For my sixth form years, I had the very rare opportunity to complete these away at boarding school. I decided to go to boarding school for a number of reasons. This included literally being presented the once in a lifetime opportunity (I could only go once), I wasn’t keen on the local sixth forms (I had to leave my secondary school as it only went up to year 11) and it was the chance to meet new people. It wasn’t plain sailing for those two years and there were plenty of highs and lows. Therefore, today’s post will focus on my first impressions, what the school looked like and my daily school routine. The second post will focus on fun things I remember and upper sixth!

First Impressions
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, I was petrified! I had been to the school a few times before on open evenings so knew the jist of it. Over the entire summer holiday before September I didn’t think I would get the GCSE’s to go so didn’t mentally prepare myself as fully as I should have done.  Actually unpacking was dreadful, I remember my room being so hot ( I think I arrived on one of the hottest days of the year)  and I felt dizzy which I had never experienced before. I shared a room, which I didn’t mind too much because I had to share a room with my sister at home. However I knew some students were not keen with this arrangement.

http://ecapguatemala.org.gt/poioe/9630 One of my many rooms I was in. Novelty bed covers were the norm
online dating ireland professionals hence, my Groovy Chick bed cover XD

I  shared a study with another female called Cat and she was lovely and very arty. Cat also had a great singing voice and could play the guitar.  The whole wall of the study was covered in magazine covers! I remember watching Charlies Angels with Cat and another girl in the sixth form on the first evening which was fun and got me settled. 

I quickly realised as I settled into school life that academically I wasn’t strong at all. Literally everybody in my sixth form had a string of A*’s or A’s which was practically unheard of in my state school. These students were so smart GCSEs were a doddle to them.

In addition the standard was so much higher at private school. I had taken A Level English Literature and even though I got an A in the subject at GCSE I was so behind the others in terms of what they knew and their writing ability. Some students essays in the upper sixth were at the standard equivalent to their degree. To add to this, I stupidly decided to take A Level Biology and Chemistry because at GCSE I loved science however I just wasn’t at the level needed for A- Level. It was too big a step- up.  It was awful mix at a time where I was really missing being at home, being in a new place and with people so much smarter than me.

Daily Life

A typical day at boarding school consists of being woken up at half seven to get changed for breakfast at eight. Boys and girls ate their breakfast separately. Form time would be at quarter to nine/ nine o’clock. We then had ‘meeting’ which is essentially prayer and reflection for 15 minutes (the school was a religious school) and then we would start lessons. We would have break which I seem to remember being able to eat juice and biscuits. We would have another set of lessons until lunch.  A few more lessons in the afternoon and then free time until about 6pm when we would have tea and then we would have an hour and a half ‘prep’ which is essentially time to do your homework. After prep it was free time until we had to sign in (which was at different times for different years) the sign in times was generally half an hour before your bed time.

watch Me with some old friends playing 
enter with the outdoor chess set

I found prep quite hard to deal with. As I was essentially only studying for two A- Levels (three if you counted General Studies) therefore to study every single night for an hour and a half was too much. Sometimes all I wanted to do was to have a break and do nothing all night. You couldn’t get away with it as you had a teacher go around and check you were in your study. The internet was crap at my school therefore you could never stream anything. However it was fun as when I wasn’t studying to chat with my mates.

The Boarding Side
After the initial shock I really began to enjoy boarding. I found being around like minded people everyday and doing something different was good fun as I would have just watched TV at home. A typical room consisted of two beds, a sink, two desks, two sets of shelves and two wardrobes. The girls were separated from the boys and you could only access the boarding school by punching in a code in the door. The boarding house was run by a house mistress and a matron and in the week there was a team of around five staff members who were also teachers in the school taking it in turns to be on duty. The staff members did a lot for us. They put on parties for individual students birthdays, had film nights, had parties such as ‘Bring back the summer’, were there to listen to us whinging and really helped us all round. All of the girls were really nice and we all tend to stick together.

