Enjoying A-levels and the many events in vibrant Brighton
Kings Brighton A-level student Gabriela Braga Rabelo dos Santos, from Brazil, spoke to fellow student Yoshi Ortiz Leal about her experience so far on an academic course at Kings, including the staff, university preparation support, and the many things for young people to do in Brighton.
Hi Gabriela. Where are you from and what are you studying at Kings?
I'm from the Northeast of Brazil, Salvador city, and I'm studying A-levels at Kings. My subjects are Politics, History, and English literature.
My favourite is Politics because it gives you a bigger understanding of the world and how society works.
So far, how is your course going?
My course is going very nice. It exceeded my expectations because I thought it would be like in Brazil, where the teacher gives you everything ready and all you do in exams is what you've done in class. In Kings you have to do more independent studying which is very useful for university. This helps me and I feel like my level is growing and becoming that of an undergraduate.
Since you weren't used to this way of studying, was it hard for you when you came here?
Yes, it was very hard because I had to do more research than I used to. I was not used to writing essays for every subject, just for writing classes. So it was hard in the beginning but I've gotten used to it already.
Did the teachers provide the materials so that you could learn how to write essays properly?
Yes, especially the English literature teacher. He is now giving us Study Skills classes, that are helping me learn how to write essays and study in general. I learn how to take notes, review for tests, and how to cope with exam pressure.
Are you planning on going to university in the UK?
Yes. I'm still considering universities, but as for the degree, I'm thinking of Business and Management. I aspire to have my own business so this degree will be very helpful for me.
When you were coming to the UK did you research about the school beforehand?
I did research two years before actually. I spent two years looking for schools in the UK.
When we finally decided on Kings, we came to visit the school last year in March and then Mr. Nigel [Principal Nigel Addison] showed us the school. I really liked this school and this city, and that's how I decided to come to Brighton and to Kings.
Where are you staying?
I'm staying in the student accommodation of Kings. I would recommend it. The location is very practical since it is close to the city centre and the London Road shops area. London Road has a lot of facilities like gyms, restaurants, and shops in general, so it's a strategic locality.
Kings is a great school when it comes to student welfare. They give you a wide range of support in everything. For example, they offer someone you can talk to about your problems, as well as people who help take care of your mental health, such as Gill and Annika.
This is very different from everything I have experienced before. My other schools did not offer this type of support. If you don’t want to talk to someone of Kings, they offer you information and contacts outside of Kings so that you can feel more comfortable. The staff and the supervisors of student accommodation are always checking if you’re alright and if you need anything else.
You seem to enjoy school.
I do. Also, the class size is small so learning is better. An example would be in English literature. You see, we have to do coursework as part of our A-level qualification. The fact that our class is small allows each student to do different books whereas, if we had a class of like twenty students, everyone would’ve done the same book as it's more practical. So the class size allows us to expand our knowledge and our learning and to focus more.
What can you tell me about the teachers?
All teachers in Kings are fully qualified, some of them to the level to teach university students. It's really great that most of them have Masters, especially in the academic part, and Doctorates, since in my country teachers are only at the undergraduate level, few have postgraduate degrees. That's what makes Kings different from other schools I've been before.
For university application, you have to do UCAS. To my knowledge the school provides you with a personal tutor — what would you say about him, is he preparing you well?
Well, he's preparing us not only for the UCAS but for career choice and for mind-set. Talking specifically about UCAS, Mr. Beer, our personal tutor, assesses us with UCAS and our university choices. He also pushes you to do your best and to apply to universities such as Oxford and Cambridge if he sees you have the potential for that. So I would say he is preparing us well, he is a great personal tutor.
Would you say the school has helped you to build up your CV?
Especially in personal tutor classes, we are told what activities we should do to enrich our personal statements and our CVs, depending on the degree you're aiming for. But generally speaking, they offer us to do stuff like National Citizen Service, who the school is going to partner with next year. So students under 18 can go and do it. It's usually held during the summer but they have it during autumn as well.
For those who don't know what National Citizen Service is, could you explain?
National Citizen Service is an organisation that hosts activities for young people. So they spend two weeks away doing activities outside such as camping, group games, team games.
In summer you spend two weeks in the city you are from. During autumn they go to the Isle of Wight or the Isle of Man — I don't know which one — for two days. When they come back to Brighton they do more activities that help boost interpersonal skills, teaches independence, teamwork, and gain the characteristics that employers are seeking for. It's very efficient to put on your CV.
