The MGGS – Godolphin Exchange: Global Connections for Life

The MGGS – Godolphin Exchange: Global Connections for Life

The MGGS Godolphin exchange is an immersive and formative exchange experience designed to build resilience, independence and global connections. The exchange between Godolphin School in Salisbury, England and Melbourne Girls Grammar began in 2003, with a handful of Year 9 students from each school travelling to the other side of the world to meet new friends and experience school life every year since. Despite a brief intermission during the COVID-19 pandemic, the exchange has for over 20 years now, provided girls with an opportunity to challenge themselves with this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

2024 MGGS – Godolphin Exchange participants at Merton Hall. From back left: Clementine, Arabella, Ally Harriet, Claudia, Piper and Cleo. From front left: Jasmine, Josephine, Elsa, Allegra, Lucy, Phillipa and Poppy.

This year, MGGS students Arabella Pappas, Ally Young, Claudia Kogler, Clementine Evans, Cleo McLachlan, Harriet Hutchins and Piper Ashton were selected to participate following an application and interview process. We spoke with Clem, Cleo and Claudia and their exchange sisters towards the end of their time at MGGS about how the experience had gone so far.

With only a couple of days left in Australia, Godolphin students Jasmine, Poppy and Lucy were sad to be leaving MGGS and wished they had more time to spend with their new sisters and families in the Australian summer. All agreeing it had taken a week or two to settle in, leaving only two weeks to fit in travel, school and activities. Despite the short time frame (in previous years the exchange has been up to twelve weeks long), our Grammarians have managed to fit in lots of typical Australian summer experiences for their ‘sisters’.

Clementine and Jasmine in Sydney!

Clem, Jasmine, Claudia and Lucy travelled to Sydney and visited Luna Park and Manly Beach. Clem and Jasmine were even lucky enough (and brave enough!) to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb! Poppy and Cleo spent time by the sea in Portsea and went tuna finishing (with great success, see pictures below!). Claudia loved showing Lucy around Flinders and introducing her to her family and friends. Our English visitors enjoyed hanging out at the beach and getting to see some of Australia’s best-known landmarks.

Poppy with her huge tuna fish!

At School, the Godolphin students were given MGGS uniforms to wear and went to class with their sisters, seeing how Australian classes differed to theirs at Godolphin. They loved the concept of Independent Learning Time (ILTs)! Their schedules were tightly packed with afterschool trips to Green Cup and Yochi (which they’ll miss dearly), Melbourne Central, Chadstone and even the Moonlight Cinema in the Royal Botanic Gardens on a balmy Melbourne evening! Following a rowing regatta in Geelong on their last weekend in Australia, they all visited Adventure Park Geelong which was a highlight for all.

Cleo said that her favourite part of the experience so far has been “watching Poppy become a part of the family”. With only one sibling at home, Poppy has loved getting to know Cleo’s three siblings and parents, and fits in well with their family. Poppy’s new ‘little sister’ Luna, who is seven, likes to spend time with her playing Monopoly afterschool. Cleo enjoys sharing her daily life with Poppy and can’t wait to see what Poppy’s ‘normal week’ is like at Godolphin.

Claudia and Lucy at Merton Hall.

Poppy, Jasmine and Lucy are really looking forward to showing their MGGS sisters around Salisbury and Godolphin in Term 2. School life is a bit different over there with hot lunches, a longer school day with sport every day (which Claudia is very excited about) and they’ll get a go at boarding as well. The sprawling campus at Godolphin is beautiful in the summer term and our Grammarians are looking forward to getting involved in a number of different activities like cadets, cricket, lacrosse and more. Outside of Godolphin, their new English sisters are keen to take them shopping in London, to Thorpe Park – an amusement park in Surrey – and to some historical British landmarks like Stonehenge, and maybe even a visit to France!

The MGGS Godolphin Exchange provides unforgettable moments, new experiences, and friends for life. For 20 years, it has enriched school life for over 50 Grammarians.

Old Grammarians and sisters Alice (2018) and Lily Harrison (2016) participated in the Exchange in 2015 and 2013 respectively, hosting their sisters Maddy and Lorna for three months. According to Alice, the exchange “definitely impacted so many of [her] life decisions afterwards.”

“It grew my confidence in so many ways…Whether it was making the decision to move interstate for university at ANU in Canberra or putting myself outside my comfort zone in other ways, the Godolphin exchange taught me that I would be okay and could overcome those challenges.”

Alice’s best memories of Godolphin are from her time in the Boarding House. Boarding enabled her to pave her own way – so she didn’t have to rely on her host family or sister too much – and build really special friendships. She loved playing tennis after school and walking into Salisbury to go shopping or visit the Godolphin girls’ favourite milkshake shop, Shakeaway (if you know, you know)!

