This year, two College pupils have participated in an exchange programme with a school in Massachusetts called Groton School, founded by Old Cheltonian the Reverend Endicott Peabody in 1884. Ankita Mediratta (L6, W) interviews one of the pupils, Layla, about her time in College so far.
What were your expectations and has College met them?
I don’t think I had that many expectations. My only memory of the English schooling system was that of primary school (I went to a school in London when I was five), and I knew that such a memory could hardly compare with what high school would be like. I’d visited Cheltenham over the summer, so I already knew how beautiful the school was; the dorms, Chapel, dining hall and classrooms were as amazing as they had been in July, if not a bit more crowded. I didn’t know what to expect on an academic level-obviously, in America, we don’t have GCSE and A Levels, so the curriculum for subjects across the board is taught differently, with different skills being stressed more than others. The schedule I have now, admittedly much heavier on the classics side than is usual, is much like my schedule in America, so College has definitely proven itself in that respect. Socially, I expected the girls to be… how should I say? Mean? I know that America is known for its high school hierarchies (Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars anyone?) but honestly, I thought that British girls would be so much more sarcastic than the ones in America. I was pleasantly surprised to have found evidence to the contrary. While it is true, there is the classic British sarcasm glaringly prevalent at all social levels, the girls are far more (pardon my American slang) “real” than the ones I am accustomed to. High school is hard, as any angst-ridden teenager will tell you, but I find it refreshing to be among people who are willing to speak their opinions frankly rather than whispering behind each other’s backs.
What has been your favorite experience so far?
My favorite experience has been… hmm. That’s a hard question. I’ve enjoyed the shopping in the town (in Groton, the closest living inhabitants of the desolate New England moors aside from coffee-stained students are some sheep and the occasional wild turkey), playing field hockey for the first time, comparing my terrible Cockney accent to my roommate’s equally terrible Southern one, yoga during study hall, going to ‘tea’ instead of dinner - the list goes on and on. To pick a favorite would be an affront to all the other experiences I’ve had.
What are the biggest differences between school in America and Cheltenham College?
Biggest differences? There are quite a few - some trivial, some major. Accents, studying for standardized tests that the teachers won’t have any control over, uniforms, not having sports every day of the week, sinks in the bedroom, taking three sciences, and CCF - that’s really been the weirdest thing so far. I was tempted to show up wrapped in an American flag, but, lacking such a patriotic piece of cloth and having absolutely no idea how to wear a flag without looking like Captain America, I opted against it. Instead, I wandered over to the science department in sweatpants and a jacket. I was taught how to stand to attention or at ease, watched the 'colors' ceremony and learned to mold a beret to one’s head. Despite our military posters, some of which have slogans as painfully American as “Join the Army and learn how to make stuff deader”, most schools, so long as they aren’t West Point, have no such military program.
Can you sum up your experience in one word?
This would be the second time I’ve done this, but I can’t. I can’t describe everything that’s happened, everything that I’ve learned, everything that everyone has done for me and put it into one word without sounding pretentious or obvious. It’s new, it’s amazing, it’s inspirational, it’s eye-opening and it’s different. I’ve met people that I hope I will continue to talk to on a regular basis even when I return to Groton and I’ve learned things that I’m in no hurry to forget and I’m not even halfway through.
If you would like to know what our College pupils are up to in America, find out here