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Farewell from Alice and Marie

By | June 28, 2016

ih-jun2016-alice-marie-2Having spent almost a year at Woodford House and travelling the Southern Hemisphere, it is almost time to say goodbye to our gap students, Marie Baumeister and Alice Young. Both girls gave an emotional speech at assembly recounting the many highlights of their gap year experience.


Kia Ora everyone,

So the time has come for us to do our leaving speech and for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of knowing us this past year we are Alice and Marie, the Gap students or gappies.

I’m Marie Baumeister and I’m from Bavaria, which is south of Germany, and known as the capital of good beer and sausages.  I grew up in a little village with my parents and my two older sisters. After many student exchanges in European countries I really wanted to travel further. Looking back, coming to a country where nearly nobody knows a single German word, was a really brave move. But this is exactly why I decided to take a gap year. I really wanted to challenge myself, travel around the world, leave my home of 18 years behind and start a new adventure. A year abroad definitely means change.  Changes in your lifestyle, the country, the language, your friends, your family, your home, absolutely everything! There are always times, when you ask yourself, what you’ve actually done to yourself and you start struggling. But especially this time teaches you a lot and I have never learned as much before than in the last 12 months!

The school I went to is called “Johann-Schöner Gymnasium” the complete opposite of Woodford. It is day school  for over 1000 boys and girls. Another big difference is everyone wears whatever they want. School starts at 8.00 am and normally finishes between 1 and 5.00 pm depending on your year. Sadly music and sport weren’t included apart from one lesson each per week. I played tennis, volleyball and the piano in my free time. Competitions like House Music, House Debating, House Drama etc. were also completely new as “Houses” don’t exist at my school. I really enjoyed getting to know life at a boarding school and I am so thankful having been part of it for a year.

A year abroad is definitely about falling in love with a new country, especially during your time travelling! … But my time in New Zealand wouldn’t have been the same without the visit from my family in the big summer holidays. I would have described myself as the luckiest and happiest girl in the world, when I saw my family again and we could spend Christmas together!

Travelling is really about exploring places which you didn’t know existed and realising that there are nice people everywhere in the world no matter where you go!

I’m Alice Young and I’m from East Sussex where I live in the country with my parents, 17 year old brother, 3 dogs, horses and numerous chickens. However ‘country’ in England and ‘country’ in New Zealand are very different – I live surrounded by fields and woods but there are two McDonalds within a five minute drive. ‘Country’ here definitely means living in the absolute middle of nowhere. If you’ve seen the film Wild Child that is pretty much an accurate representation of what my school was like in England; the only difference being our headmistress did not have a son that looked like Alex Pettyfer. The biggest difference between Woodford and my school is the length of the skirts. I’m pretty sure the material of one of your skirts would have made about seven of ours. My lessons didn’t finish till 5:30pm every day and I also had lessons on a Saturday morning. I did nothing but play sport at school – I played 1st team netball and lacrosse so I had training for up to three hours a day and then played matches on a Saturday afternoon, meaning weekends didn’t really exist for me.

Everyone asks why you choose to take a gap year. To put it simply, I needed to take a gap year. I admit to having a pretty privileged and easy childhood so I was desperate to get out of this comfort bubble that is so easy to get stuck in. I only ever did things that I was good at and never ever took risks due to the fear of failing, so this year away has given me the chance to break both of these habits.  Everyone tried to talk me out of coming to New Zealand including my school and my best friends. I also gave up a place at my favourite university in order to take a gap year. But by having a year off, I’ve learnt a huge amount about myself. I wasn’t as tough and care free as I thought I was and although finding these kinds of things out about you can be hard to deal with at the start, I am now going home a far more confident and happier person.

The daily life of a gappy consists of laminating, photocopying, book binding, more laminating, book covering, polishing trophies, making certificates and cutting out stars. Although this sounds more than exciting, our best memories have been made during camps.

Our favourite one has to be the year 12 Tongariro crossing. When looking up the walk online, the website says the hike is 20km of easy terrain with no steep or dangerous ascents or descents. It’s considered moderate grade for its length and easy grade for its terrain. This is not true.

We started the walk as the sun was rising and finished well after the sun had set. Walking through knee deep snow does not count as ‘easy terrain’. The casual 20km was a challenge in itself however the greater challenge came the next day when we attempted but failed to teach Bee to ski.

Like Marie I was also lucky to have my parents come out for Christmas. I didn’t really feel like Christmas though as I’m used to lying in front of the fire in a food coma having consumed three times my body weight in food whereas this year I spent Christmas Day learning to water ski on Lake Taupo and having a BBQ.  The experiences you gain from travelling are amazing; you get to meet people from all walks of life from all over the world, you get to see some of the most beautiful places and sadly you also learn how to budget.

We started our kiwi experience together watching a rugby game at McLean Park, in the most miserable of circumstances, the worst being that fact that we didn’t speak the same language. However we ended our year on a brighter note, speaking the same language and supporting the All Blacks at Eden Park.

Thank you to everyone who has made this year so unforgettable. We couldn’t recommend enough spending a year abroad whether it’s being a gappy like us or doing something totally different. We’re both surprised at how much you can learn and grow in just one year.

Even though we’ve called Morea home, it’s now time for us to go back. Thank you once again, we really will miss you all.

~abridged