My Year Abroad

Week One?!

I had a pretty interesting time starting my classes at the Univeristy of Valencia. That is to say if within this sentence interesting is synonymous to horrific, confusing, scary and wanting-to-tear-my-hair-out. But hey, it’s just a timetable (although I wouldn’t have said that to myself at the time of the experience!) and I feel that having the past two weeks to organise my thoughts on this enormous first-world problem have been invaluable. For any of you wondering if I made it through this difficult time, it is okay, I pulled through it.

My main problem centred around the fact that I had wanted to be organised and prepared for my year abroad. At the beginning of August, when timetabled classes were released, I had spent a pair of afternoons trying to squeeze the lessons I wanted to study into as few days as possible. According to this timetable, I would’ve been able to have both Monday and Friday off and I was, I must say, very pleased with my efforts. I checked it thrice before saving my class numbers on my laptop. I left for Spain on the 20th August, pleased with my future timetable and unsuspecting of the problems that lay ahead…

I was an idiot for not checking that the class times hadn’t changed before I went to enrol in early September. To be honest, I think it was a combination of being so proud of how well my timetable had worked out and not wanting to have to spend another few hours working on it; I thought if I ignored it and assumed it to be right it just would be, surely? Or, if not, they would at least inform me of this during my enrollment, right…?

Wrong. Well for me it was wrong anyway. They did, to an extent, warn us of some timetable troubles we were trying to enrol ourselves into. My friend Tom was trying to take a class in Valencian and the lady politely asked him if he knew how to speak Valencian to which he replied no, he could not. You could say that it would have been impossible for him to take this class; impossible in the sense that how could he possibly enrol in a class where he wouldn’t understand a thing he was saying? However, impossibility didn’t seem to help me. It was only five days later, as I went to check the room where I would be having my evening class on Tuesday afternoon that I realised I did, in fact, have a class on Monday morning at 9 am, 8 hours from that moment in time. But to make matters even worse, I realised that out of the six classes I had signed up for, three would have a lecture at 15:30 on Wednesday afternoon.

Horrified, after finishing my class on Monday, I quickly made my way the International Office where I was met with the biggest hurdle of this entire experience. After braving the 4-hour queue, and being the final person to be seen before the office shuts at 14:00 (Yes, everyone behind me had to come back tomorrow) I was told that I cannot change any of my timetabled classes until 1st October.

Don’t ask me why because I don’t know why. Their advice was to go to the other classes that I wanted to be in and ask  permission to stay in the class.  I was warned that the teachers could also tell me that no, their class is full and as I failed to register for this class, I would be unable to attend it. Luckily, all of the members of staff that I approached permitted me to become a member of their class. It has to be said that the staff members did get progressively friendlier when I asked to be in their class. The response went from ‘How did this happen? Fine. Okay. Do X, email X and always be here,’ to ‘Wow you’re English, this is fantastic, we’d love you to join!’

They also informed me that I must wait until October until I can access any of the documents on the virtual classroom. This meant that I had to ask all the teachers for any information that they uploaded to be emailed to me until last Friday. In my final class of the week,  a fellow student explained to one of my teachers that she could manually enrol me. This meant that without me having to wait until October she could put me into her class and I could finally just access the documents from home like a regular person. The process was so simple, taking the whole of two minutes, with no 4-hour queue or waiting until October! I guess the International Office just likes to keep this a secret so we don’t go around pestering the teachers so they will enrol us within their class. Although, I have to admit; I’ve definitely pestered all of my teachers far more than these two minutes by asking them to email me everything.

So yes, I am alive, well and attending class. I’ve also had a lot of fun going to events and parties but unfortunately find it difficult to recount them quite as vividly as my daytime experiences.

I am having an absolutely wonderful time and even experiences like this are just helping to develop me as a person, improving my Spanish speaking skills as well as making me wiser and stronger. I did not nearly die, get sued or go to jail. At one point I was sure I’d make it, I know, but week three is officially here and I am looking forward to officially enrolling in the remainder of my classes on October 1st.

Para días grises, paraguas de colores: for grey days, colourful umbrellas.

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40acts, Uncategorized

Day: 10- Talent Show

So today I had to post my list I made on day 3… Ermm, I already did that… Bit of a cop out? Anyway, I could at least still do the second part of the act so I chose to (admittedly indirectly) use my computer skills.

I always forget how hard it can be for older people to understand computers. I mean don’t get me wrong, I myself was not born in an age where everyone had one. I’m not even sure if my folks had a computer when I was born… I’d probably say they didn’t, although I do remember our first.

