My first few weeks at Abbotsholme have been filled with meeting new people, getting settled in my cabin, and traveling around the area.
I flew out of SFO on British Airway’s daily direct flight to Heathrow Airport. Because of a late take-off from SFO, I had the misfortune of having 20 minutes to run through the busiest airport in the world (Heathrow) to make my flight to Manchester. I landed in Manchester at around 1:30pm (England time) where I was met by a private hire taxi who drove me about an hour to the countryside, which is where the Abbotsholme School is located. Upon being dropped off, I was taken to the sixth form boarding house (years 11 and 12 in America), Barnfield, commonly known as the cabins. There are a total of five cabins, which are mini-houses equipped with full kitchens. My cabin has five other girls: one exchange from New Brunswick Canada, two gap years, and two Chinese girls.
That night, I was formally introduced all of the boarding sixth formers in our house meeting and was told the basic ins and outs of being a boarder. After the meeting, it was time to go back to our cabins to get ready for bed and for our first day of class. I was very grateful because I was completely exhausted from my day of traveling.
At Abbotsholme, school starts at 8:20 and normally goes until 5:10. On my first day of class, I was told that I was placed into lower sixth (11th grade). Every morning we have registration (similar to advisory), where you check in and get told announcements for the day. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we have chapel after registration where we either practice hymns or hear important notices (similar to Athenian’s morning meeting or symposium). Wednesday chapels are known as formal chapels, so boys and girls in sixth form are required to wear blazers. After chapel (around 9:00) I normally head off to one of my three classes: technology, geography, or chemistry. Similar to Athenian, the school follows a rotating block schedule. It’s a bit more confusing than Athenian’s but I am slowly but surely getting the hang of it. After your first two lessons, they have break where the students have tea and a treat of sorts before heading off to three more lessons. After those three lessons is lunch (12:35 until around 1:45 except for Fridays when lunch ends at 2:00), and then registration to make sure that we are still at school. Following registration are three more lessons, then another break with tea and a treat. After break are two more periods, but depending on the day of the week, there may be special activities planned or class. For example, every Thursday I have a cooking lesson with other sixth formers.
Once the last two lessons are done, this marks the end of “school.” The day pupils go home and the boarders go back to their dorms, change out of their uniform, and have a required study period. As the name indicates, we are supposed to do homework and assignments, but we are also given the option to go to other people’s dorms to get help with homework. Study period lasts until around 6:10 and dinner (or as they call it ‘tea’) is at 7:00. After tea we have free time to go to other peoples cabins or roam around campus until 10:15 (on the weekends 11:00), before we are required to go back to our cabins.. After going back to our cabins we are allowed to stay up until we feel ready for bed, but we are just required to stay in our respective cabin for the night.
Every weekend we are given the option of going to Uttoxeter or Derby (both are local towns, but Derby is bigger than Uttoxeter) for the morning/afternoon. Normally you go to Tesco’s (similar to WalMart, it sells everything for really cheap) or just wander around town for a few hours. Afterwards, you spend the rest of your weekend hanging out with the other boarders or possibly taking a taxi back into town to go to the movies or bowling.
So far I am really enjoying my time at Abbotsholme and really trying to immerse myself in the community and as many activities as possible. Next weekend, the school organized a trip to Liverpool and I am quite excited to go somewhere new. It has snowed here quite a bit and as I am writing this, there is supposed to be a storm later on today. Everyone here has been very welcoming and I already feel as though I have been here for year.