As a family we are going up to Edinburgh at the weekend. Saturday is also the day that Betsy is due to get her IB results - yikes! We've been saying we will need to be somewhere with good internet access and phone reception, both for receiving the results and completing any follow up emailing or phoning regarding university places.
This is probably going to sound a bit daft, but I genuinely have just revisited my own book (co-written with Lorraine Illing and illustrated by NokIsMe), giving advice for parents surviving the IB. I needed to find out what to do both in the positive situation that the results are what Betsy hopes for, or in the (fingers crossed this won't happen) sticky situtation if they are not.
It is hard to believe that it is two years since Annie went through the IB and Betsy completed her IGCSEs, yet here we are again. Annie has already had her results for her second year at UCL, and all good there (well done Anniepops!), but I can't pretend I'm not nervous about Betsy's IB. It's a gruelling course, entailing studying six subjects along with completing Community, Action and Service based activities and doing a 4000 word Extended Essay plus some Theory of Knowledge learning too - great preparation for uni but a blooming challenge and no mistake!
Anyway, I've decided to focus on the positive in this post. If you've not been through the IB before, (and I'm pretty confident A levels are similar) these might be useful tips for next steps if the results your child receives are what they need to go university.
In the next few days, check out the process for accepting university places. If your child's results are available online, eg at the IBO website, make sure that they know their username and password and what time they are available. Don't panic if the site goes down, there will be massive demand on the server so you might need to wait a bit for them. Have the correct info to hand for applying to university and accessing school support. This is especially important if, like us, you are not going to be at home.
Check your Correspondence
Once your offspring has accepted a uni offer make sure that they keep up with the correspondence from them. It is easy to neglect emails in the summer. Be careful not to as you can miss out on important information such as accommodation offers, health care information, activities and insurance.
With the accommodation Annie was contacted by university catering and accommodation departments to make or confirm choices about the type of room and the catering options they offer. If this doesn’t happen then don't wait too long before contacting the university accommodation department yourself. Worldwide, first year students and particularly international students are given priority for accommodation on campus or in the city near the study areas. I'd recommend finding out when registration for accommodation opens as for some universities it is distributed on a first-come first-serve basis.
It is likely that your child will be given loads of info about things s/he can join. I'd encourage signing up now and engaging in uni social media groups. Your child will probably be invited to join the Student Union facebook page which will have lots of information about Freshers’ Week and upcoming events.
Health Care Provision
When Annie went to uni getting signed up at a Health Centre was a pain, so once you have a place it might be worth getting this done early, or at least setting the wheels in motion. It's also worth checking any vaccine requirements the university stipulates.
If your child does super well then they might be eligible to apply for a scholarship. If you receive good news on 'exam results day' then be sure to double check for this perk, as that would be lovely.
Blimey, writing all that, has just made me nervous all over again about the results. The kids put so much pressure on themselves, these days, that probably the biggest tip of all is to make sure that whatever happens, your child is reassured that if the results aren't quite what they'd hoped for then it isn't the end of the world. Of course, we want our kids to do well, especially if they've bust a gut to do so, but at the end of the day, life will go on. There's no way, in my view, that young people should feel defined by their school exam results. Gosh that sounded quite sincere for me. Time for a reality check - looking around our living room Annie is lying on the sofa wearing Christmas pyjamas, nagging her dad to set up his new scalextric set. I'm thinking that a bike (to enable healthy living) might have been a better present and am a tad regretful of my rashness re the purchase of aforementioned scalextric! Betsy, on the other hand, is in trouble for using bad language whilst watching Love Island! The nerves have abated and normal service resumes.
Finally, once again if you are interested in buying A Parents' Survival Guide to the IB do get in touch. At 6.99 it's worth every penny. Once you've finished with it you can donate to your school's library!
The last (I promise) in the ‘here’ or ‘there’ saga!
I was driving through the village today, on the way to Scunthorpe to get Betsy a new bank account set up for university, when she asked the question, “Mum if you hadn’t gone to university do you think you would have always lived in Broughton or somewhere close by?” My answer was “I doubt it” to which Betsy asked “Why not? Hmmm… good question. When I stop to think it doesn’t really make sense to not have stayed local. It seems that I’m a bit Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde!
Reasons to Live Locally
When I think about my own personality these are all reasons I might have expected to have stayed close to home; they are criteria I’m happy to adhere to. If I am such a ‘localite’ and it seems, that as a lover of non-wild, steady-eddy routine, I am, I wonder why I have chosen to live 6000 miles away from home in Bangkok for 17 years and prior to that 4000 miles away from home in Tanzania for 5 years. It just doesn’t make sense!
