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Kevin Lee : My Round Square Experience At Abbotsholme

20 Apr 2017

I arrived at Abbotsholme on the 19th of February 2017. It was a cold blustery Sunday night after the half term break. I was tremendously excited, but also nervous at the same time, because I was going to be alone, starting a new term at a new school where I didn’t know a single person! The thought of having to make new friends filled me with trepidation.

Upon my arrival, I was shown to Cedarholme, my boarding house where I met my houseparents. My worries melted away as they warmly greeted me, showed me to my room, before giving me a quick tour around the campus. They also introduced me to the other boarders along my corridor before we went out to play some football together. At first, it seemed crazy to play football at night in the open air pitch when the temperature hovered at 4 degrees Celsius, but as my days became weeks at Abbotsholme, I quickly got used to the idea.

On my first day of lessons, I met a lot of people. I was assigned to a tutor group and my tutees were a very friendly bunch. They showed me around school and took me to classes. Although I was initially very shy and clueless about everything, they talked to me a lot and made me feel welcome. As the days went by, things got better. I knew where to be and when to be, and I had made more friends through different classes, sports and meal times.

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Every Monday, Thursday and Saturday nights, I would play football with the other boarders at the astro turf. Through football, I met and made some very good friends, such as Quentin. He was a German boy with a multicultural background in one of the upper years. We often hung out and played a lot of sports together too. On the weekends, he’d show me around Uttoxeter, a nearby town, where boarders could visit to buy groceries and goodies. Every Saturday, there would be an excursion or outing of some sort for the boarders. Sometimes, there’d be an outing during the weekdays as well. During my five weeks at Abbotsholme, I had the opportunity to go Orienteering at the Peak District in Derby, Dry Skiing and Tubing at Stoke. I also watched a play called ‘Educating Rita’ at Derby, explored the city of York for a day and roamed around Uttoxeter countless times. Most excitingly, I watched Manchester United FC play against FC Rostov at Old Trafford in Manchester. All of these were new experiences and I enjoyed them very much.

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During mealtimes, I often sat with a friendly bunch of students from China. They were very nice to me and treated me like family. Although I conversed with my Year 9 group of friends in English during lessons at school, these boarders and I talked a fair bit in Mandarin. After a month or so, I felt as though my Mandarin was improving whilst on a RS exchange in England. Besides chatting during mealtimes at the dining table, we played basketball together every Wednesday after school and every Saturday night. On the weekends, we’d laze around the boarding house or play videogames in the social room.

I know it sounds like I just had one big holiday during my exchange, but obviously I had to attend classes too. At Abbotsholme, everything was completely different even though I was attending Year 9 there, just like at Epsom here. Some subjects were harder, while others were easier. There were also subjects that I had never learnt before, such as Agriculture, Living in the Wider World, Outdoor Education etc. But I found them very interesting. I was also given the chance to work at the farm and the stables located within the campus. I was assigned work to do, such as cleaning up the pig shelters and the pony stables, herding cows, feeding hay to sheep and retrieving horses from the fields. I did not like getting dirty and smelling yucky but it was a good experience anyway.

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Overall, my RS exchange allowed me to meet so many different kinds of people and make some very good new friends. I ventured into a whole new world, learnt a little more about British culture, experienced boarding school in England, besides learning many different things. My experience at Abbotsholme was so great that when it came time to say goodbye towards the end of their school term, truth be told, I’d rather have stayed back there instead.

I am very grateful to Mrs. Kuster for making arrangements to allow me to go on exchange, and to Ms. Holmes of Abbotsholme, as well as my host school, for giving me such a warm welcome! There’s a whole new world out there, waiting to be explored, so I would strongly encourage anyone and everyone to seize the opportunity and enjoy the time of your life!

“The world is a book, and those who don't travel only read one page”.