Explore Berlin — Aimhigher West Midlands

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Aimhigher Plus took a fantastic group of 30 Year 9 students on a once in a lifetime trip to Berlin last week as part of the Explore Berlin project. These students were from 6 different schools across the West Midlands including Balaam Wood, Shenley Academy, North Birmingham Academy, Cardinal Wiseman, Smiths Wood and Tudor Grange Academy Kingshurst. Many of these students had never travelled abroad before, been on a plane, taken a train or been to a restaurant. The Aimhigher Plus project has consistently identified a lack of cultural capital as a barrier to higher education access. This international residential trip provided students with the opportunity to go outside of their comfort zones, broaden their horizons and develop cultural capital. The trip worked to develop essential personal attributes within the students, such as confidence, team building, independence and resilience.

‘I have never been abroad before, so I am really nervous about stepping outside of my comfort zone but amazed to be part of the project.‘ (Student Champion)

Students have been involved in the Explore Berlin project since mid-November and attended 4 pre-trip sessions at Aston University which involved them learning about Berlin History, brushing up their German language skills and even completing an airport simulation to prepare them for their travels.

In Berlin the students went on a historic walking tour, to the Berlin Zoo, to Humboldt University, did a street art walking tour, played bowling and went ice skating. Each night they ate in a different restaurant and students tried new types of food including Italian, Turkish and traditional German cuisine. During the visit to Humboldt University, students got stuck into an engineering experiment designing and making their own boats before heading over to the geography department to find out more about measuring weather. Whilst at Humboldt they were lucky enough to meet a student who carried out an Erasmus year in Birmingham last year. This experience really gave students an insider’s perspective into studying abroad and has encouraged many of them to consider studying abroad in the future. At the beginning of the project many of these students weren’t considering University at all, so this is a huge change in their mind-set in a short space of time and has really highlighted the impact this kind of project can have on students.

A follow up event booked in for March will celebrate the students’ success and the maturity and resilience it took to step outside of their comfort zone! We will also be sharing a short film that students have helped create during out trip. The students are now international ambassadors in their schools and will be sharing their experiences with others.