Judging from the smiles on the faces of five pupils who represented the International School of Hout Bay (ISHB) at a cultural exchange programme in South America last month, they had the experience of a lifetime.
Mimi Rose Harris, Josie Benson, Alexander Sammeli, Andrew McKay and Robyn Mclean had a chance to meet pupils from across the world, experience different cultures and make their school proud at the World Cultural Intersek 2016, held in Quito, Ecuador.
The ISHB was one of 16 schools that took part in this cultural interschool competition, hosted by a school in Quito, from May 17 to 21.
During their eight-day stay, the youngsters competed in various programmes, such as contemporary dance, mathematical quizzes, entrepreneurial presentations, a virtual reality exercise and a challenge that saw them build a small robot and programme to move through a maze in the shortest time possible.
The team brought back two trophies, one for the virtual reality contest and one for 3D video robotics.
Grade 4 teacher, Philip Pretorius, accompanied the five Grade 7 and Grade 8 pupils on the tour and said the trip outweighed any expectation.
“The principal and staff at the school were amazing and it was such a great experience to see the children grow while enjoying themselves,” he said.
The pupils stayed with host families in Quito and even endured two earthquakes, one of which measured 6.9 on the Richter scale.
Josie, 12, a Grade 7 pupil said her host family had been amazing and she had introduced them to the biltong she had packed for her trip.“They loved it,” she said.
She said the highlight of her trip was making new friends and experiencing different cultures.
Mimi Rose, 11, also a Grade 7 pupil, said the host school had been very different to theirs.
“It was massive, had different architecture and a canteen,” she said.
Her highlight was meeting new interesting people.
Grade 8 pupil, Alexander,13, said he would like to learn how to speak Spanish. He had enjoyed the South American culture.
Grade 8 pupil Robyn 13, found the people welcoming and it had been easy to make new friends.
“I brought back more of a social experience and I feel I can go up to anyone and talk to them,” she said.
Andrew, 14, also in Grade 8, enjoyed the colonial Spanish architecture and the food, such as pithaya, a fruit of several cactus species indigenous to the Americas.