I was talking to my mum about it the other day and she said that we barely used it for the internet! I can barely believe it now, the internet is pretty much my life now, and I know my mum couldn’t live without it. She said the internet was connected to the phone bill? So you were charged more per minute or something, but I really have no recollection.

Anyway, my first computer spent its days in our study and it was a beast, absolutely huge! My favourite game was Noddy which you needed a disk for, and I loved painting pictures on, wait for it… Colour magic, anyone? However I did grow up learning or sort of self-teaching myself about computers, the internet and programs so I get on rather well with technology and I can normally figure something out in the end.

Now back to my day 10 act. I study Spanish and I’m time tabled to have conversational classes with a Spanish man, who I think would be in his latte fifties. Oh and bless him, he didn’t know that you could set a language preference on Word so every time he typed something in Spanish to his wife (or whoever) he’d battle with the computer to try and get it to stop changing his words.

I’d never noticed. I felt so bad it took less than 1 minute to save him hours of frustration and he was so grateful. Honestly, if someone had waited that long to tell me I’d have been so disappointed, but he was just so thrilled to have his problem solved.

So to all you people out there, who aren’t sure if they can set the world on fire with a small talent, just find the right person at the right time and they’ll see to the rest. Chin up and keep trying to make a difference!

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40acts

Day 9:- Listen actually

Well, I always said I was more of a listener than a talker, and it was time to put this to the test. It’s very difficult when you especially try and concentrate on what every individual you encounter is saying…

I wish I’d gone to see the man they had last year who sat on a settee in the middle of a town with his ‘I will listen sign’. I remember watching the footage of people having a good old chat with this friendly fellow and wishing I could just tell him all my problems.

Listen man

It’s funny though, even though I know he’d listen, I’d still wanted him to be interested, or give me dive… you know, prove to me he actually had listened? If I’d actually seen him, would I not just have walked on by? I hope I’d have admired you deeply for trying.

I found the second part of the act even more difficult, not to be judgemental. It’s something we all do when listening to a story, we take to facts and we store them and from them we form an opinion on a topic.

So unfortunately I-will-listen-sofa-man, my statement this year was alas, not quite as bold as yours, but after listening all day I was genuinely shocked by what some people have to say! So much for thinking I was already a good listener.

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40acts

Day: 7- Redial

When I was younger I used to ring my grandparents every night. And if I stayed at a friend’s (in primary school I assure you!) I’d always use the home to wish my parent’s good night but now, I’m sure the 9 years-olds of today just send their folks a quick Snap Chat of them about to go to sleep for the night.

I barely ever use my home phone. I mean, why bother when your parents have paid for a contract mobile you never let out of your sight? So on Wednesday (when it was actually Day 7) I took great liberty in picking up our oldest household to fulfil my 40 act challenge.

I chose to ring my Grandma. Firstly, because I never text, email or Facebook message her because she doesn’t understand how to do any of these things and because she always wants to hear what’s happening. There’s also the fact that she’s been in Spain for a good fortnight and when I actually took the time out to think about it, I kind of missed her.

So if you’re thinking of giving someone a call tonight, I’d do it. It certainly made me feel a lot better, and I hope she enjoyed it too. So reconnect, I swear it’s worth it.

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40acts, Uncategorized

Day: -5

An attitude of gratitude, something I always try to have. I love it when people say thank you when you hold a door open for them, and even feel a little cheated when someone ignores such an act.

I still need to write my thank you note, but I think this weekend I’m going to write a little note to all my teachers, because my head of sixth form said so many people had been touched by other people’s notes. I might even leave one for the postman if I have time! I’m just hoping I can get away with saying:

‘It’s for lent… but I still mean it…?’

Or I’m in for a few embarrassing conversations.

I’ll photograph them and post them when they’re complete!

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Boys, Uncategorized, Zero to Hero

Why I hate the music department

The music department; a completely exclusive sector of the school. Nobody ventures there, without an invitation or a death wish. The outside is guarded by a dinner lady and inside there are enough sixth formers to take you alive… At my old school we only had a music room so my expectations of the place were already rather high.

I think it’s important to note that in my old school I had a major role within the music division, playing guitar and also having grades in singing. I thought the transition between the music ranks of two schools would be an easy one, however I was sorely mistaken. All of the posters promise to make comers accepted, and yes I was allowed inside the department, but what good is it making it inside if nobody wants you there?

The Music Rule:

If you didn’t take make music at A-level and/or attend the school since the age of eleven, you will never make it. Ever.

