Sixth Form Case Studies

Hear from our IBDP students!

Explore a selection of case studies from our IB Diploma and Boarding students on what it is like to study at Westbourne.

Future lawyer, Jayendra

Future doctor, Marketa

Aspiring lawyer, Marcus

Pre-IB and IB student, Jakub

Aspiring engineer, Anjola

Head Pupil, Morgan

Talented chemist, Anthony

Talented chemist, Anthony

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Anthony and I’m from Vietnam. I want to be a researcher in Biochemistry. I’ve been at Westbourne for two years.

How has your experience in Home Stay been?

I haven’t been back to Vietnam for more than a year. I’ve been in homestay for about 10 months with Mr Mike and Mrs Cath. It has been a wonderful opportunity and I couldn’t ask for more. They are really like a second family to me and the home environment they’ve created is so cosy. Every evening I can go down and have a chat with them, sit on the sofa and watch television and release any stress from the day. What is more important is that they are willing to share stories and advice about schools, university and life experience, and that’s the best thing I can ask for. It feels like a family, I feel like their own child.

What’s the best thing about living in Boarding?

The boarding house environment has made me grow. Since starting at Westbourne, thanks to my homestay parents I’ve learnt a lot about culture in the UK. They’ve guided me through everything – from the food, to history, even entertainment.

What are the benefits of attending a small school?

In small communities, everyone knows each other. That’s really great, as teachers understand you so well. Because of that, you can talk with them in the office or tell them what is occupying your mind and they are willing to help. I used to attend a public school in Vietnam, it was quite large, and I was in a class of 45 students! In that context, only when you’re the best of the best will the teacher recognise you. In Westbourne, the teachers give great care to every student, making sure that everyone reaches the high standard that they are hoping for.

How do you think the IB compares to A-levels? What would you say to a student considering both?

Before I joined Westbourne, I was actually looking at both A-levels and the IB. In scientific subjects, which is my main focus, Physics, Chemistry or Biology, the content is basically the same for both curricula. But the fact that in the IB you have to study a compulsory humanity and the core subjects like TOK and EE, I think that really helps with preparing you for university. I have to be honest, although they are really stressful with deadlines, once you go to university you know it’s really benefited you. The skills of being able to analyse, make controls in your experiment… it’s compulsory at university. So the IB gives you the opportunity to expose yourself to this way of learning first-hand. That’s really meaningful for us in the long term.

What academic achievements have you had outside the classroom?

I have always been an Olympiad student. I took the Vietnamese Olympiad in High School and that fire is still burning now, even after relocating across the world to the UK. I came to Westbourne and one my main objectives was to enter the Biology Olympiad in my first year in IB1. Recently I’ve also competed in the Chemistry Olympiad and other competitions. I’m really glad that the teachers, Dr Francis and Mr Tucker, gave me the opportunity to register for these competitions and I’m so happy they’ve been willing to help and mentor me. We all know that it’s beyond the current IB curriculum, and self-study is completely mandatory. It’s safe to say for scientific students like me, these competitions come in handy when applying for the top universities.

How have you found online learning?

I’ve liked it a lot! Partly because you can flexibly manage your timetable. You can work at your own pace, at home if you’re stressed or exhausted, you can have a 15-minute nap and then wake up and continue doing work. There’s more flexibility in the whole pace. I really enjoyed that.

Where are you going for university?

I applied to UCL and Cambridge. For UCL I went for Biochemistry but for Cambridge it’s Natural Sciences. I still don’t know where to go but I’m leaning towards Cambridge, although I always wanted to do research in Biochemistry. The thing about Natural Sciences at Cambridge is you start from the beginning, you have a broadened perspective of Natural Sciences as a whole. Then in the 2nd or 3rd year you start to converge into the specific subject subdivisions. I really want to have that broad perspective and then try to re-evaluate my decision, to assess whether Biochemistry is right for me. I’m really looking forward to Cambridge.

How have you been prepared for the future by studying at Westbourne?

Science in the future is definitely going to be harder. It’s going to be a notch more difficult than what we study in high school. Before coming to Westbourne, I wasn’t really good at Maths. When you go to university, Maths becomes a universal tool for any science student. When I came here, I got a lot of help from Mr Morrison with honing my Maths skills, starting from zero and going up and up, improving my skills and being able to utilise and implement those concepts into scientific contexts. This enabled me to be able to do statistics and the more analytical side of Maths in science, like in Chemistry or Physics. Westbourne honed my mathematical skills and made me feel more comfortable with my decision to engage in a STEM career.

When you look back at your time at Westbourne, what do you think will stay with you throughout life?

I will really miss Mrs Page. I still remember that she said right at the start of the course. I didn’t believe in it at first, but now I do. She taught us “how to read!”. I actually know how to read now, in a literal and emotional context. That will stay with me for the rest of my life. Even as a science student. That capability to write reports, or having that emotion, it’s all thanks to Mrs Page. I feel really grateful, it’s a relief that I now understand what she meant.