go to link I had two wardrobes in one of my rooms therefore
opcje binarne hazard I used the spare one to keep all non-refrigerated ingredients

site de rencontre secrete quebec Playing pool in the common room

On the Saturday mornings, we had a variety of choices on how to spend the day. Sixth former’s could either have prep (homework) in the studies or take part in a variety of activities. There tended to be lots of sports activities such as badminton and basketball and art activities. Again like the prep at night it was frustrating at times having to do something on a Saturday morning as sometimes all I wanted to do was sleep!

http://adamsisco.com/?mikity=site-de-rencontre-gratuit-71-sans-inscription&09b=55 Signs for one of the boarding houses’ many parties

click here Great Gardens where I used to go for a walk 

The afternoons were ours however and I spent them either chilling at school, swimming in the schools pool (which really wasn’t glam as it sounds!) or shopping. Sometimes there were school trips, ones I remember going on were to the Trafford Centre in Manchester for some shopping and ice skating in Sheffield. On Sunday’s we would have to go to a church service in the morning and then the afternoon was free. The school community was really good. I didn’t find the sixth former’s to be cliquey and everyone was friendly.

That concludes my first post on boarding school life! Did you go to boarding school? If you didn’t would you have liked to go?

As part of BBC Generation 2015, I had to go through an interview process to be one of the 200 young people chosen. I had never been to essentially an ‘audition’ before so thought as Generation 2015 is coming to an end. I would talk about how I got to be part of it.

The Application

Firstly I had to fill out the application form. I found out about the opportunity on Twitter but saw it advertised on the BBC news website as well. The application form took forever it was about four pages long I think. I remembered the form being a PDF one and being a nightmare to fill out because of the formatting. I emailed it off and played the waiting game.

I got a phone call a few weeks later inviting me to audition. As I live in Stoke- on- Trent but originally come from Lincolnshire the BBC in Hull were keen for me to audition there. But in the case couldn’t get there gave me the option of auditioning in Birmingham and Manchester. As I happened to be on jury service at the time all of the auditions were taking place I couldn’t commit to a day. Manchester was the first audition on the list and when I found out I wasn’t going to be in court that day I headed down to Media City.

The Day
When I arrived in the room I had my ‘game face’ on as you would call it. There were about 20 young people in total all around this table and I knew that I had to say enough that I was remembered but not be too domineering. Dave Howard who is managing BBC Generation 2015 made us all at ease really quickly (it’s his job as a journalist to make people feel at ease!). Firstly he went round the table giving our name, age, occupation and if we were going to vote and if so who we were going to vote for. After this, we gave our opinions on a variety of topics ranging from immigration to NHS to education.

After lunch, there was a recording into a camera piece. I have never really spoken into a camera before so wasn’t sure what to expect but knew I had to perform well. My piece you can see in my Generation2015 profile here. I did this in one take and was pretty chuffed about that as most people had to do theirs more than once. We also helped Radio 5 live with their piece called ‘My first election as…’ So we spoke into an iPad about what it is our first election as. I said it will be my first election as a full-time worker 😀

Afterwards, Dave took a head shot photograph of us and explained that we had done well but not all of us would be picked as he had to allow for political nonpartiality (a lot of people in my cohort supported one political party) he let us know when we would hear from him and then we headed home!

A few weeks later I hadn’t heard anything back and I noticed that some people from the Manchester audition had already done some radio work with the BBC. I got an email from the BBC asking for more people to get involved (I don’t think that email was meant for me) so I emailed back saying that I was disappointed that I hadn’t heard that I had been rejected considering I went to the interview and only found out because I saw people from my cohort doing some pieces. Dave emailed back saying that they were going to make a final decision in a few weeks and that some people were needed quicker than expected. Two weeks later I got a phone call telling me that I had got in!

What did I think of the interview?
The process was what I thought it would be like. I was pleased with my own interview performance (I obviously did enough to get chosen!) but was amazed at the amount of stuff and experiences that the other young people had done. Whether that was working at a soup kitchen or setting up their own business or gone through something horrific in their life and come out the other side stronger.  As I was one of three people who worked full time and one of the oldest auditionees there, I knew that would put me at an advantage because the others were mainly students. I also did my camera piece in one take which I thought would have helped as well. It was tiring speaking about politics for six hours straight but I enjoyed the day and got chosen so am happy.

