Karolina (right) is currently in her second year of study at Newlands Manor School in the south of England. She tells us about her experiences in the Sixth Form of a co- educational private school.
In recent years studying abroad has become increasingly popular among Polish students. I chose to do this after I went on a language course in London during the summer of 1998. I began my education that September at Newlands Manor School in Seaford, East Sussex, where I intend to complete my 'A' Levels.
I have not had a lot of previous experience with student exchanges and longer trips abroad so the new customs seemed a bit confusing to me at first. The English system of education differs totally from the Polish one, especially in a private school like I go to.
An ordinary school day starts at 9 a.m. with the registration of the whole year. Next there are lessons or study periods until lunch, which is provided by the school. Lessons are compulsory for the rest of the afternoon until 5.20 p.m., when period nine finishes. Boarders then go to supper and day students are driven home by the school minibuses.
The school years in Newlands are divided up into three junior years and the senior Sixth Form, which again splits into two years called the Lower and the Upper Sixth.
Spoilt for choice
A large variety of subjects are available in school including the basic ones such as Mathematics, English, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc. Additionally you can also choose to do Art, Business Studies, Music, Drama, Modern Languages or Physical Education for 'A' Level. A Sixth Former has to study only three and can choose whichever he/she likes. These are the subjects you write your final examination in. In contrast to Polish secondary schools, where pupils in their last year cannot focus on the studies they really need, this system enables students to specialize.
Often British private schools are responsible not only for the students' education, but also for their accommodation. At the present time I live with a host family, but having been a border for a year, I am able to compare these two types of accommodation. Certainly, life in a random British family is not always easy (I have moved once already), but I definitely prefer it to the strict life of boarding.
Getting accustomed to the rules
The buildings of a boarding house are separated into a male and a female area, each supervised by a housemistress or a housemaster. There are usually three or four people sharing a room, unless you are a Sixth Former. One of the Sixth Form privileges is to have your own room, but this is not always possible due to the large number of students in the house.
Generally conditions are reasonable, though I had difficulties getting accustomed to all the rules. An example is prep times, when everyone has to sit in their rooms doing homework for two hours and nobody is allowed to leave. Punctuality is a key word for every boarder, because when you go out in the evenings you must return on or before the time stated - never later. The usual punishment for breaking this rule is to be gated for the whole weekend. Also a letter will be sent to your parents and the housemistress will want to speak to you. A very typical feature of boarding schools is assembly in the common room, when all members of the house get together to discuss matters concerning the school or the house. The common room is also a place for the students to socialize in, as they are not supposed to enter each other's rooms.
Occasionally I felt a lack of privacy in the boarding house, but it certainly taught me to be responsible for my actions and it was generally a useful experience for me. But the atmosphere in my host family is much less restrictive and being part of an English family gives you the opportunity to get to know the lifestyle and customs which cannot be experienced in a boarding school.
This stay will be an unforgettable experience. Thanks to it I have gained new skills, but first of all, it has taught me responsibility and independence. I have had the chance to compare two different cultures and lifestyles and the opportunity to broaden my mind, which for me was one of the most motivating factors.