There's also the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, where you do volunteering work. They have different activities and I think you need two years to complete it, so if you go into university you can continue doing it.
Going back to help you with your CV, next year the school is inviting a man from Brighton who helps start-up businesses. He will be helping those in Business Foundation and people like me, who aspire to study Business at university.
Let's talk about the activities and the enrichment classes. Have you attended any of those?
Yes, I did. I went to a fitness class. The school has a partnership with 'Zumba with Mon' and she's a great teacher and her classes are amazing. I also went to Devils Dyke in January with John Murphy [Enrichment Coordinator], it was amazing. Devils Dyke has a beautiful view of Sussex and you can see the sea and have a panoramic view of the city. It is nice.
Have you enjoyed Brighton so far?
Yes, I have explored Brighton and Hove, and the cities around. It's a really pretty area.
I have enjoyed Brighton a lot, it is a vibrant city. It has different people from different backgrounds and countries. I enjoy the atmosphere Brighton has. Brighton is a really different city from any other in the UK, it's even called the 'hippy' city. They have an alternative culture here.
The city has festivals held in May and June that are extraordinary because they have dance, theatre, writer's talks, workshops. Lots of the events are free and that's very nice for the students that don't have a lot of money to spend outside their living costs. It's a great opportunity to enrich yourself culturally or to do just as a leisure activity.
The city also has Brighton Pride, held in August, and it is great for the LGBTQ community since it allows them to celebrate who they are.
Have you been to any other events around the city?
I've been to Paddle Round the Pier. It had an amusement park, food trucks, music performances, etc. There was also a Fun Fair on the Level and a Summer Fiesta in Hove Park. Brighton has a lot of festivals during the summer. There was Jazz Music, The Great Escape [music festival] that showcases new and local artists.
B-Fest, a festival focused on Brighton youth, also happened, in Jubilee library and around the town in general. It offered a wide range of activities such as 3D drawing, music performances, skateboarding, silent disco. There was even a class on how to be a drag queen!
Another one, I didn't go to it, was the Colour Run where you had colour powder all around you and you got to race with your friends.
Brighton always has something going on. Like writers from Iceland coming over to talk about their books, or plays in the Brighton Dome.
It's a great city for young people because they offer a lot of support. They have a youth centre here, with activities for youth struggling with mental health issues, where they sit down, draw and talk. I find it helpful to have this kind of leisure activities and talking activities. It helps young people know that they're not alone and allows their parents to recognise that mental health is not an illness that people are just creating in their minds, it is very serious. But it is nice that this consciousness is developing, even if only now.
Which part of the city do you like the most?
My favourite area in Brighton is the Royal Pavilion, which is splendid, has beautiful architecture, and is really relaxing.
Do you have any tips for students who are thinking of coming here?
First of all, you have to do your research. The school you are going to; the subjects you are taking. If you're not sure about your subjects when you try to apply to university, it will be very tricky since, depending on the degree you choose, some subjects are preferred. You have to have an idea of what you want to do before making this big decision of doing A-levels and coming to university in the UK.
Think if you are capable of staying away from your family and friends. In the beginning, it is really difficult to adapt to the city, to the school, and everything; but with time you will be alright. You’ll meet people and you'll get used to the pace of your studies in the UK. But, if you're a very dependant person you need to get a little bit more prepared to come and live on your own, to be independent. You have to have the right mind set for it.
And research about the city beforehand because you're going to spend quite some time in the city. Kings has a lot of locations, in Bournemouth, Brighton, Oxford, London.
What if someone doesn't do the research? What would you advise them?
They have to be willing to adapt to the situation if they can't change the city. It’s something you can learn and grow personally, when you adapt to situations you weren't expecting, so it's a positive experience as well.
Do you have a favourite memory of Brighton, so far?
My favourite memory of Brighton so far was when I was baptised with St. Peter's Church in June. It was wonderful. I took a step in my faith and had friends who, even if they were not Christian, they came, as well as friends who were Christian. Even though my family wasn't here I felt the support from them and I felt the support from my friends here in the UK.
Where can you see yourself in five to ten years?
In five years I can see myself graduating from university, working. I'm not sure if I'll have the money to invest in my business after graduating, but in ten years I see myself with my own business.
Is there anything else you'd like to add... how about the best restaurant you can go to in Brighton?
[Laughs] The best restaurant you can go to in Brighton is the Creams Café. It's a desserts restaurant, they have such nice desserts. You should definitely go there!