During the Spring half term break, eight IB1 students travelled to Kodaikanal International School in Tamil Nadu, India, for an inaugural exchange visit. The students were accompanied by Vice Principal Pastoral, Becky Allen and Vice Principal Academic, Dave White.

Travelling to Kodaikanal is a significant undertaking; the group flew from Heathrow to Mumbai, before taking a second flight to Coimbatore, and thence beginning a four-hour drive across to Palani and up 7,000ft to Kodaikanal. A former hill station, the town is set around an expansive man-made lake, and is surrounded on all sides by shola forests and dramatic mountainous scenery.

Students stayed in dorms within the school, which has boarders from 4-18 years old, and quickly developed really strong bonds with their peers in Grade 11. During the week a busy itinerary combined time on campus with local excursions and workshops. Students learned about the extraordinary diversity of the local area and were also introduced to its many challenges. Teachers from the school explained how invasive trees such as eucalyptus, pine and acacia, first planted as cash crops, are now contributing to the shrinking of the native shola forests. The group spent time with an expert team focusing on biodiversity and habitat loss, and learned about the endemic ‘sky island’ birds of the Palani Hills and the threats they face. They learned about the issues posed by tourism in the area, and how this is contributing to ecological issues, as well as how individuals and groups are working together to counter this threat. They also learned about the school’s history, first as an American missionary project and now as India’s first IB school and one of the country’s best-known international schools.

The trip offered an extraordinary window into a beautiful school and a unique place. In some senses, Kodaikanal felt very different to St Clare’s for the group, but the IB ethos of the school and the ease with which they made new friends also meant it felt familiar and accessible. The trip was a huge success with fantastic feedback received from all involved students and parents. The group will now begin work on the return leg of the exchange, preparing for ten students from Kodaikanal to visit St Clare’s this June.


Becky Allen, Vice Principal Pastoral

The students who took part in the trip said:

India was a once in a lifetime experience. We visited a beautiful mountainous region of Tamil Nadu that I would never have known existed if it weren’t for this opportunity. The food, the people, the wildlife was so different from anything that I am used to which was what made it so special as I got to learn first-hand about such an amazing culture.” – Skyla

I did not have high expectations for the trip to India, not because I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it but I was unsure what to expect of it to begin with. In fact, when we were first told last October of a potential exchange to Southern India, I didn’t plan to go. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised. To be based high up in the mountains covered in dense forest and away from the chaos of the city, I can safely say it was one of the most beautiful places I have visited. The activities were really interesting, I especially liked the day out to the farm and to sit next to the river was very relaxing. There was also much wildlife to spot, and Becky and David will tell you with their bird watching exploits. Above all, the best part was the people I met and went with, it was a one off opportunity and I am so glad I participated in the end.” – Phineas

India was a magic time for me, the landscapes were breathtaking and I enjoyed every single activity, from the hiking to the cooking class. Everything was new for me, the culture and the lifestyle, but I loved learning about it and experiencing it. The people were very gentle with us and I had a very good time even in the dorm, with the students of KIS. I recommend this experience to everyone.” – Benedetta

India has been one of my most memorable adventures. Learning and experiencing a new culture has broadened my mind and has given me a greater appreciation of the world we live in. Not only did I get to go on this exchange with my friends, but we also built even more friendships with the Kodi students. All the languages, colours, and people have made me fall absolutely in love with India. I’m looking forward to eventually finding myself back on the plane to the hills.” – Nehir

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St Clare's, Oxford