Friday, September 4, 2015

End of the beginning of the beginning of the end.

Catchy title, is it not?
I suppose I should explain it. Today marks the end of the first week of my senior year of US high school. It is the end of the beginning of the beginning of the end as after this year I'll (hopefully) be heading back to England for university. Due to this I figure that I'll start updating this more often as I'll probably have more to talk about.
So to begin with I'll give you a quick rundown of how I got to be where I am now and how the timing of the English and American school systems link and how each one works  - briefly.

Age Range UK School US School
11-12 Year 7 (High School) 6th Grade (Middle School)
12-13 Year 8 (High School) 7th Grade (Middle School)
13-14 Year 9 (High School) 8th Grade (Middle School)
14-15 Year 10 (High School)9th Grade - Freshman (High School)
15-16 Year 11 (High School)10th Grade - Sophomore (High School)
16-17 Year 12 (Sixth Form)11th Grade - Junior (High School)
17-18 Year 13 (Sixth Form)12th Grade - Senior (High School)

Now to explain the age column to avoid confusion - the age on the left is what you start that year as and the age on the right is what you'll finish the year as. Also to give explanation to how grades etc. work in comparison/how everything is structured. In the first three years of British high school you gear up to do a set of qualifications called GCSEs - you pick your choices for these in Year 9 and start studying for them in Year 10. You finish them up with the exams at the end of Year 11. Then using these GCSEs you apply to sixth form colleges (not universities) in order to get A and AS levels for applying to University. An important thing to note here is that it is very rare for non-exam work to count towards the qualification although some classes may involve coursework which can be a large percentage of your grade - there is no GPA in the UK.

To compare this to the US system I'll dive straight into their high school portion as I've never attended US middle school so I can't really comment. Now the US high school system is driven by two main things - graduation requirements and GPA. Pupils in the US take various classes across their years of high school in order to receive the correct number of credits to graduate - quite often though these aren't the only requirements as many schools require community service to gradate which is incredibly, incredibly rare in the UK. Moving swiftly onwards into the GPA topic. GPA stands for grade point average and universities in the US take this into account when people apply. Something vastly different between the two education systems is that in the UK your homework and various class tests and projects etc. mean very, very little to your GCSE/A Level mark except that they give you practice and help you learn. In the US however your mark on pretty much everything contributes to your final grade; homework, tests, labs, quizzes, projects - you do it they'll include it.
Now you may have heard of the SAT (You almost certainly have if you're a US reader), and this is a large standardised mostly multiple-choice test that a lot of students take each year in the US as a lot of colleges (Universities) look at your scores as an extra variable as to whether you get in. This may very well be the only standalone exam that a lot of US pupils take before university and it is a massive cause of stress. Now there are also these things called AP exams but a lot of students don't do those and I'll probably explain these in a later blogpost.
Now all that's explained I'll tell you where I am in all of this. So I moved to the US after finishing my GCSEs which took me from Year 11 and stuck me into my Junior of High School. That was last year and my friends back in Blighty got their A level results while I was boosting my GPA. This year is the year I pull my finger out and put some considerable effort into trying to get back - have you seen foreign student fees over here? They're atrocious. So that's all for now folks.
This is the end of the beginning of the beginning of the end.
First week of senior year done.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A spot of poetry.

So I felt the need today/tonight to share some of the poetry that I wrote this year. I don't know what compelled me to do this other than a sense of regret. So this is a poem that kind of reflects the name of this blog and is about how, at some point during the past year, I felt something that was a combination of regret at my past choices and hope for my future choices.
I present "Musings on England from afar"

Musings on England from afar
A lyric in three parts
I doze across a bench in the midday sun,
And I ponder upon the garden around me.
The verdant green of the trees
And the flower beds flecked with a multitude of colours.
A beautiful sight to mine own eyes.
I hear birdsong - but birds I cannot name.

The scent of the last of the morning dew,
Carried on the gentle breeze, surprises me.
And a bird, red in plumage, sits by me.
It preens itself and I move to admire it
And its natural beauty and colours.
Yet my movements startle it and it flies,
Not unlike an autumn leaf when caught by a sudden gust.

I gaze in wonder at nature as it works
And I see honey bees buzzing from flower to flower
Striving to collect the golden treasure that lies deep within.
I also see the squirrels running amongst the trees,
They chirrup and squeak as they climb and jump and search.
And search for food, for sustenance, for their daily bread.
Yet still I still futility and how the lives the creatures are driven,
Driven only to survive and for what?
To continue their futile existence and create other instances of futile existence.

I marvel at the buildings around me,
At lonely houses within their own plots.
They lack definition and substance.
They lack natural community and unity
So unlike the housing of my childhood.

I sit outside in the summer light,
A feeling quite unknown to my pallid sin.
I stretch out and allow myself to relax
And bask in the warmth and glow of the midday sun.
I lie back and wait for the chilled breeze that never comes.
And I feel wistful for the weather I left behind.

I look around and examine my surroundings,
And now I look and I’m struck with the realisation that
These things seem so bizarre and alien to my mind.

