‘The Atmosphere In Alex Made Me Want To Challenge Myself – So I Took Up Public Speaking’

 

When people find out that I am an international boarder at a school in Dublin, they usually ask how I ended up here 18 months ago.

In truth, there are two reasons: first, the Transition Year program in Alexandra College was a huge attraction to me and my family. There is so much choice when it comes to subjects from drama, stage management, culinary arts, film-making, to public speaking and psychology.

Not only do we learn all the core subjects, but we also have more options that focus on our own areas of interest. My parents and I compared Alex with the other schools in Ireland and we found Alex has the most organised TY program.

Secondly, the most important factor in my decision to come to Alex was the reputation of the school – not only is Alex one of the most prestigious schools in Ireland, but it consistently ranks highly in the league tables for Leaving Certificate results.

‘There are great opportunities for us to explore our abilities outside the classroom’

I will always remember 4 September 2016 as the day I started the most amazing journey of my life; heading to Dublin, leaving Hong Kong alone for the first time and taking on this opportunity of a lifetime.

At first, I was frightened of the whole new environment and was shy about meeting people. Fortunately, the school played a huge role in organising activities and group work projects for the international boarders which made getting to know the staff and school much easier.

From someone who landed in Dublin shy and lacked assurance, Alex helped me develop into a more confident person.

It helps that the focus of activities in Alex goes beyond the scope of the core subjects. There are great opportunities for us to try new things and explore our talents and abilities outside the classroom. The broad range of choices gave me the opportunity to learn about myself, my potential and my strengths and weaknesses.

It’s through this ethos that I have discovered a new, if somewhat unlikely, passion: public speaking.

I never did public speaking back in Hong Kong because I didn’t like to talk in front of people, but when I came to Alex the atmosphere made me want to challenge myself and step outside my comfort zone.

So I started to do public speaking in front of my class, then the whole year, and then the whole school.

I don’t think this is something I would have done without coming to Alex, even in my own language.

Boarding

Boarding life in Alex is one of the most rewarding parts of the experience. Being in an unfamiliar city can be frightening and homesickness can be a big problem for international students.

Luckily the staff in the boarding house are caring and understanding of every student’s needs and strive to maintain a happy and homely atmosphere. Personally, I remember during exam weeks when I was frustrated all the time. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I didn’t know who to talk to.

Fortunately, the staff in the boarding house picked up on the fact that I was feeling stressed out – and one lady in particular cheered me up, gave me advice and listened to me. From that day I realised they are not only a staff. They are also counsellors and friends.

‘Some of my friends ask me why I chose to be a boarder and not stay with a host family’

The day-to-day life in boarding school is actually quite regular. After school, we have three hours of supervised study time, and as a fifth year, I have an individual study bedroom. I enjoy having my own space as it gives me a distraction-free space for studying.

Some of my friends ask me why I chose to be a boarder and not stay with a host family.

For me, it came down to the ability to form friendships. My brother stayed with a host family while he studied in Dublin and I felt that boarding would be a better way to create lasting friendships. I have had a great experience living in the boarding house and I feel like we are one big boarding family.

There is a stereotype about boarding schools that they are some kind of stuffy prison. But after one and half years of boarding life, this is not the reality. There is a generous amount of freedom – your family is just a little bigger.

My experience as an international student has made me grow into a more independent, confident, globally-minded person and it changed my perspective on life.

I will never regret or forget the positive growth I have achieved here – and there’s plenty more to come.