What are you looking forward to most about going to university?

The challenge, obviously! And the opportunities… and research! That encompasses the whole career of science. You have opportunities to meet a lot of people, you have the hardship of research, the ability to balance your bookworm life with meeting and hanging out with people, an important aspect of uni life too.

What’s the one thing you’d say to a student deciding whether or not to come to Westbourne?

Enjoy the challenge! Obviously the IB is a big challenge, but along the way just enjoy it, enjoy the community aspect, the time with your friends, the support from the teachers. Make your two years at Westbourne a memorable experience in your high school career.

Dharani, an IB student

Dharani, an IB student

What’s it like living in Boarding?

I really enjoy living with Ms Phillips. You get to know all the teachers at school and that’s nice to have that connection, but for a teacher to understand how you live and the things that you do on a daily basis… Ms Phillips is really lovely about how she does that. She really tries to make our lives better at home as well. It’s really really great living with her.

What’s the best thing about living in Boarding?

I think it’s living with your friends. Living with friends really gives you a different perspective. You all have the same experiences, you’re studying together, you’re all stressed about the same things. Getting to share that is really nice, and not to be lonely especially during the pandemic.

What are the benefits of attending a small school?

I went to a very large school previously. My parents would never want to go to parents’ evenings, because in a class of 40 students the teacher wouldn’t know who you were or have anything to talk to them about. However, when they met Ms Phillips, it was really different because she was able to talk about my strengths, my weaknesses, how I am doing. It’s so important, and only something you get at a small school like Westbourne.

Is there a member of staff who has inspired you?

All the teachers are really inspiring and they’re great at their jobs. The best thing about Westbourne and boarding is you have people like Ms Janette who are really really inspiring, just to listen to you when you come and cry about your problems. She gives you that tiny boost to just keep going and she’s a huge inspiration.

Where are you going for university?

I chose to study Law and I’ve always had an affinity for it. I like debating in school and enjoy History, so Law seemed like a natural fit. I chose to apply to Cambridge because they have a very different, anchored Law programme and I knew that was something I wanted to do. So I took the shot and I applied and I hope to be heading there in September if all goes well with my results!

Tell us about the application process…

For an application to Law, Cambridge surprisingly is one of the few schools that does not require you to sit for an external law exam, the LMAT. So all you need is a personal statement, a reference and your grades. The school was so helpful with how they coached me to write my personal statement, what to write, what not to write. The reference Ms Phillips wrote was absolutely beautiful and I’m sure played a huge role in me getting in. For the interview, Westbourne got me a tutor to help prepare me for that interview because otherwise I would have been absolutely blindsided on that day, so I’m really grateful that I got that support. Ms Phillips, Dr Griffiths and Mrs Barber also hold mock interviews, to give you that extra boost. So you’re continuously prepped and helped throughout the process until you make it.

What are you most looking forward to about going to university?

It has to be the subject – studying Law. I’m really excited! And meeting new friends and new people, as well as the location.

What’s the one thing you’d say to a student deciding whether or not to come to Westbourne?

I would say take the leap! The world here is far better than anything you could imagine. You have to take the leap to find out for yourself!

Kinga, an IB2 student

Kinga, an IB2 student

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Kinga and I’m from Hungary. I’m 17 years old. I would like to become an engineer. This is my second year at Westbourne. Math HL and Physics HL are both important to me for future study.

What’s it like living in Boarding?

I’ve been in the boarding house, homestay and now just moved to No. 5 four weeks ago. It’s been really interesting, especially with a six month break from attending school in person. It’s been a good test of resilience, compassion, it teaches you how to be flexible due to the pandemic. What I learned from this flexibility, through co-living, was that I could apply these skills in extreme situations in life, if ever I have to react quickly. It’s a mature environment mainly for IB2s – we are treated as adults. And there’s another adult, Ms Phillips, who ultimately has authority over us! But we are treated as equals and I really like and respect that.

What’s the best thing about living in Boarding?

It makes you grow up! As students living together, you shape each other, and that’s really amazing.

What are the benefits of attending a small school?

We get special attention from the teachers, the staff and from our classmates. You know everyone and you know each other’s skills so you can always go and ask for help. You know a lot of people in Penarth, you feel this really interlinked, warm bond that the whole community embraces you. When you go to the Boarding House, a big benefit is being able to talk and form such a close relationship with the staff, especially Ms Janette! Everyone really embraces you.

How do you think the IB compares to A-levels? What would you say to a student considering both?

I’m really STEM focused. Doing the IB, I had the opportunity to study English Literature. This was really hard for me as I’m non-native. You don’t have that opportunity at A-level. The IB opens up a new world for you. All the subjects you take at Standard Level make you grow as a person, with different perspectives and you have the opportunity to develop yourself. Those subjects might not be your future profession, but I think it’s really important to have a broad perspective.

