GAIL Exchange - Woodstock, India
Hi, I’m Sophie Bradly, and I recently went on a GAIL exchange to Woodstock School in Mussoorie, India for 6 weeks. Founded in 1854 and located in the foothills of the Himalayas, Woodstock is a boarding school, hosting 500 students.
Arriving at Woodstock I was greeted by amazing views of the mountains and local villages. The half hour walk up to school each day was made worth it with the breathtaking views that were definitely something you couldn’t experience in Auckland. Woodstock was truly in the middle of nowhere, but being in the Himalayas was such a cool experience.
On my first day, I was able to choose my classes, which were all quite similar to those at Kristin. I was put into 10th grade for classes and was given a room in the accommodation block with an 11th grader as a ‘roommate’. At the dorm, I got to meet students living in many different countries around the world. I made friends from Israel, America, all over India, Turkey and Germany, there were even some teachers from New Zealand. The teachers at Woodstock were also from all over the world, including from India and many from America. At the school, class started at 8:30 and ended at 4:10 , so it was a long day. But it was fun because most of the day was spent with new friends.
During my time at Woodstock, I took Spanish, Algebra and World History, but I wish I had taken some cultural classes like Hindi language or Indian literature. Class sizes were mostly the same as Kristin, with about 20 kids in each class. The gym at the Woodstock was really impressive and it was always in use by sports teams, especially basketball, which was one of the most popular sports at Woodstock. Because of the mountains it doesn’t have any large field spaces.
The weekend village trips were a major highlight of my exchange. It was really interesting to learn about and see other peoples ways of life - especially so high in the mountains 2000 metres above sea level. My friends and I would spend hours walking around the villages, going into the tiny stores selling anything and everything and eating curries from stalls along the road. The village roads were really crowded - not only with people and cars, but also with dogs, monkeys, and chickens. At Woodstock, students were given the opportunity to help out local villages. This included projects like going to previously disaster stricken villages and setting up schools, raising money, rebuilding homes, and setting up irrigation systems so that they can farm.
I wasn’t at Woodstock for long, but it was so easy to settle in; everyone is so friendly and made my time there really enjoyable. Everywhere you went at Woodstock, whether that be at the dorms or in school itself, people said hello and made you feel so welcome. Dogs and monkeys were always able to be seen and heard. Despite having to run away from monkeys every half an hour, and the occasional snake, living in the dorms at Woodstock, the whole trip was a lot of fun. I loved everything about it, from grade wide movie nights, to parties in the basketball court, to making cheese toasties and maggi noodles for dinner with friends. Going to Woodstock for nearly 2 months was such an amazing experience. I never thought I’d go to school in India, particularly not a tiny town in the Himalayas, but I already wish I could go back.
My favourite part of my trip was the people at Woodstock. The Woodstock students are like a family, and there’s always something to do there, from walking half an hour into the local town to get maggi noodles and milkshakes, to having sleepovers in the hallways. After spending so much time with them, as I lived with them in dorms, they’ve become lifelong friends.
To anyone considering going on this exchange, I definitely recommend doing so as it’s such a life changing experience.