Saturday, 19 August 2017

Results Reveal!

Ah, 19th August - over halfway through the month which, for those who had been impatiently waiting for A-level results day to arrive two days ago, has been long and tedious to say the least! Within the space of just over forty-eight hours, I feel as though all the days preceding 17th August are merely a fuzzy blur in my mind, like they never even existed. Saying that, I won't deny the fact that I've been in a daze of sorts since collecting and, of course, opening my results slip on Thursday morning, so it is perhaps unsurprising that I'm taking a while (such an ambiguous word - it could refer to eternity for all I care!) to process things. 

By 'things', I'm referring to what was indeed contained inside the envelope which would present either sheer delight or tear-inducing horror for me. If you have had the 'misfortune' of studying A-levels like myself (which nonetheless thousands of teenagers choose to do each year, even though we are supposedly 'aware' of the horrors ahead!), you might have experienced anxiety, stress or random moments of panic in the months, weeks and eventually days leading up to the third Thursday of August. Less than a week ago, my imagination decided to bless me with a beautiful nightmare in which the envelope containing my results went missing - as a self-confessed impatient teenager (luckily my parents made the sagacious decision to not call me 'Patience' which is actually a name!), it was the very last scenario that I wanted to dream about! 

To further reiterate how waiting for results day can truly mess with your mind, one of my recent dreams involved my getting an A in Computer Science... a subject that I don't even study! OK, I know how to turn on the Wi-Fi if one of my parents has disconnected laptops from it yet, asides from that, I wouldn't call myself an expert on computers! So that 'dream' only served to highlight how nervous I was feeling before finally reaching this Thursday, although I would've preferred to have not realised it!

Needless to say, the wait for results day is a nail-biting one (not that I'm encouraging you to bite your nails like some people over-pluck their eyebrows!) and I'm not going to waste time discussing the symptoms or the depth of panic that other people and myself have experienced before the Day of Doom eventually arrives. After having sent off four of my GCSEs for re-marks last year - of which only one changed - I suppose that my anxiety was heightened all the more because I didn't want to get my hopes up too much in case the same scenario reoccurred this year. Honestly, it is so difficult to establish a healthy quantity of self-confidence without becoming overly 'cocky' because, if you feel assured about your abilities, such a feeling gives you a tremendous boost when sitting your exams (alrhough hard work is far more important than how 'confident' you feel!). However, building confidence is easier said than done. As the 're-marking' business left me feeling apprehensive with regard to the exams I sat this year, I really didn't know what to expect with my results. 

At the end of the day, the very last thing I want is that others believe that I'm over-exaggerating or making a fuss over nothing about my GCSE re-marks. Overall, I achieved 4A* (including ECDL ICT which can only be listed as a 'pass' or 'fail' on my UCAS application - what was the point of hours of tedious revision?!), 4A and 2B last year; one of my re-marks for English Literature increased to an A* which, to this day, I am eternally grateful because it reaffirms my confidence in the subject that I want to study alongside French at uni next year! After a year of attending a grammar school, I'm more aware than ever of the shocking differences between this envirnonment - one more adapt to teaching in a more organised and efficient way - compared to my former comprehensive where I sat my GCSEs, so I suppose that I've become more proud of what I achieved a year ago because the majority of my peers fortunately never attended a school whose foundations seemed to be based on constant disruption, lower aspirations and aims solely for the purpose of surviving in the so-called 'league tables'. Nonetheless, the experience of applying for re-marks - one that I wouldn't wish upon anybody at GCSE or A-level - confirmed my then-philosophy of not getting my hopes too high up because, whatever happened this year, I couldn't bear to go through the emotional upset of getting re-marks or feeling disappointed in myself again. 

Everyone has different expectations of themselves and why should we not? Luckily, no one is the same which means that we can tailor our expectations to our exact needs and desires, hence why I have always based my beliefs on what I want. If someone is over the moon with getting C grades, we should support them in achieving their goals. Respect is a salient quality that I think people forget when it comes to tolerating the exam goals of others, as some may consider themselves to be utter failures if they don't achieve full marks in their exams while others are grateful for anything and vice versa. Therefore, I get quite angry when I read comments on some YouTube videos where people criticise vloggers who are disappointed in not getting A grades because none of us can expect others to lead the same lives and have identical aspirations. Alas, does anyone really have the right to label me as a 'whiny bitch' for lamenting my GCSE re-marking experience? I personally think not - the issue lies with gratitude. If you appreciate the effort that you have devoted to your studies, no one possesses the right to criticise you for aiming high! We shouldn't fear aspiration, but embrace it; sometimes, we may not get exactly what we want by pursuing these goals, but is it not better to try than do nothing at all or, worse still, criticise those who naturally have high expectations of themselves? 

Anyway, now that this mini rant is over (I would've exploded otherwise if I didn't get those words off my chest!), let's proceed to discussing my results! Unlike some valiant YouTubers who waited until they got home to open their results on camera, I was actually the first person in my year group to collect their AS results (my school released the results bang on 10am, no kidding!) and there was little way that I was going to wait a second longer than I had to before finding out what I got! In fact, I opened my friend's results before I got mine as I had to collect hers on her behalf, which only made me more anxious to obtain my own! 

Although AS-levels no longer count towards my final A-level grade thanks to the absolute mess of the exams system created by the former education minister Michael Gove created, I still wanted to do really well in my exams. My attitude is, if I'm sitting anything in the exam hall, I want to show the very best of my ability so that my results will hopefully be worth the months of stress, dedication and hard work that I've dedicated to those subjects! Otherwise, how will I cope at university and beyond in life? The only subject that does count is Media Studies, which I've previously listed a subject that I cannot wait to drop, more of which later. 

So... what were my results? Here goes: 4 As!!! Two days on, I still haven't fully taken this in because it seems too good to be true. In fact, I was convinced that a mistake was made with my English Literature grade because I was nowhere close to finishing a question worth 24 marks in one of the exam papers, which left me firmly believing throughout the summer that my hopes of even obtaining a B grade were next to fruitless. As for French, I feared that I would be penialised for writing hundreds of words above the advised word limit of 250 words, while I walked out of my speaking exam feeling as though I had messed it up because I didn't fully understand what the examiner send to me. Somehow, an angel or fortune itself has blessed me with results that I absolutely cherish and am so relieved to have; not for a second shall I take these grades for granted!

As a somewhat 'perfectionist', I suppose the only 'hiccup' with my results was that I scraped through with a B grade in my Media exam because of the essay question I chose to respond to, which somehow resulted in others in my class being penialised, too. That being said, I'm not worried about it because I'm going to drop the subject next year. If I had been in a position where I had to carry on with Media - let's say that I got a U grade in Sociology or something similar - I would definitely resit the AS Media exam to boost my overall A-level grade in Year 13, but fortunately I won't have face this scenario! It was my coursework which secured my overall A grade - a blessing in disguise considering that it was the bane of my life until it was finally sent off in May!

