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Summer School — But Not in the Way You’d Expect

Six female Berkeley students study abroad in England for a month.

Emma Edmund, Web Editor

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CHANGING OF THE GUARD: On the trip to London, some students were able to see the iconic changing of the guard. The people outnumbered the soldiers by far for this number one tourist attraction.

First Italy, now England? These Berkeley kids really know how to get places! This week in Oh! The Places You Should Go, we travel to England for another Berkeley-sponsored study abroad trip.
This trip didn’t begin over the summer, but rather two summers ago, when four girls and four boys visited Berkeley from Kent College and Tonbridge School, respectively. In the spring, the four boys flew to Tonbridge to study at the boys’ school there. In June and July, the four girls went to study abroad at Kent College, the girls’ school. That’s where our journey begins.

 

KENT COLLEGE FOR GIRLS: Pictured here is Kent College, the school that six Berkeley students had the chance to visit this past summer. The only problem? The strict uniform!

Emma Edmund
KENT COLLEGE FOR GIRLS: Pictured here is Kent College, the school that six Berkeley students had the chance to visit this past summer. The only problem? The strict uniform!

 

The experience was an unforgettable one. The English school, for one thing, was very different from a typical American school. Students in England take two-year courses, meaning that they move at a slower pace to take a national exam, called the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), after the certificate that students receive if they pass the exam, at the end of each course. These exams help determine what students will take for their A-levels (the equivalent of junior and senior year here in the U.S.), and that in turn helps determine their major at a university. At Kent College, students take more classes in a year than students at Berkeley. For instance, one of the exchange students, Amy Hopkinson, took Latin, Spanish, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English, Mathematics, Drama, Dance, Business, Geography and Religious Studies in a single year. Her classes ranged from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.
The girls’ school was a mixture between a boarding school and a day school. Some students chose to stay on-campus while other students stayed off-campus. Staying on-campus allowed students to meet a wide range of other students from many parts of the world — there were kids from as nearby as Hadlow to as faraway as Hong Kong. As Caroline Davidson ‘18 put it, “the lasting friendships made in and out of Kent College made the trip unforgettable.”

 

NEWHAVEN AND SEAFORD: Some students took a geography trip to Newhaven and Seaford to study the cliffs there and how the water affected the beaches of the town.

Emma Edmund
NEWHAVEN AND SEAFORD: Some students took a geography trip to Newhaven and Seaford to study the cliffs there and how the water affected the beaches of the town.

 

Outside of school, Berkeley students had the weekends and one week of summer break to spend with their exchanges, sightseeing or just relaxing. The students included a visit to London, with a stop in Topshop on Oxford Street, known for its shopping. Students also visited iconic sites such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the London Eye. Some students were able to travel as far as Paris and Barcelona.
One unique part of the trip is that the students were present during the referendum that determined whether or not Great Britain stayed in the European Union. “Brexit” was a hot topic for many Kent College students, many of whom wanted to Britain to stay in the European Union even though the country voted to leave.

BREXIT OR BREMAIN: Kent College held a mock EU referendum just the day before the actual one. Kent College voted to stay, but the British voted to leave.

Emma Edmund
BREXIT OR BREMAIN: Kent College held a mock EU referendum just the day before the actual one. Kent College voted to stay, but the British voted to leave.

 

For the Berkeley students, it was the trip of a lifetime. For Davidson, it boiled down to “being able to live with an English family for the five weeks really enhanced the experience of learning about true English culture.”

 

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