It seems I’ve managed this by turning Bangkok into Broughton and emulating the same life I would have done if I’d stayed. For example, family is very important to me and has always been a massive pull back to Broughton. In addition, I’m not very wild and like a routine (In Bangkok, I always shop in Tops supermarket for example); we have found an area we like to live in, (the oft mentioned Thana City); and stick there. We tend to go to the same cinema (Mega Bangna Cinema complex) or Mahidol University for Saturday concerts by the Thai Philharmonic. This regularity further fulfils the ‘reasons to stay local’ criteria and also we have a maximum of four or five places we tend to eat. The school, the athletes group and my book club basically is my community and I have learned what is on offer for me work wise in Bangkok (Not a lot when flexibility is key!)
I gave Betsy’s question some further thought. When I went to university my mum thought I’d only last a couple of weeks. Allegedly, and I’m not sure this is true, I would do anything to avoid speaking to shop assistants or strangers or anything of that ilk up to being about 25! (Fair enough really as typical introvert behaviour in my view!) I don’t think, though, it ever crossed my own mind to not stick uni out. I think I maybe got the occasional twinge for the familiarity of Scunthorpe’s shops and the treats it afforded, (the High Street was much better then), but nothing major happened. I wasn’t terribly homesick or anything like that. After uni and several months of temping work, I, along with Saint Mick (who was just Mick then and had mainly brown hair not grey – me too, come to that) backpacked extensively in Asia and Australasia. It was probably then that the idea of living and working abroad started to become attractive to me. Perhaps in my youth I must have been a bit more of a risk-taker than I realised.
But as a fifty something mum and wife, I’ve shown there is nothing very wild about our expat lifestyle!
Living abroad means:
And eventually if you stay somewhere a while, you embrace this ‘same/same but different’ as normal. Living an expat life meets the needs of both my Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde sides!
As I worked through the conundrum posed by Betsy I realised that I am easily restless and the ‘what’s it all about’ question is never far from the surface. Perhaps it’s an expat gene that we teachers abroad all have. Those with vaguely itchy feet wondering what else is ‘on offer’ can keep searching whilst simultaneously holding down well paid jobs and bringing up regular families and turn anywhere into a place that is both ‘same/same and different to home. The desire for adventure, sits alongside routine and ordinariness, though thankfully backpacking can be replaced with nice hotels and holidays in exciting neighbouring countries. It perhaps sounds exotic to tour South East Asia, but no more so than our planned trip to Scotland later this month – same/same but different.
Lately, being back in Broughton has made me think once again about the paths that life has taken me on. I have opted to return ‘’home’ and be part of village life at the minute and it’s making me realise how I’ve never really left it. I guess it is back to the idea of it not being the place but the person that creates a sense of belonging. Right now I’m living locally, and doing the ordinary comfy stuff as regularly as I have ever done, and mid August I’ll just as easily slip back into my Bangkok routine.
Reading this back I’m not sure I’ve got to grips with Betsy’s question at all. What I’d like to claim is that although I’ve abroad for twenty plus years I’ve actually stayed local. I wonder though, is that possible? What do you think?
It's the last week of term at my old school, Bangkok Patana. My teacher friends are frantically busy getting ready for the holidays; be it packing for school improvements, organising end of term assemblies or planning final lessons - it is full on. I remember that buzz only too well and just a teeny bit of me misses it, but, to be honest, not too much. It is hard to think that it is nearly a whole academic year since I left my role as Head of Libraries. Since then I've spent a good chunk of time back in Broughton, Lincolnshire hanging out with my oldies and living the life of a retired 50 something, let's pretend I'm cool, Porsche driver! What with blogging and reading and writing and swimming, I really don't have time to go to work any more!
Although it was only three weeks ago that we were all together for Betsy's school graduation, I, like my teacher friends, can't wait for the end of term as my Saint Mick of Thana and Betsy will be coming home to Broughton, soon to be joined by Annie. (A.K.A I'm a poor student but I've just been to Malta and I'm heading to Italy tomorrow - good on her I say!)
I woke up this morning thinking about which place I liked living in best - good old Blighty, specifically Broughton, or Bangkok?
Weather - let's start with the important stuff ...
Bangkok - it's more predictable in Thailand, if it gets under 30 degrees everyone gets out their winter coats (I'm not even joking) and when it pours it really pours. This also gives you a 'get-out free pass; for being late for absolutely any occasion, regardless of the gravitas of it. There's also the pull of sun, sea and sand almost all the year round.
Broughton - like the rest of the UK, Broughton's weather is a great talking point. A trip to the seaside is suddenly cancelled because of chance of light showers, the summer comes early in April and disappears in June. The heat wave (there's bound to be one), is inevitably going to be moaned about. All good fun!
I have loved watching the seasonal changes this year though - the first chance in over twenty plus years to see Autumn turn into winter and so on has been a highlight...
And the winner for me is ... Broughton. I know one Saint Mick though who will definitely disagree.
