Sixth form may not be flying carpets and forbidden love, but it’s still a huge change from the warm and comfortable sphere of SVC. It feels very strange to think that only a matter of weeks ago I still had my daily routine, still saw the same people in almost every lesson, still knew where everything was impeccably. Now I’ve been introduced to a brand new setting, a new cast of characters around me and a very different daily life.
It took until my first day of actual lessons at Hills Road for me to realise just how massive a change I was experiencing. The two induction days were rather like going back to Soham for a PD Day: after getting the train with my SVC friends, I met my new form (goodbye 11GH!), read a lot of rules, heard a lot about organisation… and had to come up with a lot of ‘interesting facts’ about myself. Having a friend in my form, and being the kind of person who’d already read all the instructions we were being given, I thought I was more than prepared for the world of A Levels.
I got a bit of a shock, therefore, when I walked into my first lesson. I managed to answer the register in French with a gender error and got grilled about it, then spent the first week or so seriously considering dropping French.
It’s currently my favourite subject.
I’ve recently got stuck into French poetry, revisited the modern French music I found at GCSE, and even signed up to a French theatre trip next week, as well as making some great friends in my class. Sticking it out for a couple of weeks was definitely worth it!
English Literature and History are much like GCSE in some ways: the methods of learning and topics are broadly similar. In English, however, there are double the number of texts. I made an… interesting start to the course by leaving the summer reading until the night before (top tip: don’t do that) and getting less than six hours sleep so as to finish Frankenstein, only to find out I wasn’t studying it. I didn’t have anyone I knew in my class, but quickly met a really nice group of people. The first lesson was centred around music and poetry… and anyone who knew me last year would know that I couldn’t have wished for better topics. Overall, I left the lesson excited to make a start on the new texts.
The main difference to History is the speed: a huge amount of content and detail is covered in rather a short time. I’m currently studying Communist Russia though and it’s fascinating.
So far, the biggest difference in day-to-day life for me has been ‘frees’ and Independent Learning Sessions. Instead of being in a lesson every period of every day, I now have several days with two or more hours free of anything. So far I’ve used some to to buy and eat lunch (avoiding the rush) and run some errands, some to do my homework, and some extra English, and some to sit in the Leisure Park or college Costa and catch up with my friends. The opportunity to do so much homework and extra learning during the day is so useful, and I already feel a lot more productive. There’s also a lot of choice as to where to work: my favourite place is the sofas in the Costa (because what can beat a sofa?!), but there’s also the library, several silent study zones and computer areas and another café. What’s fantastic about A Levels is that it’s easier to work because you’re only studying subjects you’re really interested in: extra learning becomes something fun and engaging.
Socially, Hills has been less of a change than I was expecting; this term, everyone I know from Soham has stuck together. That said, we’ve adopted three or four people from other schools and I’ve made lots of friends within my classes. What I’ve found particularly entertaining is how everyone seems to know everyone: between SVC, my classes, my cousin being in my year, and the theatre groups and musicals I’ve done in Cambridge, almost everyone knows someone I know at least.
A way in which I’ve made a lot of new friends is through my enrichment. Every Year 12 chooses an activity to do for at least one hour each week outside of their studies, and everything’s on offer, from Art Appreciation to Social Netball. I chose to do the musical, which is Legally Blonde; we received the cast list last week and rehearsals are one of my favourite parts of every week. I can’t wait for the show!
Now, a word about transport. Almost everyone I know from SVC (going to any of the colleges in Cambridge) gets the train from Ely, and it’s definitely a change from lifts, cycling or school buses. For a start, you have to get, use, and, most importantly, not lose, your railcard and season ticket. There’s also the struggle of trying to get on the same train as your friends and the pain of tube-like super-cramped rush-hour trains. And the horrendous traffic between Soham and Ely. Despite all of this, I actually really like my journey to college. It gives me a chance to start the day with some familiar faces, listen to some music or a podcast, get some fresh air on my walk from the station, and arrive at my first lesson feeling (at least a bit) more awake.
Something else I love about the mundanities of life at Hills is simply being in Cambridge. Having the Leisure park so nearby, and the city centre, cinemas, restaurants and library only a walk away means it’s hard to be bored. It also means I have access to Cambridge-based extra things: so far we’ve had emails about hospital work experience, festival volunteering, French cinema screenings, essay competitions and even the chance to be part of a research experiment.
What I miss the most about Soham is the life outside of daily lessons: I miss the choirs, Creative Writing, the trips, the teachers, my form, and clearly, since I’m already writing for it again, The Inkling! As much as I love my subjects, I also miss studying Music a lot – it can be a challenge to fit hobbies around college work if you have more than one. I both miss and don’t miss SVC’s smaller size: it was so nice knowing most people and being known by most people, but at the same time there’s such an interesting variety of people to meet at Hills.
Year 11s, my advice to you is to make the most of this year! SVC has so many great opportunities for you (I promise, no one’s paying me to say that) but you won’t have all those memories if you don’t take initiative and do everything you can. Run that club; go on that trip; help those Year 7s! This is your year to contribute to the school and do all those things you’ve been thinking about doing ‘at some point’. Also, the more you run, organise, and get involved with, the more prepared you’ll be for the independence of whatever you do next. Enjoy yourself, enjoy Soham, and start getting excited about the world beyond!
By guest writer Katie Kirkpatrick
Photograph courtesy of Kyle Glenn, at unsplash.com