The ISP Virtual Buddy Exchange Student Takeover

To celebrate the tremendously successful first year of the ISP Virtual Buddy Exchange Programme (VBEP), we asked two VBEP students from different ISP schools about their experience of the programme – Alejandra from Colegio Internacional Aravaca in Spain and Minalee, from Nibras International School in Dubai.

The ISP Virtual Buddy Exchange Programme (VBEP) was launched in May 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to give our students aged 14 – 17 years of age the opportunity to reach out beyond their own school community so that they could practise their language, presentation and personal skills in English.

The programme ran for eight weeks from May to June 2020 and brought together ISP students and schools across the world together via structured video calls to deliver a unique international and cultural learning experience in a safe and secure online environment. The supervised weekly video calls were organised around engaging weekly topics where both students prepared and discussed their own presentation. Topics for the programme included: Being a teenager during the lockdown, Music, Film & TV, Sports and A tour of your city or country and included a final learning reflection task. The video calls helped students to build their confidence, improve their presentation skills, widen their knowledge on specific topics and most importantly have fun while doing so!

The programme was a huge success in terms of popularity and obtaining its key outcomes: knowing more about different cultures, building language skills and developing understanding of students’ own strengths and areas for getting better. By the end of the programme it connected 72 students, across 27 schools in 11 countries and there was a grand total of 135 hours of amazing virtual learning during the programme!

We are delighted that the ISP Virtual Buddy Exchange Programme will be coming back in academic year 2020/2021, this time with two intakes, one starting in October 2020 and another in Spring 2021. The programme will now also be open to Junior students aged 12 and 13 and Senior students from 14 to 17 years of age. This will allow even students across our schools the exciting opportunity to take part in this amazing programme!

Don’t just take our word for it – to celebrate the tremendously successful first year of the ISP Virtual Buddy Exchange Programme (VBEP), we asked two VBEP students from different ISP schools about their experience of the programme – Alejandra from Colegio Internacional Aravaca in Spain and Minalee, from Nibras International School in Dubai.

Why did you want to take part in the VBEP? 

From the minute our teachers approached us, we were excited to take part – we thought the programme was such a good idea to entertain ourselves and do something different, especially whilst we were indoors during the lockdown. Meeting other people and practising English also motivated us to take part.


Considering the global pandemic, how has the VBEP helped you to socialise and learn in different ways?

The programme has helped us to meet new people outside of our normal social circle and talk about different topics. It has been an eye-opening experience and an incredible opportunity to meet people from all over the world and understand how the rest of the world is dealing with the pandemic.


During the programme you discussed seven topics with seven students; what was your favourite topic and what were the biggest lessons you learnt?

My favourite topic was sports, says Minalee. It was amazing meeting with my VBEP buddy from Spain, she introduced me to different sports and sporting techniques too. My biggest lesson was not to be nervous and introduce yourself to others with all your confidence.

Each week we discussed different topics, including Sports, Music, Film & TV and Social media, says Alejandra, but my favourite one was A tour in your country or city. I learnt so much about Mexico from my VBEP buddy.  I’ve always wanted to visit Mexico, so it was really fun because she showed me the best places to visit, and now I want to visit even more!


What are the most interesting things you have learnt from the other students you have met? 

We’ve learnt a lot about our VBEP buddies – their personalities and their interests in life. Also, many new things about their culture and their countries, like their country’s typical dishes.


How did your Virtual Buddy Exchange Coordinators (VBECs) support you during the programme and on the video calls?

Knowing we had our VBECs as an extra support was the best thing. Each week, we had a video call with our coordinator where they explained to us how the next meeting would be and helped us by giving feedback about the previous meeting, so we could improve.  If we had any doubts or worries, they would answer our queries, and this would help us prepare our presentations comfortably and without any problems.

The VBECs have been really supportive to us. Even though I’m shy and quiet, I was able to talk comfortably with them. I was often nervous, and my VBEC would calm me down and tell me to take a deep breath, says Minalee.


How would you say you have developed your personal skills through the programme? 

I would say that now I know how to express myself better while speaking in English, because in school we learn a lot of things, but I never have the chance to actually practise it in this way, says Alejandra. In this programme, as we had to talk in English without having a script, I have improved a lot.

Minalee adds, I have improved my communication, public speaking skills and my spoken English too. It’s also helped me be more organised as well.


What would you say to other students thinking about taking part in the VBEP? 

If other students are thinking about joining the programme, we recommend it 100%! You can learn tons of things about many new countries, cultures and people, while having fun.

I would tell everyone not to be shy! You will have much more fun if you aren’t shy and there is no reason for it either, says Alejandra.

Minalee adds, I recommend students who are thinking of participating in the programme to come with open mindedness, dedicate your time well and have fun in the process!


Describe your VBEP experience.

Minalee: It was an unforgettable journey around the world.

Alejandra: I would say it was the best experience I could have lived whilst being in lockdown. I learnt so many things which I wouldn’t have done if it weren’t for the programme. I met wonderful new people too, who I still talk to at least every week!

would you like to know more?

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