Boarding with everyone was so much fun, we would laugh together, cry together, get angry at each other. I think it was just like university being in accomodation with a group of friends.
We interviewed Sigho, a recent SGA Sixth Form Alumna, to find out her honest reflections on life at the St George's Sixth Form.
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Sigho joined St George’s as a full boarder in the Third Year (Year 9) from a French Speaking International school in Nigeria. She immediately threw herself into life at the school, adapting to the changes in language, culture and educational setting with remarkable strength and resilience. She is looking forward to studying International Relations at Surrey University having studied Business, Textiles and French.
We caught up with Sigho to find out about life as a Sixth Form full boarder at St George’s. We also wanted to hear about how her Sixth Form experience has prepared her both academically and practically for university life.
Sigho, what was it like to move to St George’s from your school in Nigeria?
I remember I was absolutely terrified. It was my first ever English speaking school because I had been in the French school for almost 12 years of my life. It was a different country, a different language, a different system, so I was terrified. The most I knew of boarding was my brother’s experience but that didn’t really help because he went to a massive, co-educational school, so a totally different system to St George’s. I did NOT want to be in the same school as my brother, I had dealt with that for ten years of my life! I wanted the complete opposite.
What particularly scared you?
It was the unknown I think. I wondered how the girls would be because I had never been to an all girls school either, my school back in Nigeria was co-ed, we had no uniform, it wasn’t a boarding school, it was a day school. So I was asking, how would I be with the boarders? Would I be OK with boarding in the first place? At that time I didn’t know how many Nigerian girls there would be, would I be the only one? How many friends would I make? Would there be fighting? Would I be a rebel? So many questions but I think the top one was how would the girls be with me?
What are your reflections now on an all girls education? Was it beneficial?
I think, in the beginning, I thought that an all girls school would make a difference or make me feel a certain way since I had obviously never been in one. I don’t really think I have changed. I think a lot of parents assume that when you go to an all girls school there will be a negative impact.
At St George’s I was able to see guys and make guy friends because of the socials, it never really changed me or had a negative impact. I think being in an all girls school made me more comfortable being myself. I can imagine that some girls in co-ed schools feel the need to make their appearance more perfect, to have to make that extra effort. At St George’s, I used to go to breakfast with my hair in a mess and no-one minded, they knew I’d just jumped out of bed, there was no judgment, no pressure, it was more comfortable I think.
I think being in an all girls school made me more comfortable being myself.
How did St George’s prepare you for A Levels?
I think the conversations in the GCSE years are really helpful and I had already built a relationship with the teachers. We had a sixth form day - I had chosen French, Textiles and Business - and I had the opportunity to chat to the teachers I hadn’t been taught by before. During that day, I had the opportunity to interact with those teachers, ask questions, listen to others asking their questions.
How did you feel about your A Levels?
I think everyone has this idea that the subjects that they choose will be easy, looking back now I have learnt that there is no such thing as an easy A level. There will always be a crunch. Despite speaking it for most of my life, French was still difficult for me. Everyone has to have a ‘wake up call’ moment.
Now, I am really happy with the subjects that I chose. Even with textiles, though I am not going to study art, I learnt a great deal about independent learning. French and Textiles predominantly involved work outside of the classroom not inside of it. Learning to work independently has definitely helped me to prepare for university.
What was on your mind as you looked forward to sixth form. What were you looking forward to? What did you worry about?
I was excited to not wear a uniform. Even though I came in Third Year, I still had three years of wearing a uniform. For Sixth Form, we were told we had to wear ‘business clothes’ and, even though there were a few rules, I loved how I could be myself, that I could represent myself. I liked the freedom.
I was worried about the work. Everyone warns you it’s not what you expect, it’s fun for a term and then reality sets in, I don't know why we never listened? I was terrified about how much work there would be and the stress that I would feel.
I loved how I could be myself, that I could represent myself. I liked the freedom.
What are the best elements of being in the sixth form?
There are lists of things! I remember the first thing I did was jumping the lunch queue ! It felt so good. Every single person in the Sixth Form gets really excited about something so small. I thought to myself ‘I’m a Sixth Former. This is my privilege. I’ve got this!’
Another was how close I became with the teachers especially the Head of Sixth Form. I remember being so scared of him doing Drama in the Third Year but by Sixth Form I realised how kind he is, in fact all the teachers are so kind. They are more understanding and empathise with the stress of being in Sixth Form.