*This post is my opinion only and is not endorsed by BBC Generation 2015 
    

This post is about the second part of the Trek America Westerner 2 trip that I went on at the end of March/ beginning of April. Read what happened in the first seven days here 😀

Going on a trek but not sure what to pack? Read here.

Day Eight (Death Valley)
The next stop after Vegas was Death Valley. It was an awesome place to say that you have been there but I didn’t really think it was that hot! (we did go very early in the morning so that may have been why!) Not a lot happened that day due to it being another long day of driving. We stopped at a campsite (Lake Isabella/ Kearn River KOA) which was in the middle of nowhere! However, that gave us a chance to chill before Yosemite!

 

 

 

Day Nine (Yosemite National Park, California)

After a long day driving, we arrived at Yosemite and went straight to Mariposa Grove which is home to the giant sequoia’s. These tree’s being true to their name were huge and the whole place had a whimsical feel to it. Afterwards, as it was late, we put our tents at the campsite and just chilled.

 

 

 

 

Day Ten (Yosemite National Park, California).
All morning it snowed. It was so thick, it is quite hard to believe that there was snow in California. I trekked up to Nevada Falls although we didn’t quite get to the falls before we turned back as the snow was falling thick and fast. We stayed in a hotel that night as it was so cold. It was that cold that the next day the camp leader informed us that the coolers had retained there ice! Although it was pretty special that we saw Yosemite in the snow, I wished that it hadn’t snowed because we didn’t get to see the park in its full glory.

 

 

 

 

Day Eleven (San Francisco)
We were all excited as we were heading to San Fran! Before the trip, I had heard others rave about San Francisco however it wasn’t a place I was thinking ‘yeah I really want to go there!’.
We headed over to the IHOP for pancakes American style. It was such a disappointment, as the pancakes tasted really soggy. bleurgh. Once we were all fed we travelled over to the Golden Gate Bridge for the obligatory pictures. We stayed in a hostel which was in the Tenderloin district which is one of the poorest parts of San Fran. One thing which I wasn’t prepared for in san Fran but also California was seeing the amount of homeless people on the street. A lot of them were high on drugs as well and I didn’t feel safe at times. On the first night, my partner and I along with some of the trek decided to go on the sunset cruise around the Golden Gate bridge. It cost roughly $45 dollars each and was really good value for money with unlimited drinks (including alcoholic drinks) and nibbles. It was a really special moment that I will remember for a long time.

 

Day Twelve (San Francisco)
My Birthday! My partner and I went to Alcatraz for the day. Alcatraz in a round about way was an unexpected highlight. The history of the island (I knew it was a prison but didn’t know about the native American Indians occupying the island after). We went on the tour where you are given a headset. Again I recommend this as you learn so much about Alcatraz and the tour was spoken by people who had lived on Alcatraz- this ranged from prisoners to guards to children of the prison guards. I had a nice Indian meal in the evening to celebrate my birthday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Thirteen (Monterey Bay and the Coastal Highway).
This day was quite sad because we all knew we would be leaving soon! We started the morning leaving San Francisco early and heading to Monterey Bay. Monterey Bay is famous for cannery, fishing and John Steinbeck’s famous books such as Cannery Row. It was very quiet and a world away from the West Coast I have gotten to know. Our route was down Big Sur on Highway 1. I had never heard of Big Sur before but the whole route contained stunning sea views. We took a walk across the path to McWay falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The McWay falls were gorgeous. It is essentially a waterfall falling onto a beach which is inaccessible to the public. It is one of those little places where you would never go there as it isn’t a tourist must see you hear about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 14  (Venice Beach and Hometime)
Home time 🙁 We got driven to Venice Beach and had a couple of hours around there. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Venice Beach. It was very busy with street groups and people selling items everywhere. On the beach, people were continuously roller blading, running or walking. I also got to see Muscle Beach. I have always been intrigued with the area after seeing it on Don’t Tell the Bride and I can tell you I wouldn’t get married there! We stopped off for doughnuts and then we all bid farewell and got dropped off at our hotels.

 

What did I think of the trip?
I am really glad I did the Trek America trip. I never did the ‘Gap Year’ experience so to have a taste of it for two weeks was fantastic. I didn’t find the camping too bad- at the end of the day it’s camping it’s not going to be comfortable or glamorous. It is camping with tents and not hostelling, Trek America do make it clear on the website, but some people on our trek did not know this.
I definitely felt that I had experienced the west coast.

