By Poornima Menon, Principal, Anand Vidya Vihar, Vadodara, Gujarat

“Sometimes life throws curve balls at you, the trajectory of which one may not be able to judge till it reaches the destination.

That is how I describe the international school exchange program between India and Italy, precisely speaking between Anand Vidya Vihar School, Vadodara, Gujarat, and Liceo Scientifico Galileo Galilei school, Siena, Tuscany. When an e-mail from the AFS office dropped in last year, asking for the readiness for an international school exchange program, I never knew it would be this fruitful and eventful.

The preparations for hosting the Italian students started in the month of December itself. The host families at Vadodara were readily excited to host and impact our Italian guests with Indian hospitality. On 21st January 2019 our families started with their hosting journey.

The Italian students came to India as guests but when they returned on 30th January 2019, they left like a loving family member. After exploring Gir lion sanctuary, doing a city tour at World Heritage City Ahmedabad, and discovering other places of tourist attractions at Vadodara, they concluded that India like Italy has so much to offer, that a short period hardly suffices to explore.

After spending so much time with the Italian students during such visits and interacting with them during the family functions, outings and evening dinners cemented such a strong relationship between all that while bidding goodbyes to each other, all the eyes were moist.

Soon it was time for the Indian students from Vadodara to pack bags and set their feet on the Italian soil. What we received as hospitality from Italy can never be explained in words. Being at such a stunningly beautiful place with so many heartfully welcoming people around, actually made us realize that there could probably be nothing more that we could ever ask for.

All the tourist places that we were taken to, be it San Gimignano, Florence, Pisa, Val d’orcia, Mount Pulciano and others spoke of a charm that modernization has yet not been able to contaminate. The architectural design and paintings were a major draw and source of attraction. Visits to Florence and Pisa leaning tower was such a wonderful experience that it will be cherished for a lifetime. School visits were another memorable experience.

While returning we explored the Eternal City, Rome for two days. The sights that met us, the roads, the buildings, the lip-smacking food, the monuments, the history, and every nook and corner will always remain entrenched in our minds.

We hope to continue hosting and sending students through these programs. As a member school, we believe that such experiences go a long way in opening the minds of people especially, children who then grow up to be broad-minded and large-hearted. That is something that we all want desperately for a better tomorrow.”