Whatever happens (or quoi qu'il en soit if you wish to use some fancy French!), I won't do four A2s next year in Year 13, even if I get asked to do so on the basis of my AS results. I'm already doing an EPQ which, as half an A-level, will equate to a whole A-level when taking my AS in Media into consideration - so why do I need to put myself under extra pressure when it isn't even necessary? Throughout Year 12, I've been (perhaps unwisely) looking forward to Year 13 so that I could benefit from extra free periods, which I wouldn't have if I continued with four subjects! And, thanks to acquiring a degree-level knowledge of coffee in my new job, I'd quite like to spend more time making drinks in the common room kitchen...

With several weeks left of the summer holidays, I'm aiming to relax as much as possible before starting Year 13, words of which sound so surreal to me. I can't really get my head around the fact that, this time next year, I'll be preparing to head off to university! In a way, I feel sad at the prospect of my school days coming to an end because, as Year 12 has proved, the weeks fly past so quickly that sixth form will be over before I even realise! In light of my results, I'm going to research more universities that I may list on my UCAS application, even though my heart is still set on the University of Nottingham which I completely fell in love with after going to an open day there earlier this year. 

I'm hoping that I will have an increased chance of being offered a place at Nottingham, which would absolutely mean the world to me because it would mean that I can stay at home during my studies and save thousands of pounds. Instead of spending a student loan on food and accommodation, I could use the money towards funding driving lessons and perhaps even purchasing a car of my own, which would further cement my independence! Anyway, I have never personally been interested in attending Oxbridge because the idea of sitting entrance exams as well as attending challenging interviews petrify me. If I did apply, it would most likely be so that I could 'brag' about it because Oxbridge is symbolic of prestige; I also wouldn't want to deprive someone who would love to go there of a place, which would be a selfish thing to do. Besides, I don't feel that I need to go to Oxbridge in order to obtain a world-class education, although I'm happy for those at my school who will be going there in the autumn because it is line with their aspirations. You see what I mean about respect

Overall, I couldn't be happier with my results, even though I will probably take more than a few days to completely accept that they are mine! I hope that anybody else sitting their AS or A-levels this summer achieved the grades that they wanted; while I was on cloud nine after finding out my results, I couldn't help but feel awful for some people in my year whose results disappointed them. I really don't want to come across as the flawless A grade student because, in my opinion, it is an illusion constructed by society which incite insecurities within ourselves - perfection does NOT exist! However, all I can say is that as long as you have tried your best, you have little reason to feel guilty about your results. I do believe that the 'uncoupling' of AS and A-levels has resulted in 'some' Year 12s (not all!) developing the attitude that they don't need to try in their AS-levels because 'they don't count', but everything you do during your tenure in sixth form matters. For one second I'm not suggesting that you should work like an exam machine 24/7, but you can't expect to be thrilled with your grades if you leave revision until the night before the exam... 

On that note, I'm going to have a break (although there are sadly no Kit Kats in the cupboards downstairs!) and breathe. It's something that I'm still working on, but practice makes 'perfect' or as close to meeting your expectations - as my results have mercifully done! 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A-levels Chat Continued!

Ooh, several days have passed since my miraculous return to the blogging hemisphere - what a surprise that I have found the courage to come back less than a week since I had published my first post of 2017! Well, I had made a promise of sorts to continue delving into the already-dusty past of the 2016-2017 academic year with regard to my experience of Year 12 (and, of course, the abhorred 'A' word which I won't mention yet!), so I was hardly going to let you down, was I?

Anyway, I'm already running out of programmes to watch on Netflix - which, despite being absolutely indispensible in my life, is something that I can only really enjoy in small doses (otherwise, how can I find the energy to stay as enthusiastic as I was when I first subscribed to it a year ago?) - so blogging seems to be the most appropriate antidote to ennui, which always threatens to settle in the first week or so of August. I mean, the first proper week of the summer holidays sans getting up ridiculously early and panicking about what to bring as a packed lunch (as discovered this year, I can only tolerate eating vegetable soup for lunch a certain number of times, even though it is worth 2 of my 5 a day - yay!) is fun at first, but keeping myself as occupied as possible without descending into the dreaded boredom can be quite a challenge.

Anyway, after much job-hunting in nearby towns, cities and villages for weeks (this is not an exaggeration in the slightest - I even sacrificed one of my precious Friday afternoons off school to walk around a city so that I could drop my CV off at various shops in the hope of being offered work!), I have finally found a job at a cafe several villages away, as well as doing some tuition at a centre on several occasions. Therefore, I'm hoping that this summer will mark my official venture into the world of work, so my reliance on Netflix to keep me entertained ought to weaken over the coming weeks!

Nevertheless, let's get down to business before I confuse jobs and A-levels together, although I should remind you that, above all, your studies should be your main priority above getting a job. OK, I realise that getting a part-time job allows you to become more independent and gain a bit of money - cash which, quite frankly, can be used to buy books and essentials for your studies (over the course of the year, I've realised that a bursary does help to an extent, but it isn't always enough to cover everything!), in addition to meeting your other needs (such as clothes, anyone?) - but please don't fall into the trap where you feel like you have to work all the hours under the sun whilst juggling your schoolwork at the same time. At a time when I had been faced with constant rejection because, apparently, I don't 'fit in' with certain companies and therefore am 'unsuitable' for their vacancies, I will admit that I did encounter the Green-Eyed Monster upon hearing several of my classmates bragging about how much they earn each month - one of them has even found a second job (and they are a full-time student!!!) - because I have wanted to earn some extra money for ages, albeit not at the expense of my grades.

Consequently, my advice is this: if you want to, find a job, but make sure that a) it isn't a nightmare to travel to (or, in other words, travelling costs won't eat up an enormous amount of your salary, which would make it a waste of your valuable time!) and b) you won't be time-tabled to work a ridiculous number of hours per week. Not only do you want time to revise, do homework and consolidate on what you have learnt, but you also need time to relax and return to Planet Earth - otherwise, A-levels will quickly seem like a prison sentence, which isn't the attitude you want to have if you are trying to maintain your motivation over two years of study! Luckily, I will only be working on Saturdays in a cafe so, when considering my increased number of free periods in Year 13, shouldn't deprive me of time that I can devote to studying, while I feel that having a job will help me to develop my time better upon going to university (especially as I intend to get a part-time job while I'm an undergraduate, so it is never a bad idea to get used to working before I head off to uni!).

At the end of the day, A-levels can be summarised by using this single noun: balance. In order to achieve the best out of yourself, you need to dedicate enough time - and when I say 'time', I'm referring to quality over quantity (4 hours of supposedly 'reading' something is nowhere near as useful as spending 2 hours creating essay plans, which take on a far more active and productive approach to your learning) - to your studies which, as a full-time student, you must prioritise! However, life is more than just A-levels - we are only young once, so I doubt that we want to look back at this time in our lives in so many years' time, regretting that we didn't seize other opportunities when they were also available, such as part-time employment. As much as I relish the idea of earning some money for myself, a major reason why I want to work is so I can become more confident in the presence of others, a confidence of which I hope will also be reflected in my studies!

Therefore, just be wise - or at least sensible - with the responsibilities and roles you may choose to take on during sixth form. Honestly, having several of these will be worth it just for the sake of being overwhelmed with inspiration when you start to write your UCAS statement at the end of Year 12 but, as we sometimes have to remind ourselves, there are only 24 hours in a day!

