Many students dream of eventually traveling and living abroad; they hope to one day stand beneath the Eiffel Tower, visit the Houses of Parliament, or float along the canals of Venice.
Junior Lillie Sokolski got the chance to do just that. She’s a boarding student at Leighton Park School in Reading, England, participating in the school’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. After hearing about a friend’s experience studying abroad in Hungary, Sokolski knew that international study was for her. “I decided to go because I wanted something new with a great experience,” she says. “And I thought this would be really fun.”
England is often a popular choice for American students traveling abroad because while English is the predominantly spoken language, getting exposure to entirely different countries is easy; Ireland is only an eight-hour drive away, Scotland’s right across the northern border, and it only takes 90 minutes by ferry to reach France. “I think the best part about living in England is the culture, Sokolski says. “It’s similar to America’s but some of the ways they express their interests is better, and I appreciate that.”
The IB Diploma Programme, which Sokolski will work on completing in the next two years, is a demanding two-year curriculum that culminates in a final certificate, much the equivalent of an American high school diploma. This means that instead of taking three or four core courses, Sokolski is taking six: Math, Science, History, Foreign Language, Theory of Knowledge, English, and one more subject (in her case, Theater Studies). “It’s definitely more difficult and takes up a lot more time than the other sixth form students — that’s the juniors and seniors here — but it gives you a chance to learn more and it gives you the option to go somewhere out of the country for university,” she says.
Life at Leighton Park is much different than student life at Central. LP’s campus is almost 90 acres, including subject-specific buildings and tons of facilities for music, drama, and sports. Class size is drastically different; all of Sokolski’s classes consist of two to six people, “so you get more one-on-one time with teachers,” she says. “You call them by their first names as to spread equality and make you feel more comfortable with the teachers.”
Scheduling is also quite different. Instead of a daily schedule, they have a two-week schedule, meaning that they only attend specific classes every other week. Students also have free periods throughout the day, and boarders, like Sokolski, get a two-hour “prep time” to do work outside of class in the evenings.
Of course, homesickness is a factor in Sokolski’s adventure abroad. “I miss my friends and family,” she says. “Sometimes there is nothing better then seeing them. But I also really miss driving, believe or not!” The interesting people she has met at LP helps with that, though. One of her closest new friends, coincidentally named Lilly, used to be in the circus in Germany.
Sokolski’s time overseas has lead her to encourage other students to travel for education. “I do want to encourage people to study abroad because it is an amazing experience and you learn so, so, so, so much and meet so many cool people,” Sokolski says. “I want to give a shoutout to my ladies Rach, Bella, Hannah and Liv. And of course to my beloved drama friends, who I was very happy to see over half term.”
For more information about the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, go to www.ibo.org. Talk to your counselor to learn how you, too, can study abroad.