Eton State of Mind

So I’m back. Three weeks later and I’ve returned from possibly the most incredible ten days at what I previously thought to be the most stuck-up and judgmental establishment in the whole of the United Kingdom, but which turned out to be not only full of beautiful red brick buildings and endless traditions, but of inspiring beaks (Etonian slang for teachers) and once in a lifetime opportunities. When my mum and I first drove up to the school, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon and Eton could not have looked more breathtaking.. or more imposing for that matter. One hundred and thirty 17 year old strangers thrown into three larges houses for ten days sounds like the synopsis for a bad television show, but it soon proved to be not only bearable but actually the best experience of my life. Right from the offset, as we all mingled awkwardly drinking our orange squash, I was overwhelmed by how friendly everyone was and also how diverse the group was- there were people from as close as London, as far as Ireland and everywhere in between.

I’m not going to pretend that it was a relaxing ten days in the slightest- with three lessons a day on top of tutorial, lectures, recreation and endless tea breaks, the days were ridiculously long and many nights were spent staying up until 3am finishing that essay or this book. We were of course given some time off, with a barbeque and disco at Dorney Lake, departmental drinks at our teachers’ houses (it was unanimously agreed that the English one was of course the best), a hilarious talent show (called Speeches and based on an old Etonian tradition), and a multitude of sporting events- from netball and dodgeball tournaments to the not-so-convetional Wall Game. On top of that, us English students spent a day in London in order to see Julius Caesar at the Globe Theatre, which was an incredible experience that I’ll definitely be repeating.

The experience I had is a hard thing to describe- hence why I have taken so long to write this post- as the thing that really made it so great was the people and the atmosphere and just the aura of intelligence and interest that surrounded you. The lessons were nothing like those back home, with the idea of geeking out over original Shakespeare texts or Shelley’s diary in Eton’s library being completely normal, and the discussions being so rich and challenging in the best possible way. Being in a room surrounded by people who are just as passionate about the same things as you are is unbeatable and incredibly stimulating- my English teacher said to me that I wouldn’t want to go back to my English lessons at school, and I fear she may have been right.

I honestly can’t recommend applying for this enough for anyone who is considering applying to the likes of Oxbridge and wants to spend an intensive ten days with like-minded individuals. I met some of the most amazing people there who I could go from having deep intellectual discussions with to being in fits of giggles over the stupidest things, and isn’t that really the best kind of friendships to have? The leavers’ dinner ended in plenty of hugs and tears from everyone there- I am honestly not the kind of person to usually get emotional, but even I was a blubbering mess by the time my mum picked me up. That’s what Eton does to you, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

Advertisements

So Let’s Talk About Exams

There’s no point avoiding the subject and pretending that they aren’t coming anymore, I hate to say. With GCSE and AS exams starting tomorrow, and A2s only a few weeks away, it’s fair to say that the general atmosphere at the moment is one of high stress levels, short tempers,  and over-eating. I’ve seen millions of articles floating around, and plenty of presentations at school, about how to control the stress and actually motivate yourself to revise, but I’m yet to find one that really helps.

I’ll be the first to put my hands up and say I am truly awful at motivating myself to revise. I’m one of those people that managed to get through GCSEs by revising the night before and partially winging it, then got to A level and realised that just wasn’t going to cut it. It’s impossible to get even half-decent marks with no work at this stage, so I’ve had to completely rethink my way of working. In a way it’s a whole lot better than last year in that you are only taking subjects that you enjoy (hopefully) so the work is more enjoyable, but even someone who loves literature as much as I do can get fed up analysing WW1 poetry to death for hours on end.

I think what I’ve found to be the most important thing is to go into revision with a positive attitude, or else you’ll simply get nothing done. I’ve spent countless evenings at my desk with books spread out, beating myself up about how I should be revising and refusing to move from that spot, but not actually being able to work up the motivation to do it. It took me surprisingly long to realise that if you don’t feel like revising at all, then don’t. Put it out of your mind for a bit, do something proactive like going on a walk or meeting some friends for an hour or so, then come back to it when you’re in a more positive frame of mind.

Of course, this can easily lead to continuous procrastination meaning you never actually get round to revising, so make sure you keep what you have to do, and how long you have to do it, in perspective. I’ve tried countless revision timetables, but never stuck to them so I gave that idea up a long time ago. Sure, everyone is different so it might work for some people and it’s a great way of staying on track. Instead though, I’ve found a better method is to write down the things you need to do in order to revise for each subject in the order of importance, then simply work down the lists and tick them off as you go. This means you still stay focused on what needs to be done, but leaves it flexible and stops you getting stressed if you’re behind on your schedule.

Often the simplest things are the most effective, so don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. I am completely guilty of staying up until the early hours watching whole series of shows far too many times, but needless to say this does not put you in the right frame of mind to work. One of the biggest favours you can do your mind is to switch off electronics at least half an hour before you sleep; if you find you aren’t tired then try reading or listening to soothing music to help switch your brain off.

Other than that, just try not to stress too much, although I am well aware that that’s much easier said than done. Also try and put it into perspective- the grades you achieve now are unlikely to affect your life in the long run anywhere near as much as it may seem now. Do your best for yourself and be happy with that, as cheesy as that may sound. I know that I’m no expert, but this is something that I know is on a lot of people’s minds at the moment and I just want to wish everyone good luck in their exams- just try your best and it’ll all be okay in the end. Now I’ve just got to follow my own advice..