A couple of things I do wish I saw was the Neon Sign graveyard in Vegas, Had another day to experience San Fran (I was poorly throughout San Fran and stayed in bed the afternoon of the second day) and stayed at the very tacky Madonna Inn!

I will go into the experience of camping in another post but felt that the logistics of the trek were fine. In terms of we didn’t spend horrendously long times in the van or too long in a rubbish place. If you do want to experience Los Angeles properly however I would book either an extra day or two before or after the trek. I didn’t do this and wish I had as we literally drove through LA, Beverly Hills and Hollywood and I wanted to go on the famous star’s home tour and try and get closer to the famous Hollywood sign.

Are you booking a Trek America tour or heading to the West Coast?

 

Before I went on my Trek America trip I spent a while busy googling what I need to pack. Bizarrely considering the number of people that have done Trek America there are not many posts on what to pack so I have added my thoughts below:

Head torches

An idea I got off one of the blogs and I did find the torch extremely useful at night in the tents when I was getting changed or trying to find something (usually my glasses!). An addition to the head torch was a small light that you could hook to the loop at the top of the tent. This provided enough light for the whole tent which was perfect for being able to look at the other person without blinding them in the face with the head torch!

Extension Cable

Genius idea from the other half. Perfect for charging numerous appliances at once at the campsite. All the Brits used ours.

Decent sleeping bags

My last sleeping bag being a purple one from Woolworths circa 2004 wasn’t going to cut it in America. On the Trek America website, there are instructions on what type of sleeping bag you should take. James brought extra large versions which were so big that we both managed to fit into one with loads of room to spare. Not only did we have extra room but we were more comfortable than some others on the trip who had summer sleeping bags.

Normal sized toiletry bottles

Considering you will be sleeping in tents for the majority of the holiday and will be here there and everywhere. You will definitely shower so often that you will save money by buying just normal sized bottles. A toiletry bag that you can hang up is also a plus. I just bought a cheap one from Morrisons.

Baby wipes

An item I nearly didn’t bother to bring and I am so glad that I had. I used baby wipes all the time as they came in handy with all the dust that was around at the campsites. Also at certain stops where there was nowhere to wash your hands hand sanitiser comes in handy.

Walking Shoes

Walking shoes were a must in Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. Normal trainers just don’t cut it especially in Yosemite where depending on what walk you do ( I went to Nevada Falls) it is so rocky and parts so steep with no handrail that is safer with sturdy shoes.

Paracetamol, plasters and cold and flu tablets.

I had a horrendous cold and felt rotten on the second week of my trek. I actually used all the cold and flu tablets up and in CVS I found medication to be so expensive so it’s worth taking some from home.

A bag with wheels

My bag was so heavy that there was no way I would be able to carry it in my hands. It just takes all the hassle away from lugging it around.

A pillow

I brought this in Walmart once we arrived in LA. The pillow really helps get the best night sleep you can in the tent.

A battery charging unit for your phone

I forgot to take mine and although there was ample opportunity to get your phone charged at the campsites they are always handy as long days in the van listening to music drains the battery pretty quickly.
There we go all the little extras you wouldn’t think about buying. Has anyone been on a Trek America trip or is thinking about going on one?

If anyone is thinking about going on a Trek America trip or more specifically doing the Westerner 2 tour then read on as this will be a detailed post of my experience.

As I was away for 14 days in total this post will focus on the first seven days and an additional post will focus on the final seven otherwise this post would have been mega long!

Day 1 California ( San Diego and Hollywood)

The day before we had flown in and stayed in a hotel that Trek America had recommended (Custom Hotel). We met our group leader and the group. The group leader went through typical health and safety stuff and then gave us all a list detailing what we were doing and going on each day and the food kitty. The food kitty is where everyone puts in money ($10 dollars a day) and in groups cooks a meal.  After that, we all piled in the white van and travelled to Hollywood. Whilst we were in Hollywood we took photographs of the famous sign and went to Hollywood boulevard where we walked around the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

Hollywood Walk Of Fame
Dolby Theatre
Hollywood
Afterwards, we travelled to San Diego and arrived at our campsite (Campland on the bay). We all set up our tents together (Mike our tour guide called it tent yoga!) and headed towards the beach. At night, Mike cooked our first meal. We had s’mores which were great as I never had them before. S’mores are essentially crackers with chocolate and marshmallows that are roasted in a camp fire.

