For all my memorial years in England

I just want to share with you guys about all my memories about my years in England. Especially for those who are thinking about going to the UK.

I was off to a boarding school in England. My dad told me I would now go to the wider world by myself.

I landed in Manchester Airport early morning in September 2000. On the way driving to my school, I was so surprised to look at the English houses. Their heights are much shorter than Vietnamese houses. I later thought that perhaps they don’t want the house to be so tall in order to keep the heat in winter. Meanwhile, in Vietnam, we need a tall house with bigger volumn to circulate the air. However, they look small and beautiful with red bricks. Just like toy houses in my imagination.

I arrived before school start. So there’s only me in the whole school. Feeling lonely, I decided to go to the nearby town to have a look. To my horror, I found my school in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town is about 20 minutes away on the tram. Later I found out that this is the case for almost all boarding schools in England, which often locate in the countryside so that they can afford to have a huge campus with all the facilities like rugby field, swimming pools, tennis courts, etc. Coming back to the topic of going into town, I changed my mind to walk around and investigate my new school. It was huge. The houses looked so old with all the leaves covering the walls. In fact, those houses were built 150 years ago. The school had the structure that you would find in most old universities eg Oxford and Cambridge as well as all other traditional boarding school in the country. The main buildings all surround a square. It had a very small and beautiful Chapel, a big school for Headmaster Assembly, several boarding houses, separating boys and girls (bad news I guess), a big dinning hall with beautiful colourful windows and pictures of old school boys. Very tradition British, as I later observed by visiting some other traditional universities and boarding schools. That night, my first night in England, I fell asleep easily although I was the only one in the whole building. Luckily at that point, I haven’t found out about all the ghost stories that often come with an old school.

Next morning, I woke up pretty earlier, around 6am. It was already so bright. The sun was shining and I could hear the bird singing. In fact, I have to mention to you that, like other European countries I guess, in summer, the sun goes at around 5am and fades away at 11pm. However, in winter, it is a real pain seeing the sun fading away around 3.30pm. You feel like your day ends there and cannot be bothered to do more work. It could be very frustrated from time to time I find. Coming back to where I am, I woke up, got dressed and then went around to see the school again. This time, I went to the beach. I haven’t told you that my school is actually on the beach. From there, I could see Wales, the Isle of Man and Lake District. Until now I have not made it to visit Wales. I am always curious why the Scots and the English always make fun of the Welsh. In fact, one of the teachers in my school who is Welsh always makes fun of himself as well. If you look at the those famous British people, you often find English as well as Scot but you hardly find any Welsh. In fact, the present Chancellor of Britain is a Scot. The Scot is always famous for being good at money anyway. As I later knew and had chance to visit, Lake District is one of the most beautiful places in this country. Very very beautiful place indeed with lots of lakes, mountains, fields, forests. You also can find here some exhibitions to show domestic life in England throughout history. A place I would recommend to visit.

Around 9am, I came back to pack my stuff to move to my permanent boarding house. As I mentioned above, in my school as well as most of other boarding schools, boys and girls are separated. The structure of the boy and girl houses are therefore also different. When you get into a boy house, you directly see the staircase leading to the upper floors and girls are often allowed up there. However, when you get into a girl’s house, you will se another door with this notice ‘No boys are allowed behind this door’. As it was built long time ago, it surely looked old. The staircase was made from wood. Each room is pretty small, about 5m2, enough to put a single bed, a desk and a cupboard. People often complain about it being too small. However I found it very small and nice. It’s especially very cozy in winter. On my first night there, I was a nice surprise to turn off the light and saw so many stars sparkling on the ceiling. I guessed someone before me had put them up. Around the room, I often found numerous signatures of people having stayed here before. I felt a kind of attachment. While talking about the boarding houses, I have to mention about the toilets. They are extremely old fashioned. For instance, with the basin, you have to push the handle for the water to come out. I guess Japanese people, with very high-tech toilets must find British toilets so disgusting.
Around 10am, people started to arrive. You could hear people greeting each other. The music is on. It was so lively. In my boarding house, there were about 50 girls, inc 50% British, 45% German and 5% Asian ie two Vietnamese and one Indonesian. I wished I had learnt German at home. Throughout my two years at my boarding school and then later in my uni, I found the British to be very polite. One of my friends, who is American (famous for being too friendly I guess), she is now spending one year in my uni. Over the Xmas, she came to visit Continental Europe. She felt the same way like me. British are just too polite. They always give you compliments. My friends all find that Continental European are much more real.

Another amazing thing I observed was this. All the British in my school can play at least one kind of instruments, at least one sports and be very involved in all kinds of activities. By contrast, all the German as well as Asian were very bad at music, with one or two exception, very crap at sports and were not that involved. As I was told, the German has the same system like in Vietnam. Ie if you want to take music lessons, you have to go to another music school. Meanwhile, in all public schools in the UK, you would find a music school attached to it. By the way, I have to mention about one complicated term. In the UK, for secondary school, you have 3 types of school ie public school, private school and state school. The term public school is very misleading. They are actually private but they are the schools which were established long long time ago. They are posh schools basically. You often find people from public school to be well rounded ie being able to study very well as well as playing music, sports and all kinds of stuff.