Germantown Friends School students (from left) Ethan Genyk ’14, Catherine McNally ’15, Dimitri Diagne ’14 and Rive Cadwallader ’14, with Winchester College Librarian Dr. Geoffrey Day, examine a rare book from the school's 14th-century library.

Germantown Friends School students (from left) Ethan Genyk ’14, Catherine McNally ’15, Dimitri Diagne ’14 and Rive Cadwallader ’14, with Winchester College Librarian Dr. Geoffrey Day, examine a rare book from the school’s 14th-century library.

Germantown Friends School is a historic institution with roots dating back to 1845, but four GFS students are experiencing a whole new epoch of history on an exchange program with Winchester College, founded in 1382.

On Jan. 10, Dimitri Diagne ’14, Rive Cadwallader ’14, Ethan Genyk ’14 and Catherine McNally ’15, as well as faculty representatives Anne Gerbner and James Barron, flew to England to immerse themselves in the history, culture and academic offerings of Winchester College. An all-boys boarding school, with girl day-students, it’s a one-hour trip south of London in the medieval cathedral town of Winchester.

“If you are going to experience the culture of England you couldn’t begin in a better place than Winchester,” said GFS classics and history teacher James Barron. “It has such ancient roots. There are ruins of the Roman walls and even pre-Roman Gaelic ruins. It’s amazing to think that the school was more than 100 years old before America was founded.”

At Winchester College, the GFS students wear a jacket and tie, live in a cottage, enjoy afternoon tea and eat formal meals in a grand dining hall, which GFS English teacher Anne Gerbner describes as “something out of a Harry Potter movie.”

Most importantly, they benefit from a school steeped in centuries of history and with excellent programs in art, math, science, history, English literature, classics and athletics. Dimitri Diagne writes that he is learning two sports that may only exist in the UK – “Racquets and Fives” – and his Winchester classmates report that he is “quite good!”

In exchange, GFS will welcome Winchester students to their campus from March 23 to April 15.

“GFS offers a very different experience for Winchester students,” Barron said. “We are urban, Quaker and a day-school that is committed to our Germantown community. The students will be living in homes, calling their teachers by their first names and wearing pretty much whatever they want.”

This inaugural exchange, which concludes on Feb. 1, is an opportunity for GFS and Winchester students to discover what is unique, similar and fundamentally different between the two schools, cities and countries. The institutions share a common goal of developing each student’s mind, body and spirit, and developing a broader perspective on the world through international study.

In this modern, globally-connected world, the international exchange opportunities at GFS are constantly expanding. Barron notes that as we become more interconnected, making friends around the world is increasingly important.

“The students will really get to know each other and will remain close for a very long time,” he added.