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Short entry for today (no pics) – tonight's a late night, and a lot of work to do tomorrow morning! Today was our first day of volunteering – I’m writing an academic blog on the topic, so I will keep this brief, and when I finish my academic blog, I may link it so I can share that experience in more detail in a more academic context.

Our group, consisting of Kelsey, Alexis, Tom, and myself, were to volunteer at Oasis Academy Shirley Park, in Croyden.  We had a little bit of a late start – the bus we took didn’t stop at our stop, and we ended up walking to the train station quite a bit. Also our directions took us to the primary school instead of the secondary school.

However, the day was wonderful. Our host Ms. Oliver was exceptionally gracious to us.  The school used to be one of the worst performing schools in the area, but Oasis came in a few years ago, and in their first 1 or 2 years, doubled their exam performance.  It was interesting – almost like being in a school with an urban type environment, but at the same time it wasn’t – it’s hard to explain. The facilities are new, and many of the faculty are fairly new and young as well – you can see their enthusiasm for the kids, and how much they care about them. The first thing we did was sit in an English class with year 7 students, reading about a pseduoscorpion. One of the boys, helped guide us to the canteen and to our next room afterwards, a history class. Interestingly enough, it was a US history class. We talked a little bit to the class, about college life in the US(is it like how it is on tv?). Most of the academic part of the class was going over grading rubrics, but when we go back, I’m really interested to see how they approach the course material, and the see the similarities and differences with the US. Afterwards, we had sandwiches in the school cafeteria (not bad actually!), and the same year 7 boy came to talk to us some more – he was very well spoken, and really wanted to engage with us and talk about his life, and school, and much more – it was a very nice surprise! I know that I would have been quite nervous to just approach new 19 and 20 year old foreign students, let alone sustaining long conversations, when I was in 7th grade.

After our lunch, we were taken to the library, where we got to sit at a table and talk with year 11 students who had just graduated, but were returning to work. This was probably the most enjoyable part of the day. Our discussion covered so many topics – sports, school and education in the US and UK, ideas of citizenship, classes, political participation, college applications, volunteer and charity work, changes to the school and community, ethnic groups, politics, the Big Society, and much more. It was a very engaging and captivating conversation, and I’m looking forward to going back there!

On the bus back, I was talking to another student from the same school, who imagined America as a place full of big cities, and a lot of traffic and taxis. I suppose that’s a fairly good image of America if most of what you know about it is from the TV and movies (which I’m sure describes many children here). So I was telling her about America – how large it is, and especially the great swaths of countryside we have, and our farms and forests – I could see her jaw drop in amazement. It’s wonderful to be able to introduce another viewpoint into someone’s worldview. Before she got off, she said that we were the highlight of her day – and she was going to go tell her mum that she met Americans today! Also on the bus back, I spotted a Chinese take out restaurant – which also had fish and chips…pretty sure it’d be…interesting to try that there.

We did some of our reading on the trains home, to be greeted by Katie, Stephanie, and Adam, who had baked cookies and probably went crazy in the dorms, as their volunteering session had been cancelled – I personally thought they acted like they hadn’t seen humans in years when we came in! (I’m sure I would have missed them just as much if our roles were reversed) – on the other hand, the cookies were delicious!

Talah came by after work and showed us a pub in Putney, which made for an enjoyable afternoon, and we were all able to sit and chat and catch up on some things, as well as half play a board game involving putting things in order (by date, size, etc – whatever it said on the cards). No potatoes at dinner tonight! Well it was rice or chips, with beef stew, so I took the rice. And the bread was good tonight – fresh! We played a new board game – Tension - a board game, which was quite fun to play – and quite loud, with much shouting going on between the groups! But it’s something fun to do in the dorm, and we had fun playing it! It's sort of like family feud according to Ahren - there are cards with categories and 10 objects in the category, and you have to name things in those categories, hoping that you get as many out of the 10 as possible - it sounds strange (Ahren's reading of the box was qutie funny), but it was so

Need to sleep now so that I can write my academic blog(s) in the morning, and get ready for another long day!

Priscilla
6/29/2011 02:57:23

AH! I haven't read it all but you seem to be having so much fun!! :)

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