And even if you do fit into one of these bands there’s no guarantee that the inner circle varsity jumper will fit. Chances are if you take A-level music and are too shy to push yourself forward into the front row of the choir you’ll never be noticed, and when you’re not noticed you end up being ignored.

I tried hard last year, scraping entrance on to the set of the Christmas Mass. Admittedly I was sat at the back next to the Y13 boy who nobody else dared sit next to, but I was present and participating!
I was less successful with the end of year show. I auditioned and waited hopefully for some recognition. Nothing… Not a sausage.
If I hadn’t done grades in music I would have been worried I wasn’t because I couldn’t sing and they were hoping that if they ignored me I’d go away. But grade 6 singing, previous experience as a Vontrap child, numerous ‘end of year’ performances, St Michaels got talent, carol concerts, solos. If I wasn’t good surely not all these people would have been kind enough to give me such opportunities?

How likely is it that my examiner for my last singing grade said:
‘Now that last girl who just performed for her Grade 6, I have a horrible feeling that if we don’t give her it now she’ll just keep coming back. Yes, yes, I know she’s completely tone deaf, but she tried so hard, and I really don’t want to hear it again next month. So what do you say, go on, hit print, give it to her now, you know you want…’
NOT VERY LIKELY!

And grade 6 wasn’t the first singing grade I’d done! There’d have to be a good few corrupt music examiners across a variety of prestigious music boards to play out that fantasy.

So they’re just rude not say anything, not to say yes or no, plain rude.

I think I mentioned before there’s only me and one other boy in my A2 physics class (and if I haven’t, you’ve guessed it there’s only me and one other boy in my A2 physics class) and he’s in the music circle! It’s great for me though because he’ll tell me all their secrets and as my mum always said it’s nice to share so here’re the juiciest.

1. There’s a secret choir!
What?!?!? They gather every Tuesday lunch time, a select bunch in a side room to practice for their grade 8 singing exams with a music teacher. But yes, you guessed it, a select bunch i.e. no outsiders invited. I should’ve known really, the only day not taken by a choir or orchestra, there had to be something going on.

2. They’d given out the female lead roles for this year’s show before anyone auditioned.
This year we’re doing Joseph, and if you don’t know the show, there’s only really one female role in the whole show; the narrator. According to my physics friend, the music teachers had already agreed to divide this role into five segments but they’d also already chosen the girls that would be offered said parts. If any refused, they’d just cut it to four.
Hey, you guessed it, I didn’t even get a look in. Four of the five girls have already spent a good five years at Carmel and yes, the only other took A2 music, main instrument voice.
The story of my audition for this year’s school play is quirky one. For the audition they had highlighted small roles for other girls; I guess they’re not looking to add any other big stars to their select constellation. I chose to audition for one of the brothers, and I must say my Texas accent is amaaaaaaazing.

3. Nobody knew I could sing until I auditioned.
Even the boy in my physics class was shocked… My head of sixth from asked me where’d been hiding… But I’ve been in concerts, rehearsals and choirs? I’m not sure if they just had been ignoring me or just couldn’t see me for all the other talent they have in the music department, but anyway, a lot of people asked me why they didn’t know I could sing. The cheek!

4. Finally, everyone at the top of the music department can sing.
Not really secret, I know but it’d be a lie to say they couldn’t and unfair not to mention it. It’s not all down to who these people are (children of deputies, head of governors, has 7 other siblings in school) they do actually have talent.

If I had one word to some all of the reasons for my hatred of the department it’d come down to jealousy. I’m jealous that I’ve been shunned, jealous that I can’t make myself fit into an entrance category and jealous they have some very good singers that I can never out shine.

But is what I’m asking for really too much? Isn’t it time they open up a bit and let some of the equally good talent in the side wings shine through?

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Boys, Reject, Uncategorized, Zero to Hero

Today’s Assignment: Make a writing prompt your own

Reputations; I currently attend a sixth form college and it seems to be a top hang out for superficial impressions.

Looking round our Sixth Form common room it was evident form the first time I stepped foot in there that divides and breaks were forming. My parents would laugh if I told them it was just like an American high school, but it’s really not that far off. As Janis from Mean Girls once put it:

“Now, where you sit in the cafeteria common room is crucial because you got everybody there.”

Maybe the stereo types in mean girls do take everything to the extreme, but I can relate to a few:

Let’s start with the greatest people you’ll ever meet. My group, my friends, made up primarily of my form class. As we’re now in Y13 we have inherited the comfy black seats that last year’s Y13 ‘main’ boy group used to have. There are about 20 of us…? We party on select weekends and don’t really pay that much attention to the other groups. We’re a diverse bunch of people and between cover just about every subject going, excluding maybe health and social and child care.

