with iichha heritage.
  • The group joined the TOS team on for their 2 days overnight retreat at MRA, Panchgani.
  • A special training program was designed and conducted by experts from MRA and also some special trainers invited especially for the students.
  • The two Swedish teachers joined the TOS faculty program by Mr. Shekhar Manelkar of idiscoveri and team.
  • On Ganpati Visarjan day, the group had a glimpse of an eco friendly immersion process of Lord Ganesh, organized by Alert at Gandhi Bhavan .
  • They also enjoyed the music and dance during the Ganpati processions.
The next week was dedicated to study visits for the environment group and the computer students began their one week course in gaming. Dr. Parag Mankeekar from Neeti Solutions developed a comprehensive 6 day course in Gaming for the Computer students at his institute.

Some of the organizations that the environment group visited were:

  • Suzlon – wind manufacturing company, where a session was held on operations CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) with a focus on environment issues.
  • Indradhanushya, Centre for Citizenship and Environment Education, where the members from Alert talked of the various activities that they are doing for environment conservation and also on Global Warming and India’s initiative to reduce the carbon foot print.
  • Katraj – Waste segregation plant, an initiative by Janvani. The focus of this visit was to understand the entire process of waste collection by waste collectors – dry and wet waste, feeder system of ghanta gadi and tractor, observing how waste gets converted to Bio-gas and also how this energy is further utilized to supply electricity to a nearby park. The group also interviewed some of the waste collectors.
  • Some of the in-house activities and programs conducted for the group were;
      1.An interactive discourse with TOS teachers and an art session, where the students expressed their impressions about India through drawing.

     2.Screening of films on environment and biodiversity, followed by a debriefing session by an expert.

  • The week ended with a visit to Surodi and Ralegan Siddhi, giving the students a glimpse of rural India. Mr. Ashok Rupner from IUCAA and his team accompanied the group to these villages.
Religion being one of their subjects, the group visited some Temples, Gurudwara to understand the various aspects of Hindu religion.

A session on Annapan was also organized by one of the host parents.

The Swedish teachers had a few sessions with our secondary school kids, on Scandinavian History and Religion. They also participated in some of our regular review meetings, where they interacted with our teachers, giving some inputs on assessment techniques.

They also got an exposure to our culture by attending a classical concert during the Pune Festival, Dumru – the percussion festival. They also enjoyed a typical masala Bollywood movie.

While in Mumbai, the group took a guided tour of Dharavi slums, one of the largest slums in Asia, which is the heart of small scale industry in Mumbai. Cultural diversity, thriving economy, sense of community and spirit are some of the observations one makes during the tour.

Preparatory Meet:

A formal meeting was arranged between the Swedish teachers and the parents of students who will be going to Sweden in April2012. The purpose of the exchange program, the program highlights, the travel and stay logistics were some of the points that were shared at this meeting. The teachers answered a lot of queries and helped to clear their doubts.

This interaction assured the parents that their children would be well looked after, the visit was well thought out, and the outcome would be a rich learning experience for them.