Student story: Kenny Tam from Hong Kong
Kenny Tam from Hong Kong came to Giggleswick School in North Yorkshire, UK, when he was 13 years old. He’s now studying for his A-levels and thinking about university… but that’s not all that’s occupying his time!
Here, Kenny tells us about his life at a UK boarding school, the amazing activities and sports he’s involved with that are helping him to achieve his potential, and – most importantly – the friends he’s made along the way.
'Great friends and great memories'
'I am loving my time in the UK! Apart from making great friends and great memories I have also had some fantastic opportunities through school.
'When I first came here I was a little shy, but keen to try to get to know people, so I started going to activities the school ran in the evenings. I already played basketball and also started playing hockey and football, all in my first week! Before long I was going biking, climbing (pictured right), caving and fell walking on Friday afternoons. Later in the first year, we did an expedition to the Yorkshire Dales – the beautiful, hilly region around my school – as part of a competition between all the houses in the school. My house won!'
Sports, arts, activities – and A-levels
'This was just the beginning. In my second year, everyone had to join the combined cadet force (CCF), a UK youth organisation. I wasn’t sure about the idea to begin with, but within a few weeks I began to really enjoy it – especially because it meant even more time in the great outdoors. Three years later and I am a sergeant in the Marines section (pictured below left). I have competed twice in the national CCF competition, the Pringle Trophy – both physically demanding but fantastic experiences.
'Through CCF, I found out about the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, a UK national certificate for young people who complete a series of activities – a skill (anything from calligraphy to kite-building), a sport, a volunteering option and an expedition. The award you get at the end is highly regarded and even counts towards university applications. When I was told I could get an award like this simply for doing the things I loved to do in school (outside of lessons of course!) I immediately said yes. I have now completed my Silver award and am training for my Gold award.
'We did the Silver expedition in the Lake District, a beautiful place I would urge everyone to visit. The two Gold training expeditions have been week-long adventures to Kinlochleven in the Scottish Highlands. It was here that I took a photograph of my friends and me hiking together, which won an Education UK photography prize! The expedition itself was brilliant; there were opportunities to use the skills we had developed over the previous years, from leadership and map reading to putting up a tent and field cooking. The best thing was that I got to do this with some of my best friends – and made more along the way.
'I did well in my GCSEs and the school offered me an Art and Design award and scholarship for the sixth form. I am now studying these subjects at A-level, as well as economics and mathematics.'
Kenny and friends gearing up for a basketball game (Photo ©Kenny Tam)
'Outside lessons, sport has become a large part of my life. I love cross-country running; I know I am lucky to live in such a beautiful place and running through the fields and up the fells are great ways for me to relax and keep fit. I have had the privilege of playing hockey and football for the first team, as well as representing the school at athletics and climbing at a high level.
'I will never forget my first rugby match – I didn’t really know what I was doing but my friends and coach helped me through the rules of the game, and now rugby is one of my favourite sports at Giggleswick. The funny thing is that I didn’t even know I was sporty before coming here!'
Looking to the future
'Boarding school can appear tough at first. It is a completely new culture and way of life, and the little differences mean that homesickness is natural for everyone. But getting involved in the huge range of activities on offer can help with this.
'Even more than that, there is the support from the fantastic staff and – for me, anyway – a group of great friends within school. I love my house and my friends there, and I am applying for a house leadership role next year.
'I am looking forward to applying to university next year, knowing that I have been very lucky to spend five fantastic years at Giggleswick. I have made so many friends for life and I will stay in touch with many members of staff who have got to know me during my time here. I have learnt a huge amount – obviously academically, but also about myself and the person I want to be. I will come out a far more confident, well-rounded young man and I can thoroughly recommend the experience.'