This year, in the month of April, 16 students from grades 9 and 11 were taken to the United Kingdom with our Senior Academic Co-ordinator, Mrs. S. Thomas to attend a study programme at St. John’s International School, located in Sidmouth, Devon.This trip gave us a tiny glimpse into the lifestyle of British students as well as boarding school students. I would like to put as much of this into perspective as I can through the narration of a day in the life of a student of this school.
Let this day be a Wednesday: On any weekday, the student would be awoken at 7 a.m. by a sweet Italian lady, whom it was impossible to hate for waking them up early. We would then have to freshen up, get dressed for school, and report to the cafeteria by 7:30. We would generally be served a breakfast buffet, three different types of cereals with milk, two or three varieties of fruits and either eggs or hash browns. After breakfast, attendance would be taken and a few announcements would be made by the boarding head, Mr. Tasker, who would, thereafter dismiss the students. We would then have 20 minutes to got back to our rooms, pack our bags and also make our own beds. Then report to our classes by 8:25 for our roll calls.
After ‘Registration’, we would have to go for our first class, Sixth Form English. English class would be taken by Mr. Logan, a friendly gentleman who taught grammar and speech writing through the hour. Without the Indian students, his class consisted of only ONE young 17 year old, Harry.
This was followed by history class with the student favourite Mr. Shaw. This charming man was the most entertaining history teacher we had ever studied with and was genuinely the most effective of the lot. He had only two students, which was a shame because he was such a good teacher.
The recess would follow, wherein the students could play on the patio and the little garden. The students, however, would mostly gather around to witness the two table tennis matches that would always be going on between the good players once they grabbed their little snack from the cafeteria. In half an hour, the bell would ring and the students would go back into the school through one number coded door, which was generally held open by every third or fourth student in the queue. This courteous behaviour was eventually emulated by the international students as well. The students would then get their bags off the racks outside the girls’ locker rooms and proceed to their next classes.
Geography was quite a big class.( It had four students, aside from the short course students.) One of these students, Andrew, was from China and didn’t really speak much because of the language barrier. However we soon discovered that he had no real problem communicating with anyone from any country once he had a pencil and paper in his hands. His art told the most detailed, magnificent and compelling stories that we had ever seen in the flesh. Geography, however, was not art. And hence he would be giving his re-test while the lovely Teacher would be teaching the rest of the class, with a special focus on the temporary students and the geographical features of their country. Geography was followed by Global Perspectives. This was definitely the most interesting subject in the curriculum, mainly because we had never done it before. It was a study of global issues and international debates. On this particular day, the five “Sixth Form Students” from India debated the relevance of the statement, ‘Religion does more harm than good’, with two people for it and three against it. The other students worked on their assignments for their upcoming examinations. After the healthy, hour-long debate, the students were let off for lunch. As Sixth Form Students, we had the privilege to enter the cafeteria as and when we pleased for lunch, whereas the others had to line up outside and enter when their grade was called in. This was due to the space constraint in the cafeteria due to the overload of boarding, as well as day-school, students in attendance for lunch. After an hour long lunch break, the students would proceed to their next class. If they had a free block, they could sit in the sixth form room, a sort of common room for the senior most students, which had a kitchen, some study tables and sofas. The last period was generally PE. The students would have to change into their skirt and t-shirt and go out into the field for either cricket or ‘rounders’ – a British variant of baseball. In PE, the teachers did not only make them play, but also taught them some techniques they could use for basic things like balling and catching. This posed as a rather interesting variant to the PE that we were used to. At the end of the day, we could collect our phones from the matron’s, where we would also be given our laundry, and return to our dorms. Matron’s was a little cabin situated just outside the school wherein there was a kitchen, a boom box and some sofas. This was a common room for all boarders. Now, since this was a Wednesday, the students were permitted to go, in groups or pairs, down to the small town of Sidmouth and eat at a restaurant or purchase some snacks from Tesco’s, or just take a walk by the seafront. So we would generally sign out at matron’s and leave with out friends to explore the town. We would then have to return by 8:15 p.m., after which we could have a little snack and play basketball, badminton or football in the indoor sports hall. This, however, was not compulsory, so we could also just rest in out rooms if we wished. For the senior students, bed time was at 10:30 p.m., when one of the boarding staff would come and take the phones of the students, turn off the lights and bid goodnight. Most of the tired bunch would fall asleep immediately. This was only a narration of one day. On other days, we had other classes, like Business, with the headmaster, who encouraged healthy classroom discussions about economic issues or physics and chemistry, where practicals were held. We enjoyed special workshops, like cooking, where we learnt how to make scones; forensics, where the girls found the killer before the boys; dancing, where we learnt two folk dances etc. We went off campus plenty of times, to Exeter, Sidmouth and the historic town of St. Regis, which was filled with fossils and a rich history. We also learnt a new sport, Rounders, and had our fill of contemporary British food. On the whole, we had a wonderful time; so wonderful that most of us wished we could stay in St, John’s for the next three days instead of going to London.
-Raksha Saraf 12A