Before I get even more distracted with what I'm trying to discuss today, let's just talk about my following A-level options:

Sociology

Often regarded as one of those A-levels that you needn't have studied prior to starting sixth form, Sociology tends to be quite popular among sixth formers. The reason for this? Without trying to portray myself as overly smug, Sociology is somewhat easy compared to other A-levels, such as ultra-hard ones including the Sciences and languages (specifically AQA French!).

OK, possibly not everyone in my Sociology class would argue with this view because, if essay-writing is not your strong point, Sociology will be the death of you - only joking! Provided that you hide a secret stash of chocolate for emergencies under your bed (like me, although I mainly do so because my brother is like the Cookie Monster - he'll devour anything remotely sweet!), no A-level should really be the 'death' of you! All jokes aside, Sociology does involve quite a lot of writing - even more so at A-level where two of the three exam papers feature questions worth 30 marks (so get ready for soaking your hands in arnica gel afterwards to ease the cramp!) - which, if you lack confidence over your essay-writing skills, can be quite daunting.

However, if you become familar with the number of marks in each question and command words used to structure the questions (e.g. 'evaluate' = assess your points but you propose an argument which partly agrees/disagrees with the question), Sociology is more than manageable. Nonetheless, like any other A-level, it does take a while before you feel familar - and more importantly, comfortable - with this knowledge when you first start but, if you enjoy/are good at writing and are interested in finding out how society is structured, Sociology is definitely for you!

As I had already studied Sociology at GCSE, I was already familar with quite a few of the topics that I would study in Year 12, such as Family, Education and, the beloved 'favourite' (I hope you've noticed that my apostrophes are used to convey my sarcasm!), Research Methods, so making the transition to A-level wasn't overly difficult. Of course, not many schools teach GCSE Sociology, so only a few A-level Sociology students enjoy this so-called 'advantage', but I personally believe that, if you have any common sense (e.g. you know what a family is and how the education system is structured to an extent), you shouldn't feel as though you are 'behind' in any way by having not studied it at GCSE level.

On the AQA spec, Education is a mandatory topic, while Family is optional (but, considering that families are common knowledge and relatively easy to understand, it makes sense to select that option, doesn't it?). Personally, I prefer Education to Family because it is somewhat easier to guess the kind of question you will be asked - for Education, this tends to usually relate to educational differences in achievement relating to social class, gender, factors, internal (school) and external (family/society) factors. Meanwhile, I think that Family is a bit more ambiguous, particularly if a question relates to family diversity, but by looking at previous exam questions and practising essay plans, it isn't too mind-boggling to deal with!

Nonetheless, I will admit that, for the first three or so months of studying A-level Sociology, I did feel a bit out of my depth because, unlike GCSE, you have to learn the name of so many sociologists! Needless to say, I was panicking quite a bit when I was approaching my mock exam in January because there are numerous sociologists to refer to on both the Family and Education papers - not exactly what I wanted to be thinking about during the Christmas holidays! Still, my advice is to simply try to remember the names of the sociologists and what they say as you go along so that their names can hopefully become stuck in your mind long before you sit the exam. How some people can cram the night before the exam and expect to remember millions of sociological theories (OK, not that much, but it can feel like a lot at times!) like one can speak a language fluently... In other words, don't cram!

In my opinion, I'm not a massive lover of questions relating to Functionalists/Marxists, etc. because I feel that other kinds of questions - e.g. childhood (which appeared as a 20 marker in my AS exams - an absolute gift!!!) or ethnic differences in educational achievement - are simply more interesting (albeit at the expense of my sanity because this typically means that I need to remember more sociologists, but there is always a price to pay for something, isn't there?). However, I know other people who always seize the opportunity to sink their teeth into Marxist debates, so it is a case of personal preference. Just don't worry if you aren't completely sure about Postmodernism because, in spite of covering it in my English and Media classes, I still don't really know how to define it!

Overall, I have absolutely enjoyed studying Sociology this year because it has made me even more self-aware of the society surrounding me, which has truly strengthened my beliefs and has provided immeasurable inspiration for debates. Although some people in my class weren't overly keen on the Education unit, I think that it has been extremely useful for making me even more opinionated about my beliefs relating to the education system (which, as a sixth former, obviously affects me), so I do feel that Sociology is one of those A-levels which has a use beyond the exam hall. I realise that it tends to be regarded as a 'soft' option - possibly a view also taken by my sixth form because I only receive four hours of teaching in it per week, which is an hour less compared to other subjects offered (possibly because there is less content to cover - I had finished the Family topic ages before the Easter holidays!) - but, as long you study at least two 'facilitating' subjects, Sociology shouldn't pose any problems if you aim to study at a Russell Group university.

Media

Oh Media, oh Media - where do I even begin? Like all love affairs, there have been highs and lows in my relationship with Media, although I must make it clear that I didn't choose to study Media thanks to my love for the subject; indeed, I was somewhat forced to. Thus, let me clarify that this was no love affair!

At my sixth form, all students are expected to study a minimum of 4 AS subjects - oh yes, several valiantly opted for five options, students whom I absolutely respect yet there is no way that I could cope with five subjects (and no free periods!). Compared to GCSEs, when you can study as many as eleven to twelve subjects, spreading myself across four at AS-level doesn't sound too much like a nightmare, does it? In fact, I never questioned my ability to manage studying 4 AS-levels - instead, the question was raised with regard to what I would select as my fourth option.

Regardless of what would happen, I would most definitely study English Lit, French and Sociology - no question about it! However, finding another option to fill in a gap in my timetable posed quite a challenge because, asides from Media (which I had briefly studied at GCSE level before moving to the school at which I completed my GCSEs), I didn't have a vague interest in them. I toyed with the idea of choosing Psychology, then shied away from pursuing it upon realising that Maths and Science would both be involved; as one who leans more towards Interpretivist ideas (which Sociologists embrace), I realised that Psychology, which uses more quantitative methods (like a Positivist), wouldn't really suit me. Business Studies briefly caught my attention, but the urge to swap Media to study it was as short-lived as an occasional craving for a bag of Jelly Babies: the initial desire was initially as strong as a cup of espresso coffee yet, once it had cooled down, so had my interest. I mean, I don't even care about how businesses are run, so how could I motivate myself to study Business for a whole year?

Consequently, I stuck with Media which has overall been a decision that I don't regret. Mercifully, I'm quite certain that I'll get a good grade out of it because, quite honestly, it isn't that hard. Biggest news of the 21st century - Media Studies is easy! In fact, partly why I felt uneasy about studying it was due to the fact that it is often heralded as a 'soft' subject, so I didn't want people to think that I am an 'idiot' for selecting it as one of my options when the likes of Chemistry and Maths are undoubtedly more challenging. However, just like Sociology, Media does indeed involve plenty of essay-writing - I vividly remember having to write like a horse galloping towards winning the Grand National (time-management is essential!) - so I suppose that it would be arguably harder for those who may not feel in their element when writing.

