Elisabeth Merrifield

My first couple of weeks at Felsted have been quite hectic but they have been full of wonderful new experiences. I am in year 12 which is equivalent to Athenian’s grade 11, and for the past two weeks I have experienced the life of both an A-level student and an IB student. An A-level student chooses three subjects to study in depth and they use letter grades. For example, I’m taking French, history, and business. IB students take 6 or more subjects, specifically the ones that challenge them the most, and they are graded on a scale of 1-7. My classes when shadowing the IB student were high-level chemistry, standard chemistry, biology, high level biology, literature, math, psychology, high-level psychology, and Spanish. All the class sizes range from 3-16 students so, they are almost the same size as the classes at Athenian. Though it has been a big change from Athenian, all of the students and teachers have been incredibly welcoming.

Boarding has also been a brand-new experience for me, and it has gone surprisingly well so far. I am at Stockss house which holds girls from year 9 through year 12 (or Lower 6th). All the girls are so nice and have been making sure that I know exactly what to do and where to go. The house is wonderful and has a very warm and cozy feeling to it, that makes you feel at home. All of the Lower 6th girls have their own rooms, and though they might appear very small, I have found that it’s all the room I need. My favorite part of the house might be the backyard, they have a gorgeous garden with a couple of picnic benches and though it isn’t too pleasant on a rainy day, it is beautiful on a sunny day. I also have the privilege of watching the sunset at 8:00 pm right outside my window.

I have already been to two Felsted events and they were conveniently back to back. On Friday, the 20th I had a 6th form social (both year 12 and 13). I had originally thought it would be something like Sophomore fun night, but I turned out to be very wrong. It was actually a black-tie event, in which we had a three-course meal followed by some ‘dancing’. It was a beautiful event and everyone had a lot of fun. The next night, on Saturday, my house had their house feast which is arguably the most important event of the year for boarders. This event was even nicer than the social and the girls had been planning their outfits and hair for weeks before. House feast is when the whole house comes together to have dinner, accompanied by their parents. Some parents drove up from London, some from Germany, and one family even flew up from Zimbabwe. The night started out with some time to socialize and mingle, as well as take lots of pictures. It was followed by a wonderful dinner and an abundance of performances, speeches, and awards.

Not only is England incredibly different from Danville, but Felsted is immensely different from Athenian. The uniform is one of the many things that stands out as a difference. It depends on your year, but the 6th form uniform for girls is a knee-length pencil skirt, a button-down blouse, a blazer, and some flats. The boys have to wear a suit and tie as well as a button-down shirt, and dress shoes. The rules get stricter as you get younger, as the younger years have to wear their hair up and they cannot wear any jewelry besides a small cross necklace. The school also has mandatory study periods in which students cannot talk to each other, and they have to quietly study in their rooms. Felsted also has chapel three days a week which has been very interesting as I don’t go to church often. They are only 15 minuet sessions in which we sing a couple of songs, and hear a reading or story. I expected to not like it at all, but it is turning out to be better than I thought. The school is in the very small town of Felsted and is not easy to miss as it is a beautiful campus originally founded in 1564. The little town surrounding it consists of a couple of restaurants, a church, a couple of small stores, and a Swan Inn. Though the town doesn’t have a ton to offer, you can drive into Braintree which has plenty to do and is only a short 16 minuet drive.

Even though almost everyone who goes on exchange says this at some point, I cannot stress enough how important it is to not have set expectations. Though it’s almost impossible to go into exchange with a completely open mind, really try and just go with the flow. I have only been here for two weeks but some of my best experiences have been because I said yes.