Broughton - Getting to hang out with my oldies is a real pull for Broughton. I am lucky as I enjoy my parents' company a lot. Me and dad are often out and about getting into all sorts of mischief! I really need 'L plates' when steering his wheelchair. I like to think that my mum and dad enjoy my company too (at least a little bit!) and I can help out. When I'm not here I ring a lot, but it is not the same as living across the road - obvs! You might think that when I'm in the UK I'd see Annie more, but weirdly this year I've spent far more time with Annie during her not infrequent visits to Thailand. A plus is I do get to see my brother and his wife and other family in the UK and form stronger bonds than just a quick trip in the summer enables. My brother also happens to be great at DIY - an added bonus! There are two gorgeous babies in our family now as well so the chance to see more of them is going to be great.
Bangkok - Well my lovely Saint Mick is in Bangkok so that's reason enough for me to choose it. There's nothing quite like having a cup of tea with the old fella as he sits in his Lazy Boy recliner tapping on his laptop, whilst I moan that he is always working! Betsy has been there too so it will be strange next year, when fingers crossed, she will be at York or Hull Uni.
And the winner on family is .. A draw. In my Embrace the Change blog post I explored the advantages and disadvantages of living betweeen two countries. I maintain that a 'time share' is possible. I just wish Bangkok and Broughton were a bit closer.
Broughton - Well, it's sad to say that my visits never coincide with school reunions and I've been away for such a long time that I don't have any. Oh my god, that really is sad! That's unless you count my parents' friends, and I have always liked 'more mature' people so I won't worry about my 'billy-no-mate status' too much! There's one other big attraction in Broughton and that's the great sense of community and lovely neighbours that I have. There is a real sense that if you need anything someone will help, and that is not there in a big city.
Bangkok - You can't live somewhere for 17 years and not make a good network of friends and there's nothing like a good natter to lift the spirits. I read this article about it just yesterday. I think when any expat relocates, especially after a long time, this loss of having friends close by shouldn't be underestimated. It's like being a third culture kid, but grown up - a 'third culture adult?'! So all I can say is thank goodness for text. I have really appreciated those friends who have taken the time and effort, even though busy themselves to keep in touch this year.
And the winner is ... Bangkok, no question.
Broughton - well I can't pretend it is the hub of restaurants, cinemas, cafes or anything like that. There is a good swimming pool close by though - Ancholme Leisure Centre and a good bookshop at Waterstones in Lincoln, so that will do me. Along with our adventures when the whole family is back - this year we're doing a tour of Scotland - I'm not complaining. I also know that for families and pensioners there are loads of things put on in the village, so if you are keen to join things and get inovolved there is plenty to enjoy.
Bangkok - There's tons to do, but I think it is linked to friends and the attractions for me, don't hold that much value without them. I like to go Mahidol University to listen to the Thai Philharmonic Orchestra, but I wouldn't do it without my fab music chum Rachel. (Check out her great blog here.) I also love to swim with my, ironically called, Athletes group. Thana City Country Club is ten minutes walk from home and does top the leisure centre here, but hey... too much sun is bad for you. The restaurants in Bangkok are magnificent in quantity and quality, but I'm a creature of habit, and I've yet to find a really good fish and chip shop there so the jury is out on that one.
Overall though the winner is Bangkok, but I'm not really bothered!
So, looking at the above, there's pros and cons to both. If it was on place only, then it would be Bangkok, but it is 'people not places' that matter. That means, with family and also friends soon heading back this way, right now Broughton is the hands down winner. BUT, ask me again in August when we head back to Bangkok and I suspect the answer might be different.
I am just recovering from the jet-lag of having recently found myself back on a plane, this time flying direct to Bangkok on British Airways from the expansive and imposing Terminal 5 at Heathrow, rather than via Schiphol, with KLM from dinky little Humberside airport.
The advantages of travelling from a local airport such as Humberside are many. For example:
Equally though a large airport also has its positives. For instance:
Swings and roundabouts eh! The reality is that, for me, the small airport beats a larger one every time, although the advantage of non-stop does lure me back to Heathrow from time to time, along with the chance to catch up with eldest student daughter in London. This trip Annie and I had a lovely catch up together without me being too annoying (I think!) and even managed to go watch #Matilda in the West End. Being afforded the opportunity to be spend time is something that I am very grateful for. For this reason, Heathrow airport, always wins. So in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator Heathrow, “I’ll be back!”
I’ve just had an automated email from KLM, asking me to give feedback on my recent flight to Humberside from Bangkok. My granddad used to say to me, “if you haven’t got anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” I will not, therefore, be completing the feedback survey.
To be honest, though, there wasn’t anything particularly terrible about this flight, but, well … is it just me .. or.. well you are like me and you find having to sit 11 plus hours with a perfect stranger on a plane brings out your inner cringy, socially awkward, stammering child? If so these strategies may help.
The passenger in front of you reclines their seat to its max for the duration of all meals.
The inflight attendant spills hot coffee on your lap.
The inflight attendant gives you a meal you didn’t request.
The inflight attendant forgets to give you wine or bread roll with dinner (this particularly applies to vegetarians).