Although I have (fortunately) finished studying Media unscathed, completing the coursework unit - which accounts for 50% of my AS grade and 25% of the whole A-level should I wish to study it in Year 13 (for which I have only one answer: absolutely fucking not!!!) - was as tedious as trying to binge-watch a TV series on Netflix that I utterly cannot stand. As much as I detest and fear exams, at least they only last two hours, nearly two and a half at most, which isn't a ridiculous chunk of time in your life, is it? Meanwhile, completing my Media coursework took months, which stressed me out so much because it seemed relentless; I suppose that I'm one of those people who likes to get things done and out of the way so that they don't haunt me like ghosts. Well, Media was unsurprisingly my Casper the Ghost from December all the way until the coursework was finally sent off to the exam board in May - something which I truly don't want to re-experience in Year 13!

Besides, I'm not going to deny to myself that my strengths don't lie in film-making or creating media products which are as breath-taking as ad campaigns you see in glossy fashion magazines: they simply don't. From the moment I unearthed a video uploaded on YouTube which was based on an animated Christmas John Lewis-style ad which got an A2 Media student full marks in his coursework unit, I just knew that A2 Media would be too much for me. And to prove my point, I possess the drawing skills of a three year old!

Doing Media coursework at the same time as managing my English literature coursework (which is simply a dissertation on The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman) would personally be a step too far for me; I feel that I've gained as much as I've needed from studying Media this year, such as providing me with a head-start for the Media unit that I'm currently working on in Sociology. Thus, studying Media in Year 12 hasn't been a waste of time - it has certainly made me more aware of different media products and the messages that they are transmitting to their audiences - but I'm far more interested in the theoretical side, which the Media unit in Sociology would better satisfy (and meet my Uses and Gratifications!).

From what I understand, the new Media A-level being introduced this September still includes a coursework unit, but it has a reduced weighting on the overall grade compared to the specification I've studied this year, so maybe the new A-level course will focus more on theory instead of coursework. At the end of the day, each to their own - for those who are visually creative and wanted to find out the role that the media play (as well as watching videos and clips from adverts, film trailers and TV shows), Media is definitely ideal for helping you to express your creativity.

Nevertheless, I'm relieved that I'll be dropping it ahead of Year 13 because, unlike my other subjects, it doesn't evoke a fervent love, which I think is vital for staying motivated in your A2 studies (which are sadly harder than AS-levels - how I pity myself!). Until Results Day, though, I won't be throwing out my Media notes quite so soon because you just don't know what will happen...

Friday, 28 July 2017

Talking about A-Levels - English and French

OK, I'm trying my hardest to resist the urge to say 'WELCOME BACK!!!' at the beginning of this post so you don't think that I've completely lost my mind or just devoured a half a kilo bag of sweets (a quantity which I've yet to see being sold in supermarkets, btw). Nonetheless, I can't shrug off the feeling that it has indeed been a VERY long time since I posted my last entry here which, like accidentally forgetting to feed my cats, strikes me as being extremely neglectful and uncaring towards my blogging duties.

Well, in case you have been wondering (or, rather morel likely, forgotten that this blog even existed in the first place!), I haven't been spending the past six months or so hooked to Netflix (although I can firmly say that 2017 has marked the year when Netflix has become an indispensable component of my life!). In fact, I've been devoting a rather large portion of my time to other duties which, for the next year, will remain in my list of priorities - or, actually, the main priority of my life until around the end of June 2018. 

Oh yes, this post could not be exempt from mentioning the 'A' word - and I'm not even referring to Pretty Little Liars! Indeed, I can attribute literally everything going on in my life (including my fervent admiration for Lidl's triple chocolate chip cookies which never cease to melt my occasional frustration away) to the callous beast which thousands of teenagers across the country are currently experiencing: A-levels. 

Before you leap into the nearest cupboard or underneath your bed in spine-tingling fear (which I've successfully avoided doing all year, in spite of enduring utter panic upon realising the deadline for Media coursework on which I'll elaborate later on), let's remember that A-levels cannot be in any shape or form compared to other occupations or responsibilities that some people take on. Undoubtedly, I've experienced stressful moments over the course of the past year - which needn't come as a surprise considering that memes by the A-level Problems Facebook page constantly torment me on an almost daily basis! - but anyone will be hard-pressed to find anything which doesn't contain the slightest amount of stress. Therefore, when I am cramming as many sociologists' names as well as revising poems by John Keats (including one which is 500 lines long) the night before I sit my A-level exams next June, I truly will attempt to bear these facts in mind, if my mind is even operating at all!

Anyway, for those who are starting their A-levels in September, I suppose that my advice is to keep things in perspective (or 'prendre du recul' if you have the courage - for which I will fall at your feet to praise you - to study French!) during your time in sixth form/college. Although you will certainly experience moments when it seems that the piles of homework are relentless (thus making the 'homework' timetable at my previous school as easy as attending play-group - which GCSEs should definitely not be compared to!), the first year of sixth form - otherwise known as Year 12 - will fly past quite quickly. I mean, it must have, otherwise I wouldn't now be forcing myself to not even think about going into Year 13 in September, the prospect of which terrifies me more than the idea sacrificing Lidl's cookies from my life for an entire year (as you will discover, I am pretty grateful for cookies getting me through Year 12!).

Therefore, given that half of my sixth form mission is completed now that the summer holidays have officially started - even though my enthusiasm is probably not as strong as I would like thanks to the boiler breaking down (meaning that there is NO hot water - just perfect for a shower-loving individual like myself!) - it is time for me to look back over this past year and, for those who are heading into Year 13 like me or are about to commence their A-level studies, I'll offer some tips to ensure your survival!

Before the journey began

Prior to starting my A-levels, I had attended a comprehensive mixed-sex academy for around 18 months so, to be honest, I hadn't really had a lot of time to get settled there compared to most of the other students in my year, most of whom had attended the school since the beginning of Year 7. However, my previous school did not even offer French - a subject that I adore whole-heartedly (though let's avoid mentioning the awful English translation I had to do in my AS exam last month!) - which convinced all the more to look elsewhere for studying my A-levels. 

Also, I would have only been allowed to study three A-levels which, despite seeming 'easier' on paper as well as becoming common practice within many sixth forms following the recent A-level reforms (once more another sarcastic 'thank you' in the direction of the hideously smug Michael Gove), I feel would have limited me. Why? On reflection, I realise that I am capable of studying four AS subjects, which I hope will prepare me all the more for the harder standard of study that I will face in Year 13. Although I can't really try to imagine how I would be feeling had I stayed at my previous school's sixth form, I'm quite confident in admitting that I feel better prepared for next year thanks to moving to my current school, which should hopefully make all the difference over the upcoming year. 

Let's skip ahead to results day last year - despite facing disruption in my classes in addition to having to learn the syllabus myself in several of my subjects (ahem, Sociology and Religious Studies), I achieved 3A*, 4A and 2B. Not bad, though unsurprisingly I did curse Edexcel's name quite a bit upon discovering that, had I sat my Maths exam a year beforehand, I would have achieved an A due to the difference in grade boundaries. Nonetheless, my results landed me a place at my chosen sixth form, a girls-only grammar school, which only required 6Bs, to study A-levels in English Literature, French, Sociology and Media.

