31 Dec, 2015
10 : 00
Dragging our large and heavy luggage to Sibley’s Barn in Somerset was the very first part of our trip. We were extremely exhausted since we had moved non-stop from Yantai to Beijing and from Beijing to Somerset. Fortunately, the warm welcome from Sibley’s Barn made us feel very comfortable. We were all impressed by the clean and nice facilities of Sibley’s Barn. It was better than we expected!
On the following day, which was Sunday, the students were divided into four groups to do daily duties while staying at Sibley’s Barn. Every week when one team collected the laundry, another team would set the table for breakfast and dinner, and the other team would do recycling. The last team got to rest. Through these daily duties, we got to know our teammates better by helping and co-operating with each other.
The very next day was our first day in Haygrove School, located just about 20 minutes by bus from Sibley’s Barn. The school has a big soccer field and lots of buildings so it is much larger than we thought. Each one of us had a buddy from Haygrove School and since it was the first day at school, our buddies introduced the school to us. We had some time with our buddies afterwards, and then returned to Sibley’s Barn. Thankfully, we were all pleased with our buddies. We didn’t even have a chance to be “jet-lagged” because we had such a busy day.
Every day at Haygrove School, we had Skype lessons with Yew Wah teachers and two hours of self-study before we met our buddies. We went to our buddy’s classes and joined the lessons. Design & Technology, Catering, French, German, Spanish, and Textiles were some subjects that Yew Wah doesn’t have and, they were very interesting and helpful in some ways.
We had lunch at school after having classes with our buddies. Several students had a hard time with the school food but they ate it anyway. An extra self-study time was given to us after lunch and before after-school activities. We had after-school activities such as PE, Quiz, Catering, DT (Design & Technology) and Art. We really enjoyed after-school fun activities and nice Haygrove teachers who helped us a lot.
We returned to Sibley’s Barn when the clock struck 4.30 p.m. After having dinner, we had our last self-study time and had some free time. Students could spend their free time in the Game’s Room, Piano Room, TV Room or just in their bedrooms. All the lights were turned off at 10 p,m.
Our Yew Wah students and Haygrove students had several matches against each other. On the second week, there was a basketball match with the Haygrove basketball team. We drew with them, but it was certainly a huge success because we had fewer players and they were an official basketball team with a coach. Students who weren’t playing the game cheered for the players and the game brought us all together. The second match wasn’t as serious as the first one. Just a few days before we left Somerset and Haygrove School, we went to a bowling centre with our buddies. We were divided into groups and had a bowling game. Even though bowling was unfamiliar to most of us, we enjoyed it and some of us really nailed it, especially Ms Amy. We also had pizza after the bowling game and it was scrumptious.
During the weekends especially, we went to many different places and had a lot of fun. On the Saturday of the second week, we went to some of the well-known places in Somerset. We went to Wells Cathedral early in the morning and we could learn about the history of England from the guide. Then we headed straight to Clark’s Village Outlet. It was the first time for us to eat whatever we wanted with our budget and went shopping. Everyone was excited and enjoyed their time. In the evening, we went to see Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival. Those parades were awesome!
On the next day, we went to Bristol and saw much splendid graffiti art on the wall of the buildings. After that, we tried stencilling on the papers both by ourselves and in groups. It was the first time for everyone to do that, but we still liked it and did it well. For dinner on that day, we went to a buffet called ZAZA and ate until we became extremely full. We all liked the food and that became the first time to eat that much delicious food in the UK.
One of the important parts of our trip was to visit some of the universities. On Friday of the second week, we didn’t go to school, but instead went to Bath. We visited Bath University and had a tour with two current university students. When we asked them questions, they answered us very kindly. They also told us about their life in the university and many interesting things.
While we were in Somerset, we prepared for the Trinity exam. This, also known as the GESE, is an examination to grade people’s English speaking ability. We were separated into levels (4 to 7) and practised with the teachers for two weeks before the test. We had to prepare our own topics about ourselves, and were given topics from the test to be able to have a conversation with the examiner. We took the test on the third week at Somerset, and the test lasted for almost six hours since it took 10 or 15 minutes for each student. The results were given the next day, which was speedy, and everyone passed the test. The process was hard and exhausting but, it was worth it.
Our last day at Haygrove School and Sibley’s Barn was very emotional. It was just like every other day. However, as we exchanged presents and took pictures with our buddies, we realised the end was coming. Some students even cried with grief. We can’t guarantee that everyone had a wonderful time every single moment in Haygrove, but we believe that the benefit we got from Haygrove was much bigger than the drawbacks. We also said good bye to Julian, Dave, Chris and Jack from Sibley’s Barn. They were all fantastic guys who respected our culture, behaviour and everything. We were so appreciative that we gave them a small gift with a thank you card. We will never be able to forget them. Both Haygrove and Sibley’s Barn were truly an unforgettable experience for us.
In the last week of our trip, we were in Cambridge and London. We spent our last weekend in Cambridge. We basically had a tour of Cambridge University. On Saturday, we met a professor and the mentors who had helped us, and then we boarded the Cambridge Chauffeur Punts to have a river tour. Although the weather was freezing cold, it was good to see all those beautiful landscapes. After that, while we were walking on the street, we saw Stephen Hawking by chance. We were all surprised and stared at him for a minute. It was a great thrill for us. On Sunday evening, we had a formal dinner with college students. Everyone dressed up in his or her formal dress. Because it wasn’t a relaxed atmosphere, we couldn’t really enjoy ourselves. The only thing we could do was eat and talk with a person sitting next to or in front of us. Anyway, that day was just for us to dress up.
Some of the schedule in London had to be altered slightly. The reason was because London is one of the terror targets of IS. Therefore, we had to come back to our hotel much earlier than we thought, and tried to avoid the places where many people might be gathered. Instead, we’d been to the London Eye, Big Ben, and had a tour on the Hop-on Hop-off London bus, and also the British Museum, and AiWeiWei Art Exhibition. We were a bit disappointed about the altered schedule, but we still had a great time in London, and finished off our trip in the UK very well.
On the last day, when we were in Heathrow airport, a terrible thing happened. While all of us were preparing to get the airline ticket, one of our classmates said that his passport had disappeared. No one really cared at first, because we were all busy with tickets and trying to decrease the weight in our luggage. In the end, he still couldn’t find his passport, so teacher Mary decided to stay with him in London until he received his temporary passport. Fortunately, they are now in Yantai. In conclusion, don’t forget your passport!
IGCSE 1 Gabby and Julie