The boarding experience was my favorite because I had my own room. I remember I had the big room in Knatchbull, right at the top, and just boarding with everyone was so much fun, we would laugh together, cry together, get angry at each other. I think it was just like uni being in accomodation with a group of friends.
How did you find the transition from GCSE to A Level?
So extra curricular wise, I had done netball before but I was glad to take the opportunity to try new things. Sixth Form gave me the opportunity to try horse riding. I love animals, but I didn’t realise that I loved animals as much as I did until I tried horse riding. With the schedule I had, even though it was hectic because of all the work I had to do, I had more space to try new things. It gave me the opportunity to try MUN which I had wanted to do for so long. I am thinking of doing both at university.
Work wise, it gave me the chance to really do work independently. There is definitely a gap between GCSE and A levels. I don’t think anyone can exaggerate the gap! I was really lucky with the teachers I had, they warned me and almost gave me a mental note that there would be this gap, I just didn’t know how big the gap was going to be. I really appreciated having classmates who shared the experience with me, we all worked independently together, learning how to learn together. I loved how small the class size was, if I had had 20 people in the class with me, I wouldn’t have had the relationship with teachers to span that gap.
What key selling points would you share with a friend if she were thinking about joining st george’s in the sixth form?
I would tell them about the environment and how welcoming it is. It’s a consistent thing, it’s not just one day or one week, that you get when you first come to the school. You’re always welcomed, no matter who you are, where you come from, your background, you’re always welcomed in the school by everyone, pupils and teachers alike.
There’s no hierarchy. There are some stereotypes that exist about boarding schools, my parents warned me to be ‘nice to the big kids.’ As an upper sixth former now, I have really good friendships with girls in Fourth Years and I appreciate knowing I can have those kind of friendships, that people can speak to me and open up to me however old I am.
The food! I took the food for granted. I’m going to miss the lasagne so much! I’m probably going to sneak in from university in Surrey and have some lunch.
What have been your stand out moments or funniest memory from the sixth form?
One thing would be the Christmas Carols and Service. Both in Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth, there’s a tradition that we would sing really loud and be very obvious because it was our moment. I remember the last time we did it in Upper Sixth, it was very emotional. It really struck me because it was the beginning of a countdown of the last time we were going to do things at St George’s.
What will you miss?
Definitely the people that I have met and the friends that I have made throughout my school years. St George’s helped me make really good and important friends, friends that I never thought that I would make.
Have there been any teachers who have been particularly influential and what was it about them that made them so special?
I would definitely say Business teacher / tutor and my Head of Sixth Form. During my Sixth Form years, I really enjoyed my business teacher’s way of communicating with us. He was very honest with us. He told us on the first day of Lower Sixth, ‘This going to be hard. You think it’s difficult now but it will be even more so in Upper Sixth. Anyone want to drop out? No? Let’s go!’ He managed our expectations really well. Even though he was a quiet person, he was devoted to helping us. He was both a supportive business teacher and a supportive tutor as well. Our Head of Sixth Form was the same, whenever we would sit down to chat he would truly listen to what we had to say. I will always really admire and respect them both, I don’t know whether I will have the same at university.
How do you feel St George’s has helped you prepare for life beyond school?
The big goal is not to take any moment for granted at Surrey. St George’s has really prepared me to accept the little things, the moments, the friends, the opportunities that I have been given. Surrey is a lot bigger than St George’s so I think that preparation in a smaller environment has been invaluable.
I think the whole experience of Sixth Form, everything I had to go through, will help me with what I am going to go through at university. The stress of work, the deadlines of coursework, learning how to prioritise my work, the school definitely helped me with knowing what to do when. Also the opportunities I was able to take like EPQ, to help me with coursework and independent research. Those things will definitely help me academically, with the research and coursework, when I go to university. My prefect role (Prefect for Admissions & Marketing) has helped me to be welcoming to others, I had to speak to a lot of parents and children, to relate to people quickly. That’s a life skill I really appreciate.
If you could sum up your experience of being part of the sixth form family at St George’s in one sentence what would it be?
First, I would say it has been a tunnel with support, because it was definitely challenging but I had support throughout.
Secondly, it has been an eyeopener - I think Sixth Form at St George’s has given me the opportunity to realise how the real world would be even though I was in a small school. I think it’s given me the opportunity to be independent but still given me that support, being in a small environment.
Tejasvi, or TJ as she’s affectionately known, joined St George’s in the First Year (Year 7) from Eton End, one of our consistently strong feeder schools.