Over the course of the summer holidays last year, I kept wondering whether or not to swap Media for another subject, such as Psychology or Business Studies. Although I had no problem whatsoever with studying four AS subjects, I somewhat felt that there were not any subjects available which appealed enough to make me want to study them for the whole of Year 12. Part of me was interested in Psychology because, if I completely wanted to pursue a different career path, I would possibly want to become a counsellor given that so many people require the support of mental health services today. However, I would be lying if I denied my relief at deciding against this because I've since realised that Psychology is quite scientific which, following two years of utter torture in my Science lessons, I really couldn't cope with, while I would have to become up, close and personal with the much-abhorred Research Methods (already an absolute bore in my Sociology course)! As for Business, it was a half-baked idea which never got around to being fulfilled because, for starters, I have very little interest in business affairs; thus, why would I devote hours to studying for something which barely stimulates me? Consequently, I chose to study Media along with my other three options.

Year 12 Study

English Literature

Although I would struggle to select my favourite option out of the four subjects that I've studied over the past year if asked, it is possible that I could cite English as my most loved for these following reasons:

- Unlike my other subjects, English is quite relaxed because, instead of creating piles of notes (as is the case in Sociology), we simply annotate our books with points suggested by our teacher or fellow students in the class. 
- While it is utterly unacceptable to screw up a translation in French or mix up sociologists' names (a mere exaggeration!), English is open to a vast range of interpretations. As long as you justify your point with a quote, some analysis and maybe a critical opinion, anything pretty much goes in English, which is why I have found A-level English more stimulating and fascinating compared to GCSE because there is greater freedom with your analysis and personal thoughts. 
- Asides from a few dodgy poems in Poems of the Decade anthology (principally the Dover one which irritatingly appeared in my AS exam!), I have genuinely enjoyed all the novels and plays that my class have studied in Year 12, which include A Streetcar Named Desire, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Mrs Dalloway
- Albeit a bit terrifying at first because such practice was uncommon at my previous school, I have grown to appreciate that essays are somewhat regularly assigned because, over the course of the year, I have become more confident in expressing my ideas as well as undertaking deeper analysis of characters, symbolism, etc. As a result, you could say that I've developed a love of writing essays (even if they take the best part of an entire Saturday to complete...)!
- Thanks to the red, flower and light imagery present in Streetcar, Dalloway and Streetcar respectively, I think that I've become quite an expert on the sexual connotations of blood, raspberries, pink dresses and paper lanterns. Not really mentioned in the sixth form prospectus, mind you, but surely there must be a practical use for all of these knowledge? 

Initially, I felt rather out of my depth in my English classes because, unlike my previous school, we actually annotate our books, which are given to us as personal copies. I know, it's utterly shocking that my old school - which seemed hell-bent on saving as much money as possible (despite its academy sponsor spending over a £1 million on a centre in France for some unfathomable reason!) - couldn't even give us copies of the books we were studying so we could make notes next to the key quotes. Before I started annotating my first English lit novel, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, part of me mourned the idea of having to 'ruin' the clean pages inside yet, almost one year on, I take pride in flicking through all of the books and plays that I've read by seeing the highlighted quotes and annotations which express the very depths of my imagination going wild with literary joy... In other words, if a book that you're studying at A-level is not annotated, you better sort it out!!!

In conclusion (definitely the best expression to use if concluding an essay instead of 'all in all' - a tip picked up from one of my two English teachers!), English Literature is definitely a challenge in the sense that you need to adapt to reading a variety of works. However, if you have an open mind and are genuinely thirsty for expandng your bookmad mind with even more dramas, poems and novels, don't be afraid to step out into the unknown!

French

For anyone who is currently studying A-level French, I am sure that you are fully aware of the fact that GCSE French was, to be quite blunt, an absolute joke. Hmm, maybe not the sort of joke that would have left you roaring with laughter (or rire aux √©clats) whilst trying to make sense of the illogical GCSE listening exam, but seriously, GCSE French was ridiculously easy compared to A-level. How people even dare to suggest that modern foreign languages at GCSE level are difficult have probably escaped the shock which greets us upon commencing our A-level studies in any language, let alone French!

When I talk about the 'shock' that initially was A-level French, I'm indeed referring to the greater amount of freedom - or libert√© - that one has with regard to expressing themselves in French. Let's face it, each controlled assessment completed during our GCSEs contained standard phrases, possibly half of which we barely understood; indeed, I'll admit that I didn't fully understand what ainsi que meant when I used in one of my CAs until several months ago. Although all Year 11s like to consider themselves to be oh-so-mature because they are sitting their 'major' exams - the all-important GCSEs, which are presented by schools as determining 'life' or 'death' (or, in my case, whether I was worthy enough of being treated with a bar of Reese's peanut butter cups after collecting my results) - any GCSE French students were spoon-fed. Like babies, we were nurtured with the precious A* expressions and piles of vocabulary lists from which we were forced to revise from, unless we wanted the Exam Gods to chuck us into a locked room within Hell or somewhere equally as sinister.

Moreover, I suppose that my shock was also not supported by the fact that everyone in my French class actually participated in conversations in French. While literally 80% of my classmates in my GCSE French classes couldn't express themselves beyond saying that 'je joue au football', my new French peers could confidently speak aloud in front of an entire class. Having missed out on this 'nurturing' at my previous school, I really couldn't help but feel insecure about my own French-speaking abilities - I mean, how would I be able to attain an ability on a par with the rest of my class, the majority of whom had enjoyed the advantage of being supported in such an aspirational envrionment for five years prior to sixth form? Thus, I did feel for the first few weeks that I would never get the hang of French at this advanced level, which I suppose wasn't helped by the fact that I was used to getting high-ish marks whilst studying the GCSE.

Nonetheless, my advice for prospective French students is this: ne abandonnez pas! As I've since realised, the first few weeks feel like you are drowning (albeit not literally!) in a massive pool overflowing with tons of new and somewhat intimidating vocabulary (se banaliser freaked the hell out of me at first) yet, as you adjust and appreciate that pretty much everybody else is experiencing this difficulty at the same time, you slowly pull yourself out of the ocean and onto a dry, secure and safe beach. No way am I at all suggesting that A-level French is as relaxing as lying on a beach - unless you're sitting the General Studies exam, no A-level should even be considered 'easy' (otherwise, how can you truly feel proud of all the work you devote to studying it?) - because you simply have to keep practising it yet, like any other A-level subject, you get used it.

One way in which j'ai pris de l'assurance (I have gained confidence - I really ought to stop mentioning this mind-boggling translations but, once you've adjusted to A-level French, it really is difficult to resist showing off your vocabulary!) is by visiting French websites almost on a daily basis, even if only for several minutes at a time. My favourites are Le Figaro which uses words that you should be able to recognise or at least get the gist of and Elle France (particularly any articles associated with celebrities interest me!). If you have Netflix, try to watch television shows with French subtitles - this tends to be available for Netflix's own programmes (such as 13 Reasons Why), but hopefully more shows and films will appear with the option to watch them in French. Personally, I'm not too keen on 'francophone' music - in fact, I much prefer Spanish music because it is generally more upbeat and similar to the club music which I like - but it may be of interest you. However, I do like Stromae, whose EDM tracks feature very thought-provoking music videos, though I'm sorry to admit that none of Daft Punk's nor David Guetta's music are in French!

Another piece of advice is that practice makes perfect. At the end of the day, nobody is going to care if you spend half an hour or longer relistening to a 2 minute-long audio extract on gay families because, if it helps you to become more focused and confident in the actual exam, you have to do what works best for yourself. And I'm not exaggerating about spending hours of my time listening to baffling listening exercises which, once I see the transcript, I understand - some people are naturally stronger at reading or listening exercises, so don't worry much about it!

