PUPILS from a London school reached for the stars, not the supermarket, for their work experience last month.
Victoria Walsh and Benjamin Anstiss, from Douay Martyrs School in Hillingdon, spent six days at the US Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, on an advanced space academy course with around 40 American 14 to 17-year olds.
Victoria, who has always been interested in science and space exploration, learned about the course during her four-year correspondence with NASA. She and Benjamin attended lectures on the space programme, trained as astronauts on simulated missions - one lasting six hours - experiencing weightlessness and up to four Gs of force.
"It was long, hard work that I enjoyed, especially the diving that took place in a 24ft deep tank with a mock-up of a satellite at the bottom," Benjamin said. Victoria said she hoped to join the space programme when she finishes her education.
But they were not the only Douay Martyrs' pupils to gain an unusual placement. Warren Ruhomon spent two weeks with Saatchi and Saatchi, one of the world's largest advertising agencies; Natalie Spires shadowed Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North around his daily tasks; and Yannick White went to Paris to work for investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Warren enjoyed contributing to a new advertising campaign by creating designs using a computer graphics package.
Natalie, an aspiring politician, said her favourite moment was attending Prime Minister's Question Time. "The Opposition fired questions at Tony Blair but he was always ready with an answer, or sometimes an excuse or insult."
Yannick's French experience was the result of a "take your son to work" day . The high point was buying shares for a company with a trader. "They went up over the next two days and hopefully will go up even more in years to come and make the company a lot of money." He also improved his French.
Marie Stubbs, the head, said these placements were not that unusual as Douay Martyrs had a "culture of trying to bring the world to the school. Our pupils are not diffident about pursuing their career possibilities. The world has moved on from doing work experience in the local carpet factory."