Alice relished the opportunity to build a life in Salisbury and have the “full Godolphin experience” over the three months. The integration of day girls into the Boarding House through weekly or nightly boarding encouraged independence and high engagement in the school and its activities. Alice says, “it was such a sisterhood, and even as exchange students, us Australians had each other, but the English girls really embraced us and made an effort to get to know us. The teachers were also so lovely and supportive, we never felt out of place.” Another fond memory was Sports Day, where they would get all dressed up (read, cover themselves in yellow paint) and compete for their Houses. They were all given opportunities to participate and even got to learn new sports like lacrosse. Alice says lacrosse was difficult, “but so much fun. All the girls were so into it and we, the Australians, just followed along and got to join in. It was a real Wild Child moment!”

Another unique opportunity was getting to participate in the ‘Battlefields trip’, which was a three-day History excursion to France and Belgium to visit the battlefields from World War I. “We learned so much just being able to see the scale of the memorials, all the crosses on the graves and walking through the trenches,” Alice says. She recalls laying a wreath of poppies at the Australian War Memorial and being shocked and amazed at the same time, really glad to have had the chance to see it all in person. Alice also got to explore many parts of the UK with her host sister Maddy and her Mum. They went to Bath, to London, to the beach at Bournemouth (“So cold!”) and to Paris on the EuroStar, “which was pretty epic at the time.” Alice loves how she (and her sister Lily, who is also still in contact with her Godolphin sister, Lorna) have been able to form lifelong connections with their host families and will always have “open doors for each other.”

“We shared such a unique experience and important period of our lives together, and it is the same for a lot of the friends I made over there.”

Alice continues to challenge herself with new experiences, and in 2023 completed a six-month exchange program via ANU at Radboud University in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and then travelled around Europe and Africa for six months afterwards meeting new people at every stop.

In 2004, Old Grammarian Stephanie Vizard was part of the second Godolphin exchange ever! Steph and her exchange sister Claire got on well because they both came from big families of five siblings (though Steph is the oldest and Claire, the youngest).

Steph had grown up reading stories set in English boarding schools, so when the opportunity to be a boarder in the English countryside arose, she took it! When she wasn’t boarding, Steph spent time at Claire’s family home in Ebbesbourne Wake (which had no shops and one pub!) in Wiltshire, where they would play croquet in the garden and help tend to the family’s bees. Claire’s host family also took her on weekend trips to Venice and Rome, which “blew [her] teenage mind”. Like Alice, Steph spent the whole Summer Term at Godolphin and her most fond memories were of walking into Salisbury to go shopping or spending time in the sun in the Cathedral Close with her English friends.

“At the risk of hyperbole”, Steph says, “the exchange changed the direction of [her] life”. She ended up at university in the UK and one of her best friends, who spoke at her wedding, she met at Claire’s 18th birthday party. During university, she visited Claire and her family, often staying with them during the holidays. Steph and Claire keep in touch even now, Claire is a doctor working in Malawi and Steph is back in Melbourne, so she says they “often speak at weird times!” Steph is looking forward to meeting up again with Claire soon, either in Melbourne or Ebbesbourne Wake, with their husbands and kids in tow!

2024 participants Clem, Claudia and Cleo are really grateful for this opportunity and encourage all current Year 8 students to consider applying. “If they want to make new friends, and try something new, they should definitely put their hand up.”  While there are elements of the experience that might be nerve-wracking, like leaving their families for a few weeks and being in a new country, they are excited to challenge themselves. To make the process easier, each of the girls made contact with their exchange sister and their families via Zoom or FaceTime before arriving.

Alice encourages girls considering the exchange to think about all the different opportunities the experience will make available to you, “consider it a sliding door moment for anything you want to do later on.” Whether it is building your confidence, resilience, independence, other skills, or like Steph, building connections to support you during tertiary study or a career overseas, the possible benefits and opportunities are endless, it’s all about how you lean into them.  

Over the years, Year 12 MGGS and Sixth Form Godolphin students have also been offered opportunities to work as Gap students following their VCE or A Level examinations. This year at MGGS, we are delighted to be joined by Harriet Holden as a ‘Gappie’ in the Boarding House until Term 3. Harriet said that she decided to come to MGGS during her Gap Year to do something useful (instead of just travelling around) and has enjoyed the opportunity to discover independence far away from her family and friends. Her time in Australia and working at MGGS so far has not only enabled her to gain work experience, but insight into “such a fulfilling and valuable line of work.” Harriet has loved getting to know the Boarders and doing fun weekend activities like making pizza or having fish and chips in the Royal Botanic Gardens. 

“Melbourne Girls Grammar has a positive and encouraging environment for its students, and just being a part of it is an honour. I know I will cherish my time spent working here,” Harriet says. 

Thank you to everyone who contributed their thoughts and reflections to this article; Harriet Holden, Old Grammarians Stephanie Vizard (2007) and Alice Harrison (2018), current Grammarians Clementine Evans, Claudia Kogler and Cleo McLachlan, and of course our new friends from Godolphin, Jasmine, Lucy and Poppy.