Lastly, I feel like I have become a more confident speaker in general thanks to studying French because it has pushed me beyond my confident zone as I have grown accustomed to speaking in almost every lesson - a quality which is definitely priceless! Also, topics like family and crime overlap with units that I'm studying in Sociology - therefore, French is like revision for Sociology, except that I'm doing so in another language!


Anyway, I think that I'll finish this post here because I honestly don't want to make your head explode with gaining so much information about A-levels (and, to be honest, my fingers deserve a rest from the keyboard!). To clarify things, I will be continuing my English and French studies into Year 13 because, well, it's a no-brainer - I've actually decided to study the two subjects as a joints-honour degree at university, so there is no way that I would drop either of them! As subjects which look at the meaning of language (English) and how to use language (French), I feel that they are the perfect combination for me, hence why I'll be clinging onto them like a dog holds onto a bone!

Next time, I'll discuss my experiences with Sociology and Media (the latter of which should make for some interesting reading). So, you ask, does this mark my return to the Blogosphere? As someone who doesn't like to leave anything half-done (unless it involves finishing that bar of fruit and nut chocolate lying under my bed which I so don't want!), I suppose so! 

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

Hello all or, rather more fittingly with today's festivities, Merry Christmas!

Indeed, this festive season has finally motivated me to return to this beloved blog, which was rather cruelly abandoned just days before I picked my GCSE results in August earlier this year. In case you assumed that my results didn't go to plan as I had literally spent the whole summer hoping - as I'm sure that you wouldn't want to hear a teenager having a meltdown about failing all of her subjects (and using the Internet is often regarded as a leisurely activity, not one which makes you want to reach for the nearest bottle of wine!) - my GCSEs did go well and I maanged to get into my chosen sixth form, an all-girls grammar school which has recently been recognised as the best performing state school in my county. Yay!!!

However, I didn't initially feel thrilled with my results when I got them because 1) I got lower grades than I expected in English Literature and Sociology (both were A grades instead of my coveted A* - please don't think of me as being 'greedy' and 'selfish', yet I had rigously revised for these exams and had genuinely believed that my exams had gone in my favour!) and 2) several days after picking up my results, I realised that my RS result was incorrect (unfortunately, the exam board regarded my GCSE as half-course when, just three weeks before the exam, I had upgraded to the full-course, so I was mistakenly led to believe that I'd achieved an A* in the subject when, in fact, my true grade was an A).

Before I knew it, I was plunged into the vicious and demoraling world of re-marks, which I demanded for English Lit and Language, Sociology and RS. Without going into ridiculous amount of detail (as I'm sure that you want to eat your Christmas dinner before Easter!), my former school created numerous barriers with  regard to even paying for my re-marks - as far as they were concerned, they only cared about the fact that I'd achieved B grades and above in all of my subjects (the only B grades were in Core Science and Maths, the latter of which would have been an A if Edexcel hadn't increased their grade boundaries by a crazy number of marks - hopefully the same exam board will be more forgiving with my AS Level English Lit!).

Nevertheless, I got the last laugh by having my English Literature grade moved up to an A* thanks to an extra 11 marks being found across both of my exam papers - one of the re-marks that my former school wanted me to pay for! Unfortunately, my other re-marks were unsuccessful, yet to this day I am grateful for my English Literature grade because, from the moment I found out during a free period at sixth form, my confidence in studying A Level English Lit has increased. And, more than three months into studying my A Levels, I'm feeling prouder than I nitially did with my GCSE results, especially as the 2016 exams were difficult!

Anyway, I've settled into life at my sixth form which, despite being challenging at times (ah, the lovely nature of A Levels), I really enjoy. So far, I've competed in a debating competition, in addition to being a jury member for a bar mock trial competition, while I'm currently waiting to hear if I've been selected to be a mentor for some Year 11 students who are studying Romeo and Juliet (which I genuinely miss studying - long gone are the days of watching the Leonardo DiCaprio film in my English lessons!). Although I would regard myself as a naturally shy person, I'm glad that I've pushed myself to take part in various activities because, as is the case with all things, you only live once - and, before I've even had time to blink, I'll (hopefully) be starting at university!

Talking of university... It will only be a matter of months before I'll start applying for universities - even just thinking about it makes me feel like I'm having an out-of-body experience! Surely, I can't be approaching the age to move onto higher education and be an adult?! In fact, I'll officially be an adult - at least in the eyes of the law (not so sure about at home; I might still have to ask if I want to buy an 18-rated film) - when I turn 18 in February, which is only a couple of weeks away. So many responsibilities come with getting older, some of which are good (such as choosing which clothes to wear) while others are more unappealing (cleaning my en-suite remains a chore that I utterly detest doing on a Sunday afternoon)! Still, as far as I'm aware, I won't be kicked out of the house anytime soon (a joke which parents love to make with their teenage children, though I'm not always sure about whether they are kidding or are actually serious!), so things shouldn't be changing too much in 2017.

Furthemore, I'm just doing what I do best at Christmas right now, which is: chilling out and enjoying the festive ambiance in the air. Honestly, I'm just so grateful to have a break from revision, especially as mocks are around the corner (good luck on remembering all of the sociologists' names in my Sociology paper!), which Christmas perfectly caters to (pardon the pun). As ever, I got several books - including a copy of Twilight in French which, to my delight (and can only be understood by fellow A Level French students, is not written in the ghastly past historic tense - and several clothes, all of which are from the delightful H&M (definitely get their jumpers if you want a bargain and something cosy and fashionable!).

I'm hoping that, whether you are and whatever you are doing (such as flicking through all of the TV channels in the hope of finding something semi-decent to watch), you have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Meanwhile, I'm counting down the minutes towards Christmas Dinner being served... Nothing new there!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Quick Post: The 3-Day Countdown

Just in case you were beginning to assume that I'd firmly ventured back into the wilderness that is better recognised in society as adolescent life and had therefore turned my back on blogging duties for the present time, I've somehow been lured back to this all-too-familiar site as I await the arrival of Thursday. Not quite sure what this Thursday represents, asides from pizza being served for dinner (as it appears to be the case in my household)? Only just scrolling through student forums at a Usain Bolt-inspired speed would instantly tell you that Thursday will confirm what many teenagers like myself have both been dreading and looking forward to (albeit not in the 'I-can't-wait-to-go-to-Disneyland' kind of way) for months: GCSE Results Day.

Ugh, the horror of opening what will be the most important envelope that you will ever come across in your life (until the even more dreaded AS Level results are received the following year - after Thursday, I'll have the not-so-delightful honour of attending another two Results Days) in a room crowded with equally terrified individuals catalyses such panic within myself, which is clearly not helping my sleeping patterns. As embarrassing as it sounds to those who suffered the Result Day woes long ago and probably cannot even remember what grades they achieved (such a possibility seems absolutely impossible to me right now - long will I anticipate the day that my Physics grade will slip out of my mind like an important, yet uncompleted chore), I've pretty much spent the past three or four nights lying in my bed, panicking over which grades will greet me or slap my horrified cheek on Thursday morning.

