Holly Sozou has just returned home after spending her Gap Year in Dorset, England. She tells us that she did work experience at Leweston Boarding School, a school very similar to PLC . She also mentions seeing Her Majesty The Queen.
Tell us about your upbringing in Armidale?
I have lived in Armidale all my life, where I attended PLC from transition to Year 12. I had some of the best years of my life at PLC, and I’m missing school more and more every day. In 2011, I completed my HSC; I was happy with my mark, which will enable me to get into the course I want.
How does an under 18 PLC student manage to obtain work as a Boarding House Mistress in Dorset, England?
After a busy year with my HSC, the last thing I felt like was going straight into university. The idea of a Gap Year while working at a boarding school in England and travelling has always appealed to me. So with the support and encouragement from my parents, I started organising this huge trip to go overseas.
However, it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Firstly I had to apply to schools as a Gap student. My first offer was from a boarding school called Leweston, based in the area of Dorset in a town called Sherborne. After doing some research into the school, I was happy to accept my offer.
I wasn’t going to be 18 until March the following year, so I couldn’t obtain a normal working visa; I had to obtain a charity visa. This consisted of long, confusing hours filling out paperwork and even a journey to Brisbane to get one minute’s worth of finger prints – much to my dad’s dislike: “We travelled six hours just for this!” Before I knew it, I had my visa and January 1st had come up all too quickly.
When it came to saying goodbye, I had a large range of mixed emotions – from being very scared and sad to be saying goodbye to my friends and family, to where I was so excited to start this big, exciting journey.
What did you enjoy most about your time at Leweston School, and how does it compare with your own school, PLC?
Leweston was very similar to PLC, being an all girls primary and secondary boarding school, and the sizing was also very similar. However, working as a staff member rather then a student I did find some big differences, as I was instructing students what to do, rather then being told what to do. The lifestyle was also very different. As I was only a day girl at PLC, I experienced the life of boarding, which was living constantly at school.
Some of my most favourite experiences at Leweston were that overall I was lucky to be able to look after very genuine and down to earth girls, and I formed a great friendship with the students, which made it difficult saying goodbye. Another highlight was that this year was not only the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, but also England was hosting the Olympics. Throughout England all year there was a great atmosphere.
I also did sailing once a week with the students. This meant travelling down to Weymouth every Monday. Weymouth is where the Olympic sailing was held, so I got to see some of the Olympians training.
What were some of your jobs at Leweston School?
I had a range of duties. I was mainly needed as a housemistress in Junior house, which consisted of girls aged 8 -12. I had to wake the girls up every morning and get them ready for school and look after them at night. In the day time, I worked in the primary school, helping the children who needed extra help with reading and spelling. On the weekends we escorted girls on all sorts of fun trips. This was also a great time for me, as I got to see a lot of places at the same time. I also sometimes escorted the girls on the train to London to go see their parents.
Did you get much time to see the rest of Europe?
England’s school system is a little different to Australia’s when it comes to holidays. They not only have full term holidays, but half term holidays as well. So, I got the chance to go travelling quite a lot.
What were the highlights of your Gap Year in Europe?
My first holiday away from England was to Ireland in February for 10 days. I got on a bus known as the ‘Paddy Wagon’, which was a bus tour of all of Ireland. Along with myself, there were 300 other Gap students at the time on the tour. So as you can imagine, it was definitely an experience!
My next holiday was to Spain with my PLC school friends Giverny Tombs and Anneliese O’Sullivan. This was our first real holiday, where we had to plan where we were going to stay and how we were going to get around. I was then lucky enough to have my parents come over and take me to Paris and Italy, which was certainly an adventure.
My main holidays, however, were in summer, where I was lucky enough to have 9 weeks of holidays. This was a good time to see all of Europe with my best friend, Sofie Marquardt. We did this by booking a Top Deck Tour, where we had the amazing experience of seeing 11 countries in 27 days, travelling around on a bus with other 18 year old travellers. My most memorable moment was where Sofie convinced me to jump out of a helicopter with her skydiving over the Swiss Alps! An unbelievable experience – and also an experience that I won’t be doing again! My Top Deck Tour didn’t take up all of our summer holidays, so Sofie and I decided to travel around the lovely country of Croatia for the rest of our time.
My last European travel before home was to Austria. Austria was, by far, one of my favourite countries.
Where did you reside?
I lived in the little town of Sherborne, which is a very wealthy and typically English area. It has a lovely big local castle. Sherborne has a lot of private schools, so it’s quite a busy area. Sherborne is based two hours from London, a long way for the English people, but for a country Aussie girl like me, not very far at all, and I began to love the train rides to and from London.
It’s hard to come to terms with being back home in Armidale. The year has gone so quickly, and I have packed so many things into it. I made so many friends, learnt a lot and officially have the ‘travel bug’. But now that I’m back, I am starting to organise myself for uni, which I will be undertaking here at UNE, living at college.
This article was published in issue 69 of New England Focus