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We are Wellington | The value of open-mindedness, Emmie year 13

21 May 2020
Our ongoing We are Wellington series shares our community’s memories, thoughts and experiences of life at Wellington. Emmie is one of our current year 13 pupils who reflects on her time at Wellington as she prepares for her next step into higher education.

 Early impressions

During my very first visit to Wellington I distinctly remember seeing someone running around dressed in an inflatable T-Rex outfit. While this was not the deciding factor for me to want to attend, it definitely underlined the impression I had already made of Wellington – principally that it was a fun, friendly and welcoming place that had a lot of personality. I already knew of its reputation as a great school, but everything I saw told me that it wasn’t a place just for churning out good results. I got the sense that both hard work and high achievement were things to be encouraged, but not to the exclusion of self-discovery and genuine enjoyment of our school days. That was my impression and thankfully it has never changed during my time here.

Getting involved

Another early memory that has stuck with me comes from my first year. Every year, the pupil choir performs in venues across the city and this year we went to the Shangri-La Hotel Ball for the British Council of Commerce. I remember singing as we performed an acapella piece in the middle of their ballroom dance floor and feeling so happy and proud as I looked at my friends, all of us giving it our all and enjoying every second of the experience. I’m grateful that this is just one of so many happy memories of my Wellington years. It is important to me because it is a very tangible reminder of how much I’ve enjoyed myself here. Working hard to secure good grades and a solid base of academic skills is undoubtedly important, but so is living life to the fullest while you’re doing it. That is something Wellington has always been excellent at supporting. The same heady combination of pride, happiness and a sense of accomplishment I’ve felt with each musical and theatrical performance I’ve had the privilege of being involved in will always stay with me. From The Sound of Music, to Little Shop of Horrors, Almost Some of the Time and Medea, I have had such an incredible time learning, preparing and performing. I’m still crossing everything in the hope that against all odds we might still be able to perform Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat before this academic year ends!

Becoming Head of College

The main thing I feel about holding this position is gratitude. I must admit that I’ve sometimes felt the pressure when juggling it with all the requirements of the IBDP. It has been worth it though, as it has shown me how much ideas grow and take on a life of their own when you have a group of eager people with the right attitude to working together. It starts with one person coming forward and once everyone has had the chance to bounce the idea around a little, it has been incredibly satisfying to see that take shape as everyone contributes their strengths and perspectives, leading to the creation of something greater than the sum of its parts. Quite often I felt less of an overall leader and more of a mediator or go-between. That has been genuinely lovely, as I felt that pupils throughout the College could come to me and together we could make their ideas happen. The recent shoe box appeal is a good example of that, as the idea came from three of the girls in the lower years. Our continuing work for the WenHe migrant school is another example of a project that encourages pupils to voice their opinions and show what they can do when given the chance. Sadly, we have not been able to do nearly as much of what we planned for WenHe, due to coronavirus, but I feel very proud knowing that we’ve kept the connection as strong as we can and created a legacy that future years can expand on. This is something else I think Wellington has always been great at – giving its pupils opportunities to give back to various communities in a way that is meaningful to us.

Tackling the IBDP

Everybody knows that studying the IB is tough and my experience with it has been no different. I found that the critical thing to do was to always keep on top of work by breaking it down into manageable chunks rather than letting it build up to a daunting level. However, I also felt supported every step of the way, thanks to all of the advice and accessibility my teachers offered me without fail. Participating in activities outside of academic study really helped too, just because having other things to concentrate on was a welcome relief while also helping to keep me focused.

Preparing for the next step

The past few months have of course been such a strange time for everyone, given that we’re all dealing with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the difficulty and risks that so many people have faced, what I’ve found to be really inspiring is how everyone at Wellington has come together. Adjusting to remote learning has been challenging but it’s also shown me how connected and supportive we all are, even when we are not at school together. This has served as another reminder that there is a genuine sense of family at Wellington. In my first year, I remember watching the house basketball finals, The Hill vs The Combermere, and how there was so much tension in the air. All the seniors were watching, there was absolute silence during the shootouts, and I remember looking around and thinking how great it was that everyone was invested, nobody was ‘too cool for school’. Even at the beginning of my time at Wellington, it was clear to me that this was a place where people care about other people, their goals, their achievements and their wellbeing. That is how things have stayed and our collective reaction to this pandemic proves it. For me, I must admit that I’m a little nervous about my immediate future, especially since there is a measure of uncertainty around my year group’s university offers, in light of exams being cancelled. However, what lends me confidence is that I know I have been given the tools to cope with this major transitionary moment in my life, however it turns out. Wellington has given me the confidence to better understand myself, to be a better learner and thinker, and to rely on my own capabilities.
At the heart of it, I think that the most important thing Wellington has given me is the ability to keep asking the right questions. In every class I’ve attended, the learning has always been characterised by the quality of discussion. As pupils, we are always encouraged by our teachers to extend our thought process, to say: “yes, and…”, to look more deeply and carefully, and to take any opportunity to learn from a wider range of sources. This encouragement of curiosity and open-mindedness is reinforced by the very nature of our inclusive community. My friends and teachers are from all over the world, and I have learned so much from their different and fascinating perspectives, a process that has broadened my own. I can’t think of a better way to prepare for higher education and adult life, with its many complicated demands.
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