But in the next arrangement of black comfy seats such subjects are rife; health and social with child care form a definite majority. I don’t know the Y12 girls who sit there, but I’m pretty sure I don’t like them. I’m not some raving prejudicial stereotyping being, but before any one of them begins eating their lunch, the lipstick is out and applied in copious amounts. My particular grudge with his group began the day I asked one of them if I could borrow the chair her bag was placed she flatly refused to let me have it! If I could go back now I’d probably remark something like:
“Why is you bag using it? Trust me honey, I don’t think I’ll ever get over that one!”
But no… I probably just nodded, smiled politely and walked away.

I’m glad to say that since I left secondary school the Umpa lumpa race of girls- those who wear so much orange make up they’d give the Roald Dahl characters a run for their money- has somewhat become completely extinct. Maybe it’s due to the need of a good 5 GCSEs to get into college. And if they didn’t understand the conception of foundation (where the instruction are printed on the pack of the package) they didn’t really stand a chance did they? Nowadays they only seem to be gracing the younger years, with the exception of a few sixth form girls imitating them from time to time, claiming to have ‘done their make up in the dark’ that day.

Currently there is a rather large and growing intimidation circle which dwells in the corner on the walkway to the vending machine, but personally I haven’t had a single misdemeanour with any such member of that group. My only worry is that they do all look when somebody walks a little bit too close, and maybe that’s why their circle is described as one of intimidation…

We also have a pool table and X-box in our common room but sadly our final avid gamer graduated last year. Luckily this year the amateur inhabitants of this area are currently in the process of making a comeback since the thief who stole Fifa 14 has kindly returned it (nice catholic ethos right there). The pool table population is composed mainly of Y12 boys who all avidly watch whoever’s playing, adding the sound effects between conversations. Said pool table only takes 20p coins and there’s one individual, known to have over £20 worth in such change, loved deeply by each of his pool playing friends. However not even he can overcome the sad day when the pool balls are removed after bad sixth form behaviour…

“Look out, incoming Band Geeks!” (or as I prefer, the Music Kids). Such lucky individuals have gained unprecedented access to music facilities during school hours. Last time they entered the Common room expressions reading ‘Where are all the guitars?’ crossed their worried faces. For them, it had definitely been a while. I’m surprised I didn’t slip into their inviting trap, as a choir goer, and guitarist, I’m sure the jacket must fit. Maybe I was lucky to read the rejection get out clause at the bottom.

All members of the music kids will be forced to work unreasonable out of school hours singing and playing for the enjoyment of others whilst raising of charitable funds…

They infuriate me, but I promise to write a full review on this music society at a later date.
I also believe there to be a group of individuals whom I have never seen before in my life, but sure as the Pope’s a catholic, they attend my small sixth form, and some of them are even in my year. They inhabit the lunchtime-abandoned arts classrooms working to finish their projects even though they’re 539085 pages ahead of everyone else in the class.
You may be surprised to learn that taking, art, or textiles or photography doesn’t grant you access to this group (there are in fact amazing artists who are frequenters of the common room) I believe its roots lie between each individual having the shared fear of entering the common room. In this each member decided that it would probably be best that they brought their own lunch and found an empty far away (art’s on the 3rd floor) classroom, where they wouldn’t be bothered. And so when all the classrooms were taken, the art club was born, a club where each separate person realized they actually quite enjoyed the company of one another. If you’re out there, art club goers, maybe give me a sign sometime?

And how could I possibly forget the jocks? Well they’re an endangered species in Y13 with the endless parties and nights on the town taking their toll. Few make it past Y12, due to the reluctance from teachers to sped anther year battling for them to get some work done. In the end I think it’s the PE teachers that have a quite word, show the teachers to the trophy cabinet, and express the unending pain associated with finding such cabinet empty were these young jocks to be exiled.

And finally tucked away near the back, there’s a group of about 15 who sit round two wooden square tables and discuss Manga magazines and TV programs with frequency. Sometimes they place empty packed lunch boxes on their heads with cries of “you’re a wizard Harry” and I have to be careful my Harry Potter pencil case is shoved firmly into the bottom of my bag, safely out of sight. If I were ever to be alienated tomorrow form my group, this group would welcome me in with open arms and it’s true, I do enjoy the company of some of its members. In all honesty I’m probably like each and every one of them at heart; I just didn’t express my shared interest before the imaginary passes to each group were given out.

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