Day Two (San Diego)

Today was a completely free day in San Diego so we decided to go to the beach in the morning and have a wander round. I didn’t think there was much to do at the beach (i.e. all the shops are the usual tourist shops) however I was pretty happy as I just wanted to chill out anyway. In the afternoon, we travelled to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Old Town San Diego is considered the birthplace of California as it was the site of the first Spanish settlement.  It literally reminded me of a Disney set. We all went to a Mexican restaurant. Which served massive portions, I wish I had shared with my fiancé! Around the historic park, there are lots of small shops in the style of what would have been sold in the 1800’s. I went to the little Tinsmith shop and brought a mirror and a present for my mum. Finally, we went to Balboa Park which was a bit of a disappointment really as everything was shut.

Day 3 (Lake Havasu, Arizona)

The next day we headed to Lake Haversau. Which purely served as a stopover site for the Grand Canyon. It was a long van ride. I think 5 hours long in what is desert. Before we made it to the Lake however we visited Salvation Mountain. The mountain, created from adobe clay and donated paint by Leonard Knight who was a Vietnam War veteran who died in 2014 was his tribute to God. It was nothing like I ever seen in the UK. I thought it was pretty and unique.When we go to the campsite (River Island State Park) it was the first time where I thought I hate camping as it was so windy dust was just getting everywhere. I long abandoned any hopes of keeping my clothes clean with all the dust!  We went stargazing which was fantastic, but we could only identify the plough.

 

 

 

 

Day 4 (Grand Canyon!)

Full steam ahead to the next stop, we went to a place which had the original London Bridge.  To be honest none of the brits were that impressed with it.  It’s not home and why on earth you would buy a bridge from another country to boost tourism in your own country is beyond me!

We went on a tiny part of the famous Route 66 which was really exciting for me, stopping at this diner which is famous for its milkshakes (and it’s decor) and you could leave something behind on it’s walls. I left behind a loyalty card.  The decor was crazy, literally everywhere contained all this crazy material even the toilets were fully decked out! Finally after a few hours we were at the Grand Canyon.

 

 

 

 

 

The Grand Canyon was amazing I paid for the helicopter ride which empathised how vast the canyon is. Our pilot was lovely and gave us lots of facts. The flight was 40 minutes long and in the final twenty minutes I felt so ill I did everything in my power as not to throw up. By the time we got back my partner and I just chilled (I still felt poorly after the ride) and I had an early night.

Day 5 (Grand Canyon)

My fiancé and I woke early (quarter past six) and had a look at the sun rising in the Canyon. On that day, we walked half way down the Canyon Rim. We left at about eight to walk down and I am so glad we went early as it meant missing a lot of the crowds and also the heat! In the afternoon, we did our laundry, had a shower and went bowling in the morning and caught up with wi- fi access in the laundry room!

Day 6 and Day 7 (Hoover Dam and Las Vegas)

Everyone was looking forward to Vegas not least because it was the first day of being in a hotel. After the muck of the canyon and the tents, it was nice to be in a room to be able to repack. Before Vegas we had to stop in an In and Out burger place. I love places like Wendy’s and Denny’s so knew I would love In and Out.  We also stopped at the Hoover Dam for pictures.

 

 

We stayed at the Golden Nugget Hotel which was in the Fremont part of Vegas. We all decided to hire a party bus for the night (which came out of the kitty) which I was so glad we did as it was awesome. Afterwards for the over 21’s we went to a club Omnia nightclub in Caesars Palace which happened to have Nicky Romero playing a set. It is an amazing nightclub and I really recommend anyone to go! On our next free day In Vegas all I did was shop, see all the sites such as the Vegas sign, Bellagio Fountains, Ceasars Palace and dabbled in a bit of gambling. At first I wished I had more than two days at Vegas to experience it but two days was enough for me.

 

 

 

 

 

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