One of the toughest things for me to realize was how challenging AC is. I know that sounds comedic, especially coming from a girl who used to go to one of “those” international schools (where 90% of the student population was of East Asian descent) where not going to university was cultural suicide and a gap year was for the weak. I’d wake up at 7:30, start school at 8:15, finish school at 3:25, and have track or swim or rugby practice from 3:45 until 5:45. I’d get home at around 6:20, have dinner, go on the computer at 7, go to Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail (yes, in that order), then start my homework. And if I end up not having that much homework, I’d watch a season or two of Grey’s Anatomy or the Big Bang Theory or something like that.
English class was cancelled today, so my first class started at 10:45. I woke up at 8, spent 45 minutes at the gym, and made myself breakfast. I got to the Languages block for French class at 10:44, only to find that the teacher was not there (probably supervising orals or written tasks or some other horrendous assessment that the IB forces its students to do.) I spent the next 45 minutes working on my English homework (Crime and Punishment gets so much less credit from students than it deserves), after which I headed to Economics (where one of my classmates, Driss, was teased three times by the teacher) and, finally, Politics (John Stuart Mill, anybody?).
I finished lunch in 15 minutes (smoked mackerel with a side of, er, quartered tomatoes with balsamic dressing… I hate it when the balsamic vinaigrette touches my freaking mackerel!) and headed back to the house for a half-hour power nap. I’ve started taking these power naps because I have been far too sleep-deprived in the past few days. I went to Llantwit at 2:30, grocery shopped, and got back to the college by 3:15. Did some homework, shopped for Wellies (never buy cheap Wellies – they leak and mud gets into your socks and on your feet and it’s not pleasant.)
I know it might not sound like much – indeed, I haven’t been particularly productive today. But as my Chinese second-year, Donny, said, AC stretches you in different directions and that is infinitely more tiring than the traditional education systems from back home. In China, there was only one direction: straight forward, straight ahead with my academic studies and my futile (and quite embarrassing) attempts to showed that I was all worldly and shit by doing some random community service and going to orphanages even though I absolutely hate little kids (okay, a bit harsh there). Here, there are so many activities to choose from and things to do that there’s room for everybody to be themselves, and to pursue their own interests. I’m not studying or pretending to care – I actually care about the stuff that I do because I choose to do it. Back home, I would think to myself, If I don’t do this, then I am at a disadvantage in the game of college admissions! That is true for the environment over there. But here, the grass is actually greener (literally and metaphorically). There’s so much to do, and so little time. There are people to meet and food to eat (not really.)
Socializing is no longer a “waste of time”, because from each conversation and every interaction, I’ll learn something new about myself, the other person, or about life in general. The Skype IM-ing that I did back home has now been replaced by face-to-face discussions and potlucks in the student house. The problems that I have are no longer superficial – indeed, I feel as though I have no problems now. My classmates are all friends; there’s nobody I despise here. There’s so much more to the world than I would have ever imagined. So much to do, so little time…