Oh! How I miss the sound of gulls above
And the din of the busy streets of the land I used to know.
The land torn from me like one would an aging bandage.
How I miss you so.
The friends I worked so hard to gain,
The niches I worked so hard to craft.
Gone - like the scent of dew on the wind.
Gone - like a leaf caught by the sudden breeze.

The rain and constant cloud were viewed by many as misery
But to me they signified the boundaries to my British home.
They signified the roof and walls of my world.

Yes, I travelled far away from that place many, many times
But it was there to return to, there to comfort you.
I miss the skyline, familiar and comforting with its blues and greys.
It was so close by but now it is so very far away.
I miss the hilly horizon, distant and wistful with its greens and yellows.
The hills were so far but were there. They are now further still.

That land which was my home for much of my life
Is now but a memory, everlastingly bittersweet.
My life there seems so fleeting and brief,
Not unlike the life of the humble bee.
My work there seems so futile and unfulfilling
As is the life of the woodland squirrel.

My home, one in itself amongst others identical,
Now lies three thousand miles away,
And with it my childhood and past experiences.
For the body this is a trip rarely taken
But for the mind it is a mere blink of an eye away.

To not wake up to the sound of cars and lorries
And to not walk outside to the odour of diesel fumes, lingering in the air,
Is a sensation most foreign and unnerving.
Yet, now, I do not miss it.
The familiar grey and desaturated skyline is gone,
Replaced with brighter and more positive colours.
I no longer brace myself for chills whilst in the midday, summer sun.
As it is now bright and warm.

I emerge from my memories and I now see
The world around me in a different light,
As whilst it is still bizarre and alien,
It is also new and full of life - life waiting for exploration.

The colours here reflect the vibrancy and vigor of Life
Rather than the futility and inevitability of Death.
I see flowers and trees in my world,
Once dominated by brick and concrete.
And oh! It is a beauteous sight
To see life and nature before my eyes.

I hear birdsong and though I cannot name the birds,
I hear it clearly for the first time.
I can smell the morning dew drifting on the breeze towards me,
And I can admire the red bird who sits and flies free through my own eyes.
The nature that was once distant and vague on the far horizon
Is now close and distinct in my own environment.

I still see the tedious work of the honey bee,
But now instead of pity I feel admiration for its endurance in its task.
And I see the futility in the life of the squirrel,
But within that futility I also see freedom of life,
Freedom to run and climb throughout the forest trees unbound by urban sprawl.

And I look at the houses, individual within their plots,
And I realise that they possess qualities as individuals not as a whole.
Each house is unique and their unity comes from diversity.
Each inhabitant is of their own and their community comes from freedom,
Not from the necessity which used to be so familiar to me.

I no longer feel regret and sadness at the life that I left behind,
The friends I lost, the locations of memories distant.
But I feel hope and fulfilment at the thought of the future I can carve,
The friends I can find and the memories I can create.
And whilst I do still miss the bittersweet land I left behind,
I realise that Life is different here - more vibrant and apparent,
And that I will soon replace that missing piece with one different but one that still fits.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

New World, New Friends

So I was chatting to a friend of mine - post move friend - and I came to realise that this entire experience has been a massive social development for me. Back in the UK I'd grown into a comfort zone with my friends - good friends - and I was happily going along in my rut with my friends heading towards my goals. Now we're going to get a bit metaphorical here but bear with the metaphor for at least a little while.
So I'm in this rut and I'm getting more assured in my social life, so I start picking up speed, going along faster and faster then suddenly this tranatlantic move appears like a stone in the rut. I'm at this point going too fast to avoid it and soon I'm out of the rut and onto the rough path - some areas pathless.
Okay metaphor over maybe, but you get it right? I was ripped out of my comfort zone and pushed into uncharted territory. I had to fend for myself socially. I could hear my friends back in the rut but I couldn't get back. So I strode on. I used my experience to forge on ahead - no rut this time. I was staying in the unknown and going ahead. I still am.
Right now okay metaphor is finally over. From my experiences back in the UK, I developed myself a brilliant new adventurous social life in the US. I learnt from my mistakes. I won't say it's been perfect but it's been a whole lot better than my start to high school was back in the UK. And I wouldn't go back and not emigrate.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hello New World

Well more like "Hi again, New World"
I've decided after the best part of a year in America that I should finally start the blog that I have been considering writing for a long time. I don't know what I'm going to write here or how often I'm going to write here but I guess that will come to me. So to begin with I say hello. I say hello to the new world that I have been part of for just over 11 months.

It's been an interesting 11 months to say the least. I've developed so very much as an individual within that time and I've learnt so much about myself and the world. I've made decisions I regret and decisions that I stand by. So much has happened. However I'll probably keep you all in suspense about that.

So I'll give myself a brief introduction as a 17 year old English expatriate who moved across the pond as probably the largest change of his life so far. Many things yet await me and you'll almost certainly hear about them on this blog so stay tuned I suppose. The next post could arrive at literally any point in time.