Coming to study in the U.S.

Janine Fagan

Janine Fagan

Being 22 and not really knowing what you want to do in life is a funny situation to be in.

English kids go to high school when they are 11 years old. Middle schools, like American junior high schools, are around. But in most schools, you start at 11 and you graduate when you are 16.

For the first three years, English kids are told what classes to take.

We were formatted into a form class with a form teacher and into sets based on the results of our primary school education, i.e. the standard of our work and our results from our classroom work and the level of our reading ability.

In year nine, the third year of high school, we had to start thinking about what G.C.S.E (General Certification of Secondary Education) we were going to take.

We had end-of-year exams that placed us into sets for the next and most important years of our lives.

Once we had chosen our subjects along with our core subjects, we had our whole line up for our high school graduation.

The last two years of high school, in my opinion should have been the foundation for me to learn, study and prepare for my G.C.S.E. exams. Unless I was living on Venus in that time, I do not remember ever being prepared for anything.

The saddest thing is that I don’t ever remember once in high school that I was shown what and how I could study.

We never heard of such things as “lifetime learning skills” or had one person actually pointing out to us what we needed to accomplish and how we were going to accomplish it.

I never really knew how to study. In fact, I don’t think I ever read a single book in high school.

We didn’t have to buy books for our subjects; it was all in the curriculum and was supposed to be taught to us. The only books we ever saw were the English books the teacher would read to us.

Looking back on the type of material that we covered in our core classes like English and math, it is funny how the material was chosen based on what set , or level, we were in.

Set one and two people were studying Shakespeare and set three through five people like me were studying Kes.

If I hadn’t come to America to study, I would have never gone back to any form of education in England.

I would have still been doing the same old sh- – I was back then.

In fact, I also believe that if I had arrived upon the doorstep of education in the U.S. and found the same uncaring system I don’t think I would have survived.

I came to find a reason and meaning behind learning education I have been receiving for the last three years of my life has allowed me to find a groove and pursue a dream that I wasn’t supposed to be a part of.

People like me are not supposed to go to college.

We are supposed to leave school and go onto a YTS (youth training scheme) course that pays you $50 a week for two or three years, supposedly training you in a profession. It is more like an eligible excuse for workshop labor.

People like me are supposed to just slot into the middle-of-the- road lifestyle and bear children, but I am the one that broke the mold and coming to the U.S. made the difference.

When I was 16 years old I had to go and see a career woman at school.

“Do you know what you would actually want to do for a career Miss Fagan?” she asked with a smug tone in her voice.

I said, “Yes I would love to be a physical education teacher some day.”

Her reply has been a huge motivation ever since.

“Oh really, well it’s always good to have high expectations for ourselves, but have you ever considered retail?”

Without speaking another word and without a single thought of hesitation, I got up and walked out of that room and slammed the door behind me.

Slamming that door made all the difference in my life.

Write to Janine Fagan at [email protected].