Such torture of this kind isn't even fair - the first half an hour or so of going to bed should involve my reviewing the scenarios that have taken place in the programmes I've been watching on Netflix then, in true fantasy style, place myself in those situations for my own past-bedtime entertainment. Believe me, fantasising over being situated in the same city as Mitchell from Being Human would be plenty enough to soothe me of any pre-envelope opening nerves (because, like a true worrier, I am concerned over whether I'll easily open my envelope or will require some assistance like a three year old asking their dad to tie their shoelaces up - a.k.a. my 17 year old self!), yet my stupid exam results have deprived me of such a luxury...

In a strange way, I suppose that a sense of calmness has finally descended upon me from today onwards because, at long last, I can finally utter the words 'this week' when discussing Results Day (RD) without fear of deluding myself. As a result, such dreams of being placed in hibernation until Thursday morning are slowly beginning to subside, which probably come as a huge relief to my precious cat, Bart, who has reigned supreme on my bed all summer - any time in which he has been barred from resting on my bed has been utterly devastating for his oh-so-poor self, hence why my hibernating this week would have deprived him of yet another sleeping spot! Also, the grade boundaries for the exams I sat will be released by all but one of the exam boards on Wednesday midnight which, if my maths skills have not yet completely died, is only thirty-six hours away; at least knowing the number of marks I will need to achieve various grades will distract me from my ever-growing pile of nerves on Wednesday, which will be more than ready to explode by the time that Thursday morning rolls around.

Honestly, I can speak for all expectant teens that the summer-long Waiting Game has been absolutely tedious - and way too long than anyone can reasonably tolerate! If people are of the knowing sort who can accurately predict what grades they will get, I would imagine that they wouldn't be too worried with regard to waiting an entire summer to discover their results, yet I constantly and repeat doubt myself because I really don't know what my personally-addressed envelope will contain. Such uncertainty - in addition to my unconfident attitude because, in my opinion, cockiness can backfire big time if grade boundaries or harsh examiners play any role in determining your future (and who is to know who will be marking your paper?) - only increases my worries because, until I finally find out my results on Thursday, I won't be able to take a deep breath and relax.

OK, that isn't to say that I've been completely depriving myself of a break this summer - otherwise, what would be the point of working hard during the exam period to only greet myself with yet more work? - but there is only so much 'relaxation' that I can do without turning my attention towards exam results. Additionally, being in scarce possession of patience has not helped me at all either and, now that I'm closer than ever to receiving my results, praying for the sake of developing a yet-to-be-discovered patient streak in my nature seems rather pointless!

Nevertheless, I will probably find myself praying that Netflix will list an addictive show that I can rapidly sink my teeth into (as was the case with discovering Being Human last week - suddenly, the idea of developing so much body hair as a werewolf seemed far scarier than getting a D in my Maths GCSE) as I start to count down the hours towards Thursday morning. Sod it, I'll leave it to Google to calculate the hours because my frazzled little head will be way too stressed to figure it out independently!


Sunday, 14 August 2016

Panicking Like Mad Over Results Day

As is the case with thousands of teenagers across the country, I'm currently awaiting my GCSE results which, within eleven days' time, will be released to my increasingly impatient self: a moment that will mark the very beginning of my future. Terrifying, is it not, to have my future determined by one set of exam results that, despite sitting the very last one of all nearly two months ago, seem so separated and unfamiliar in my life - well, I suppose that my post-exam cocktail of Netflix, books and continuous playtime with my four cats has certainly helped me to forget that Pythagoras Theorem once played a prominent role in my academic alias earlier this summer!

In fact, a KitKat-sized chunk of myself (thanks to my clever creation of a fat-free Greek yoghurt ice cream with - you've guessed it - bits of KitKats mixed through it) is even wondering whether I sat my GCSEs this summer because I've completely lost track of time in the sense that my newly-plucked eyebrows wouldn't even rise in surprise if years had passed since I cantered out of my final exam (bolting away from the hideous first question on my Physics paper, of course!).

Strangely, I somewhat feel as though I've already embarked on the rocky and riotous road that university hopefuls have endured on their quest to A Level success thanks to completing the transition packs that my first-choice sixth form gave me, which has further aided in my brain's mission to completely purify itself of GCSE Bitesize, GCSEPod and MyGCSEScience (basically anything beginning with a G and ending in an E!). Still, would I have the faintest clue on how to answer questions on specimen papers for my selected A Level choices? Unless I'd managed to find an intelligently hidden bottle of vodka in the house (which even Nancy Drew would know does not exist) and I swapped an evening of PLL-bingeing for revising my specific subjects like my life depended on it, I probably would be an odds-on favourite to not be able to write an introduction as an answer, let alone actually answer the question itself! Hmm, hopefully I'll be able to look back at this in a years' time and laugh like a hoarse evil witch at my present inability to cope with A Level work... or cry with morbid shame if little has changed over the next twelve months!

Anyway, I suppose that living in limbo - which is pretty much the institution to which I've been moved ever since my exams were over because, until 25th August rolls around, I cannot even guarantee my place at the sixth form of my heavenly and oh-so-perfect dreams (although gut instinct, when able to burst through my niggling doubts and sea-deep worries, tells me that such a fantasy is within reach) - has created this barrier of isolation from my exams and the future ahead of me, which is quickly approaching. Seriously, I will living my future by this time next month at sixth form - though I cannot definitely say which one I will be studying at, which frustrates me all the more that, in comparison to last year, Results Day is being held much later in August.

Whereas last years' cohort received their results on 20th, I, along with thousands of fellow worriers (surely I can't just be the only one who is enduring Results Day hallucinations?), have been condemned to an extra five days until our doom - or, if I want to inject a bit of positivity into this post, paradise - is revealed. Honestly, my heart breaks for those awaiting their A Level results, which will be released next Thursday, because peoples' lives depend all the more on their A Level grades - it could make the life-changing difference between going to or missing out on university. Therefore, getting results a few days earlier make all the difference; exam papers can be remarked sooner, which could ensure that students won't lose out on offers from universities, while universities could provide more support before they are no longer able to offer places.

Obviously, one could say that students were unfortunate to have to wait a bit longer than usual this year - believe me, I've been wishing that my GCSE results didn't have to coincide with a leap year, which is the reason why results days for all students have been pushed back - but every single day seems as lengthy and slow as a year right now, regardless of how close I already am to receiving my envelope and ripping it open in less than a fortnight's time.

To make matters worse, my English Language result has already been released because it came under the iGCSE qualification, whose results day was this Thursday, yet my school refuses to release it to me until Results Day on 25th August. Honestly, thinking that an envelope containing my grade is only eight miles away from my clutches drives me around the bend whenever the thought pops into my head, haunting my fragile emotions. And, of all of my subjects, I'm most nervous about English Language because the exam board is an absolute joke - well, obtaining a D in a mock exam seems rather unlikely for an aspiring English teacher, doesn't it? Without a doubt, I'm not settling for anything less than an A* in English Language, yet it pains me like a blade stabbing my heart to consider that, if my school bothered to provide its students with usernames to access their iGCSE results online, I could have found out what I obtained by now. Hence why I'm trying to avoid using the internet when possible because most iGCSE candidates have been discussing their results on student forums and social media - meanwhile, I feel like an outsider peeping into something that I am entitled to be part of!

