The Other Side of the Fence

We meet again, dear readers. On the other side of the proverbial exam fence. There have been many a hurdle and many a challenge, but we are all done with it now! It has been a wonderful month, filled with ups, downs, surprises and boredom, and I congratulate my peers taking GCSEs and AS levels. It’s all done for one more year. All the best to the A2 candidates, who still have a few action-packed weeks ahead of them.

I have already done my exam board run-down in my previous post, so I will not bother with another. If you want to see my reaction to some of the papers, I point you to my twitter profile, where the occasional tweet to OCR wasn’t an uncommon occurrence!

I must point out that my writing skills have gone promptly down the drain, seeing as I had 10 mainly maths-based exams for which I had to prepare. The only reason why I can string together a full sentence without mentioning an OCR key word impulsively [Van der Waals! Minimum energy!] is because I had to write a German essay in my one German exam. Looks like my contrasting AS choice wasn’t a bad move after all!

A lot has happened these past few weeks, notwithstanding the exams! Most notably perhaps, is the letter I received a few weeks ago, informing me that the essay I had written for the Cambridge Peterhouse Kelvin science essay prize had been highly commended, and that I had been invited up to Cambridge to overnight and have a formal lunch at Peterhouse college! That is taking place this week, so I am very excited! I also did a paper count to see how many past papers I had done for preparation for these exams. The grand total is 194, 140 of which are maths papers! So, in a year of approx. 6000 waking hours, I spend 300 on maths alone (not including marking time). That’s 5% of my year, which is approx. 30 days – including sleeping time. That’s a lot of time. I really hope I get the grades I want!

All this time, our teachers have been slaving away at our internal UCAS references, a vital component of the huge, invisible machine that is the universities and careers department, all mediated by one person: the head of the department. Apparently, she reads through all 170 personal statements every year and notes the typos/grammatical errors. Truly a feat that deserves the greatest thanks, seeing as this exercise is not part of her job description.

Of course, before the school can even offer this service, I have to actually write the personal statement over the summer. This will be one among many tasks I have this summer. I need to start revising for the SAT2 exams in October, write the essays for US universities, finish off summer school work set and manage my time with regards to the work placements I have arranged this summer: one with National Grid, my Arkwright Scholarship sponsors, for a week, and Magna Steyr, an outpost of Magna, a Canadian automobile R&D and manufacturing company, based in Austria for four weeks. It’s all very exciting!

Unfortunately. I decided not to go back to Stanford, despite the awesome time I had last summer.

As a matter of fact, it was because go the awesome time. I figured that if I were to go back, I would be constantly comparing it with last summer, which would just have detracted from my experience there. Also, it wouldn’t have been anything new for me. I had such a fantastic, unforgettable time last time, that going back would not do the experience justice. It’s a shame, and I would have loved to have gone back, but it’s for the best, I believe. Seeing as I have so many other opportunities available to me this summer, I should pick those that expands my academic and cultural horizons, and not one that reinforces my existing ones.

School ends in a week. My last summer still enrolled in school is about to begin, and the roller coaster of university applications, work placements and jealousy of my friends who went back to Stanford is about to commence. My last summer still as a high-school student. It is truly amazing just how time flies. I remember my first day of this year, thinking just how far away the entire universities and AS-level prospects were. Finding oneself in the think of it, one is forced to reflect on whether I used this year in the best way I could have. My conclusion is a resounding “yes”. Could I have done things better? Perhaps, but comparing my situation now with that of the start of this year, I am content in the way I have handled the work and social aspects of this year.

Here is to all those who made this year the best it could possibly have been. Stanford friends, new friends, teachers, school colleagues and the rest. It has been a great journey, and I’ll see you again on the other side of summer!

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