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We are Wellington | Gaining an international perspective

09 January 2019
The We are Wellington series lets our community share their memories, thoughts and experiences of life at Wellington. Kevin Gong, one of our founding pupils, is currently in year 13 preparing for the culmination of his International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) studies.   Thinking back to 2014, what was it about Wellington that made you think it would be the right school for you? Kevin: At the time I wasn’t actually living in Shanghai, I was living about 40 minutes away and attending a local school. I wasn’t getting much out of my daily education because I felt like it was far too restrictive; there was too much cramming in of facts and it became quite stressful to just think about going in every day. I really felt like I needed a change and my parents agreed with me. That’s why we wanted to try an international school. It just so happened that Wellington was opening up when my parents started searching, so the timing was quite lucky. When we came to visit, we were impressed by all the things you’d expect – the quality of the facilities that would be built, the resources on offer, and so on. More than anything though, it was the attitude of the teachers and the overall educational philosophy that impressed me the most about Wellington. The same went for my parents. It offered the missing link that we were looking for in my education, things like enjoying more creativity and independence in the way I learned, things that I certainly felt I wasn’t getting at the time. When you first arrived, what were your early days like at Wellington? Kevin: It was tough to adjust, to be honest, because my English was not very good. On the first day I literally didn’t understand anything that was going on in any of my lessons other than Chinese. I’d say that it took me about three months to adapt properly to learning in English, but it would have been so much longer if it weren’t for the fact that the teachers were so patient and helpful. They took the time to explain and find the best way for me to learn. I also got a lot of help from my peers who spoke Chinese, so there was always someone happy to help with translation. Even though it was tough in those first months, I didn’t feel like I was treated any differently. For me, the atmosphere was always friendly and welcoming. This was especially important given that I was a boarder too. The Hill felt like a family very quickly, I honestly felt like I was going home after the school day was done and I could spend time with the other boarders. I think the fact that we were all so different, coming from different countries and backgrounds, helped us bond and made us feel closer. There were other pupils at the beginning who weren’t so confident in their English, so we all improved together. That really helped me feel part of the school and secure in my daily life at Wellington. You’ve been at the College since the beginning. Do you think it’s changed a lot since those early days? Does it feel different to you now? Kevin: There are five houses now, but I guess that’s not a big change really! No, I don’t really feel like the College has changed at heart, because even as it has grown it still treats all of its pupils the same. We all get the same level of care and attention because there are plenty of new teachers and they really seem to understand what Wellington is about. I feel like I’m the one who has changed in the last four years.   In what way? Kevin: In a lot of ways, all of them positive. The big one is to do with my confidence. I used to be a very shy boy when I arrived, even taking the language barrier into account. I didn’t like talking to strangers and often found it difficult to open up. Now I feel much more confident talking to people of any age. Wellington encourages us to make friends and express ourselves with confidence, so I’ve definitely come out of my shell. Is there any particular reason for that, do you think? Kevin: It helps that there is always someone to talk to, no matter what you’re doing or feeling. It’s good to know that you can express yourself and nobody is going to give you a hard time, quite the opposite, in fact. This goes for the teachers as well as my fellow pupils. Clearly, they are here to teach us but at the same time I feel like all the teachers are very good at treating us with friendliness and kindness. Of course the teachers have authority and deserve our respect, but the relationship is a happy one that is based on trust and mutual respect. I always feel comfortable talking to them about anything, not just academic stuff, I’ve had a lot of great chats with my teachers about fashion, cycling, and other interests! Basically, I can relate to them as people, not just as a source of information. Now that your time with Wellington is nearly over, how are you feeling about finishing your IBDP and what comes next? Kevin: IB has been an amazing challenge, with a lot of hard work and pressure involved at each step, but I’ve never felt that the pressure was too much. All of my teachers are being really helpful in getting all of us ready for the exams. They understand the pressures and how to help us through it, so I feel ready for the exams. The same goes for university, I had so much help with my personal statement during applications. Mr Tippen and Mr McCallum have helped me refine it until it was right! Not only did they help me with applications, I also felt like I had all the information I needed to make the choice of universities and courses that felt right for me. They helped me present myself and my capabilities in the best way, which is very important when the level of competition for places is so high. Where are you hoping to go and what do you want to study? Kevin: I’m very keen to study PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) in the UK or the US. I’m not sure which one but I think I’ll be very happy with my choice of university in either country! When the end of this academic year comes and you start the next phase of your education, what do you think is the main lesson you’ll take away with you? Kevin: I’ve learned so much from Wellington both personally and academically, so it’s hard to pinpoint one thing. Overall, Wellington has shaped me to be a much more open-minded person. It’s not strictly a British or a Chinese school, it’s an international school, which gives it a unique ability to let pupils look at any issue from a very wide range of viewpoints. For instance, in English we’ve looked at issues like homophobia and white supremacy. In a non-international school, this kind of complex, emotive issue might not be taught in such an objective way, whereas here we look at problems from all angles, influenced by the varied backgrounds and experiences of the teachers and us pupils. This is perhaps the most important thing Wellington has given me and it’s something I will definitely take with me: the ability to think openly about any subject matter and consider it from lots of different perspectives. This is going to be especially important for studying philosophy and politics of course, but I think it’s a good way to look at life in general.   More relevant articles :