BRADFIELD HAS CHANGED MY PERSPECTIVE ON LIFE AND FRIENDSHIP. I HAVE GAINED OPEN-MINDEDNESS AND CONFIDENCE THROUGHOUT MY TIME HERE, LIVING WITH OTHER PUPILS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD AND STRIVING FOR CHANGE.

As a young girl growing up, I always heard the quotation: “You have to work twice as hard to get half what they have.” It formed a major part of me, motivating and crippling me in equal measures.

At school, everything I did had to be perfect and, if it was not, I felt like I was never going to even achieve the aforementioned half. I made myself get into the top sets of every subject I studied and pushed myself to get involved with every aspect of school. I became a perfectionist. I started to see school as a means to an end rather than a cherished experience where I could thrive.

As a result, I became someone who was known as timid and introverted. I had carved this defence to shield myself from what I felt were my own failings. For the sake of perfectionism, I had lost my confidence, self-esteem and sense of self.

BRADFIELD BECAME MY DREAM SIXTH FORM.

Fast-forward to my GCSE year and my journey to Bradfield began. I had been paging through multiple Sixth Form prospectuses and after a long week of back and forth we discovered Bradfield College and fell in love – well, my mother fell in love and I just felt relieved that we had finally unanimously decided on a viable option for the first time that week. Bradfield College – an education for life – well, it went on the list.

I knew going into this school that I was not the norm and frankly I was terrified. I knew only of boarding schools in the periphery of my mind, through the lens of the media: Wild Child, Little Princess and St Trinian’s School. But I pushed past this fear and applied. Like many of those currently applying to Bradfield, I wasn’t able to tour the school but every night, I would sneak downstairs, open the laptop and stare at the pictures on the website. I read and re-read the articles written about the IB programme or ‘What Makes a Talking School’ or ‘Why Co and Not Extra-Curricular’, Bradfield became my dream Sixth Form.

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A LONG WHILE, I FELT SEEN.

When I received my acceptance letter, I felt a sense of elation. Any feelings of fear quickly disappeared when I found out that I was going into Stevens House. I went to the website to watch the house video and, upon seeing the face of my Housemistress, Mrs van der Westhuizen, felt calm. This calmness only grew when I stepped into Stevens House, my home away from home. For the first time in a long while, I felt seen.

This was my chance to completely reinvent myself. Nobody here knew Naomi. I took that opportunity and ran with it. One of my favourite memories when I look back at my first year is sitting down with my Housemistress with the Co-Curricular booklet, a highlighter and a pen to mark all the activities and societies I could try. For the first time I suppressed my need for perfectionism and signed up for Gospel Choir where I got the opportunity to perform at the Michaelmas Concert, CCF in the Army section, girls’ football, LAMDA, ballet, jazz and street dance. I was even able to step out of my fortress to raise awareness about an important month which I saw was not being celebrated: Black History month.

A SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY LIKE NO OTHER, WHERE YOUR VOICE CAN ALWAYS BE HEARD IF YOU TAKE INITIATIVE.

Through Bradfield, with the overwhelming support of my peers, Housemistress and teachers, I have seen myself grow from a shy girl who would rather a sinkhole open under her than speak in front of a crowd to wilfully getting up in Chapel in front of a group of more than a hundred pupils and twenty teachers and speaking about black history or speaking to a number of prospective pupils and parents during a virtual Open Day.

Speaking directly to prospective pupils that might one day stand up here and tell their story; I am not saying that coming here will suddenly transform you into an amazingly confident person, but Bradfield College is a supportive community like no other, where your voice can always be heard if you take the initiative.

Bradfield has changed my perspective on life and friendship. I have gained open- mindedness and confidence throughout my time here,  living with other pupils from all over the world and striving for change. The opportunities that opened from my study  at Bradfield I would have never even imagined, applying to universities in the USA and Singapore for instance.

I have made irreplaceable friends and more importantly learned the lesson that I do not need to be perfect – I  just need to dream, aim high and be unapologetically  me because with the support from those around, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to and whatever you dream of.