Nevertheless, Results Day will finally be in sight from tomorrow onwards because I can say that I'll getting them next week - certainly much better than the two months that they once were, isn't it? Undoubtedly, what will be will be, but I just hope that my results will be exactly what I've been hoping for. Life has taught me to never expect things to go the way that you cannot stop yourself from expecting them to because it only leads to self-disappointment, which is the bitterest flavour to wash away. Alas, I'm trying to prepare myself for obtaining grades that may not be in line with what I would like because, as is the case with strangers and examiners, I trust absolutely no one - especially when these grades concern my future, which is as precious and important to me as life itself.

Well, I'd love to be gushing and crying happily (without my waterproof mascara budging one bit!) on 25th August, but I'm so worried about getting myself tangled in a web of disappointment if I indulge in these ideal fantasies, which seem way too good to be true! In the meantime, let's focus my attention on escaping the worry-inducing wrath of social media over the next eleven days...

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Discussing My NCS Experience

After nearly a month's break from my blog-writing duties, I have returned - how I have missed typing Blogger into the search engine and arriving at my prime destination of writing glory, which is always as uplifting as indulging in one of those cheesy feel-good films that even the so-called 'hardest' person secretly likes. Well, plenty can happen over the course of a month - particularly during my extremely long post-exam summer (bet you were guessing how long it would take me to utter the E word, huh?) - and therefore I'm bursting like an overfilled cupcake case to reveal all that has happened. 

On the last occasion that I wrote here, I was just a week away from beginning my NCS adventure which, until that point, I hadn't really thought an awful lot about. Why? Bearing in mind that I'd booked my place on the programme as far back as January - I suppose that my New Year's Resolution of banishing my lazy, can't-be-bothered attitude was seriously playing with my thoughts at the time - I'd somewhat had the ideal excuse to forget all about it up until a week or two before I started it, especially as I wasn't in a position like some people to sign up at literally the last minute. 

In fact, in the months, weeks and days (luckily, hours and seconds were not included!) leading up to my starting NCS, I'd received numerous phone calls, texts and emails with regard to inviting friends to sign up - aided with the offer of £25 to spend at Nandos which, for non-British residents, is the chicken-flavoured equivalent to Pokemon Go (for those unfamiliar with the adorable Pikachu, British teenagers are obsessed with Nandos, otherwise known as Chicken Heaven!). If I'd known any friends who would have been remotely interested in signing up for NCS, I definitely would have invited them because, what with having last gone to a Nandos for my 16th birthday last year (for the first and so far the only time - unfortunately, my family don't really like chicken that much, so perhaps my next trip there will be toute seule), I have some desperate cravings for spicy chicken dishes and vanilla-flavoured gelato! Still, I suppose that life goes on - regardless of whether your dreams are tainted with images of chicken thighs soaked in mouth-burning and eye-watering spices...

Anyway, skip forward to around a week and a half later - at which point my NCS adventure was firmly over. And, in case you begin to wonder whether your Specsavers glasses have just tricked your eyes into seeing a word that you cannot believe is appearing on your desktop screen, you can firmly relax - I did quit NCS! OK, I genuinely had an understandable reason for leaving NCS halfway through my first week because of a family bereavement, which instantly established to me that I had to return home, albeit my home was over 120 miles away from the resort I was staying at. 

Typically, the first week of NCS involves staying away from home at an activity/adventure camp/resort (a group of considerate angels had blessed me by ensuring that I was not camping for the week - the heavens would have felt the wrath of a million moaning and irritated teenagers from just myself if it had been so!); therefore, I was staying at an activity site which, had it not been for too many people signing up in my county, would have been situated at the one just up the road from my village. Well, the angels could surely have not blessed me with the luck of a saint by setting my first NCS week significantly closer to home - in fact, I probably could have carried having my meals, showers and even bedtimes in the comfort of my home if my local activity site had been assigned to my group! 

Nevertheless, I only had two full days of NCS life before I withdrew from the programme for the above-mentioned personal reasons, yet those two days have already washed all previous fears and concerns with regard to starting at a new sixth form next month (no longer so far away from the beastly A-Levels now, am I?). To my delight, I befriended a pair of twins who only came to England two years ago yet, like one of my friends at my current/former school (kinda feel like I'm in limbo until Results Day!) who originates from Portugal, they speak English so well - in fact, I initially wondered whether they were born and raised here because they speak ever so eloquently and comfortably! As a result, I'm no longer feeling concerned and worried about making friends because most people in my NCS group will be attending the same sixth form as myself, so hopefully I'll recognise a few faces in my classes, which will help to put me at ease. 

In many ways, I'm glad that I took part in NCS - albeit only for two days - because I proved to myself that I can make friends with people whom I've never met before which, despite sounding a little tad stupid and ridiculous in print (because how else have I or anybody else struck up friendships in the past?), had been a concern of mine whilst attending my previous school as I didn't really trust the people there, who could have painted a visage of initial pleasantness before revealing a mask of cruelty. For the past two years, I've struggled to trust my 'peers' at the two schools I've attended because, in particular, many of the girls were less sophisticated replicas of Regina George - as if I wanted to be on the firing line of a hard-faced bitch! Yet, almost immediately, I sensed that these girls embodied the warmth, kindness and humour that I've always wanted in a group of friends - but why should these qualities be such rarities in other educational institutions? Nonetheless, I will be eternally grateful for attending the same sixth form as these kind-hearted and intelligent people because at least they do not resort to the bitchiness that strongly defined the culture within my former school. 

However, the NCS programme was ridiculously restrictive - to the extent that I often wondered whether I had returned to playgroup because literally every minute was controlled by the managers who ran the activity resort! Rarely did I have a spare moment to return to my cabin (which I shared with five other girls - believe me, organising showering schedules was a delightful inconvenience!) and chill out with my friends; the only time that I had to do so was at bedtime, at which point I was so exhausted that all I craved was to fall into an eternal sleep (impossible thanks to having only one flat pillow in my bunk bed!). In all honesty, I don't see why staying at various sites over the course of the NCS programme is necessary because teenagers like myself who are on the verge of entering adulthood - in my case, within six months' time! - want to hang out without being dictated as to what they can and cannot do. Therefore, it is fair to say that I'm relishing the idea of meeting up with my new friends over the next few weeks because at least none of us have to be forced to climb ropes or participate in activities that do not interest us. 

Besides, most of the costs attributed to funding each person on the NCS programme can be blamed on paying for stays at these activity resorts, which certainly don't come cheap! As a new government settles into their new roles, I'm wondering whether the NCS programme - masterminded by the former PM David Cameron - will survive the changes that are bound to come about over the next few months and years. If NCS is investing so much in its advertising campaign yet still fails to gain enough participants (even one of my friends dropped out of it, along with a few others in my group before the week began), a significant amount of money must be lost somewhere along the lines, which could be better invested in helping schools employ qualified teachers, afford a vast range of GCSE/A Level courses and maintain an adequate standard of education for the millions of students across the country. 

Still, I suppose that everyone has different views regarding NCS and may see it in a completely different light to myself, but at least I gained something completely precious from it - new friendships. And, as everyone will know, friends are utterly priceless!