Two more terms to go and as overseas Sixth Form boarder, Pawel Radtke, looks ahead to his next steps he talks with charming candidness about what it was like arriving in a new country to join the school…
As an IB student I am extremely familiar with the term ‘deadline’. Whenever there is a task, an activity, an engagement of any sort, the first question to arise is usually: ‘When?’. And since I am an overseas border as well, and I leave Worth very rarely, it did not take long for the school routine to become an all pervasive part of my personal life. Right now I also have deadlines for going to bed, or for calling my family; everything is planned well in advance to make room for any unexpected deadlines. So maybe when you, the reader, understands this, it will not cause too much confusion when I say that, even though there are still about five more months before the final exams, I’m slowly starting to miss this place.
The Clouds Look the Same
The day I came to Worth I was rather nervous, I was travelling alone from my home in Gdansk, Poland to a country I’d never been to before, and to a school I’d never seen before. In the last minutes before I arrived at Worth I was in a state of turmoil; I kept wondering: ‘What if I don’t like this place? What if they don’t like me here?’.
However, it may seem a little unusual, but the first thing that pushed all the doubts away, leaving me in utter amazement was… the grass. When the taxi passed the front gate, I saw the golf course, together with the other lawns. They all looked like the softest and most vividly green carpets, only occasionally disturbed by roads or buildings. When I left the taxi, I couldn’t stop myself from touching one of the lawns; still feeling a slight disbelief, I examined this fluffy, thick cover of perfectly uniform blades.
When I arrived at my house, St. Bede’s, I instantly experienced an almost touching kindness and hospitality from the staff and all of the students. I wish I could recall all the handshakes, all the exchanged smiles and ‘hellos’, but there were just too many! In this environment, making friends seemed not just a possibility, but almost a certainty. When everyone around showed so much interest in who I was, where I came from, and what I was interested in, it was simply natural to be friends with everyone, to become a part of the community. At that stage, all my doubts left me; I felt peace and happiness because I knew everything was going to be just fine.
So when I called my parents to answer their question: ‘How is it all going?’ I said: ‘Well, the clouds look the same (it was quite cloudy both in Gdansk and Worth), but apart from that, everything is just amazing.’
When I think about it now, someone should really have told me earlier – it very soon became apparent to me that that being late is not only unacceptable here, but also quite severely penalized with a 7am detention. Not even by a minute or two, something which in Poland would go completely unnoticed.
For me, someone who loves to sleep, and for whom being late was like a second nature, this was certainly not good news. And since I have never been a good storyteller, teachers rarely ever believed my excuses about lost keys or forgotten folders, and so I got these detentions quite often. As a result, I had to wake up earlier than usual, which often had its impact on the rest of my day – I felt tired and unable to concentrate, which made following my daily timetable even more difficult.
In the end, the thing which was supposed to stop me from being late only worsened my situation, creating a downward spiral. At the worst stage, somewhere towards the half term break, it was so bad I would turn up at a 7am detention every single morning, even without checking if I had actually been given one.
Luckily, just when I thought there was going to be no hope for me, the half term break arrived. At home I quickly recovered from the exhaustion accumulated during the previous six weeks. Feeling rested, I began to wonder how I could protect myself from slipping into that vicious cycle again. Surprisingly, the answer came really quickly once I started talking to other people about my problem. My school friend Tomasz, who was in Year 13 at that time, offered his assistance in helping me to learn by heart my entire daily timetable.
So when I came back to school, I would go to breakfast with him every morning to recite exactly when and where I needed to be, of course in chronological order. And even though I didn’t like it at all, this idea started working wonders almost from day one; I finally got a firm grasp of what was going on around me, and took control of events. About a week and a half was enough to convince Tomasz that I no longer needed to be ‘supervised’ by him. And even though I never recited my daily schedule to him again, we remained breakfast buddies until he left at the end of the year.
Certainly this school has taught me, or rather made me, learn how to be organised and always on time, but that is not what I will remember Worth for. The opportunity I was given – an invitation to an entirely new environment in a country I had never been to before, and then the hospitality and kindness of people around me; this all opened not only my eyes, but also my heart. Meeting people from around the globe, from different cultures and backgrounds, and experiencing the same never-ceasing friendliness filled my heart with faith – in myself, in the future, in others.
Now I believe that people are good, and I am convinced that the best way to pay back all the kindness and dedication is to pass it on to others who need it. So even though it may seem a little bit too early, I would kindly like to thank Worth for inviting me here; the two years, soon to be completed, in this community will always have a special place in my heart.
Just Arrived, Almost Gone was first published in the Christmas 2015 edition of Identity magazine, the celebratory 40th edition.