What do you like to do outside of school?

I’ve gotten into running. It fluctuates, and if we have exams then I don’t do it so frequently. I take pictures of the scenery and it’s always different. The sea is really beautiful in both the morning and the afternoon. It adds to this whole image of being here, it’s such a wonderful place that I love. I did a bit of rowing, once they took us out in the morning during the sunrise. The water was really cold, but it was a really empowering experience. Even through lockdown, my experience this year has been really nice. The pandemic made us appreciate everything, and I can see that in all parts of our lives. We can go running, or even just for a walk, and there’s a sense of freedom.

Is there a member of staff in particular who has inspired you?

When some of us applied to INSEAD, Mark Peters, the Chairman of the school, sat with us to work on our personal statements. Really everybody knows each other! Everyone contributes, and they’re unique and admirable because they compose us as whole.

How have you found online learning?

The school reacted really fast and I think it sorted out the situation really well. They kept adapting to the situation. The pandemic had an impact on our learning and everyone of us could feel it. Especially in boarding, being here was really empowering because we pushed each other so it was a powerful learning environment.

Where are you going to university?

Last year I wanted to be a doctor, but now my first choice is Imperial College London to study Material Science and Engineering. It’s a small university and is STEM oriented mainly, but it has a business department and I was always passionate about Economics and Business. I could never choose between Business and Engineering, but this school helped me to continue with both. The course still contains a bit of Chemistry as well, so I can have the opportunity to broaden my views.

How was your experience at INSEAD Business School and do you think the opportunity helped your university application?

I was really excited to go to Paris so it was unfortunate that I couldn’t travel. However I think I managed to get the same experience. It was one week long. INSEAD focused on us getting to know each other, we were encouraged to have personal contact with each other even after the classes. That was really nice and I got to know amazing people even though it was online. It helped me with my university application and it supported a new perspective of what I would like to achieve in the future. People always think that Engineering is mainly for Maths, and Physics. I think it’s more about creating something to help the world, and business also helps with that to promote that science and business are a force for good.

When you look back at your time at Westbourne, what do you think will stay with you throughout life?

In our HL subjects, our teachers upported us both academically and personally. We get a lot of personal support. But my SL subjects especially have had a great impact on me. I’m going to remember Mrs Page’s English lessons that’s for sure, even if I’m becoming an engineer! She opened up a new window, which I thought I would never have.

What are you looking forward to most about going to university?

The thing I like about Imperial is you can take up short courses not related to your studies. So I might sign up for a Jane Austen lecture or a new language, who knows! So that will be interesting. I’m looking forward to experiencing London. Being independent. Getting out into the world on our own, nobody is going to take care of us. So I’m interested in how I will manage on our own!

What’s the one thing you’d say to a student deciding whether or not to come to Westbourne?

Dealing with failure is resoluteness… Westbourne teaches you that! When you go out, you’re gonna be ready!

Nikolay, an IB Diploma Boarding student

Nikolay, an IB Diploma Boarding student

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Nikolay and I joined Westbourne in 2017 for Pre-IB. I come from Moscow in Russia, well… my original town is in the middle of nowhere so I tell people I am from Moscow!

Why did you choose Westbourne School?

I had many opportunities but I chose Westbourne because of the place and because of the league table ranking initially. Later I understood that it’s not just about the rank, it’s mostly about the teachers and the students.

That was what I saw initially … the whole life that Westbourne was offering and I wanted to be part of it!

What made you specifically want to be part of that life?

First of all, I met Mr Underhill. I talked to him and he was amazing. He was our previous Principal and was also the person who I first met in Russia and who spoke to me even back then when I knew so little English. He still managed to make me feel at ease and I really like his personality.

I thought that if this is the Principal then all the teachers should be really good and if all the teachers are really good then all the students would also be really good.

Have you developed any particular skills since you have joined?

Before coming to Westbourne School I only studied English for a year so it has been my biggest achievement to be fluent now.

In terms of subjects, because of the way they are structured I have written a lot of papers and worked on a lot of projects and developed my analytical thinking.

Do you feel like that has developed your critical thinking skills?

Yeah, Theory Of Knowledge has definitely helped with that. I have spent all nights reading about topics we are discussing for ToK to understand them better. It’s like trying to find answers for questions nobody wants to ask because there are no answers.

Apart from this, I’m taking Maths HL, Physics HL, Economics HL – all of these really aim to improve your logical thinking and in combination with ToK it definitely made me develop critical thinking.

Do you think it helped you to develop those critical thinking skills?

It really helped with my university applications. I had to write a lot of essays to apply for the US and because of short deadlines, it felt very stressful. Having done the IB Diploma really paid off in that situation.

What universities did you apply for?

I applied to Princeton, Yale, MIT and Harvard. So far I have received an entry from Princeton. Today I’m speaking with alumni from Stanford, so that’s very promising. So far so good!

I’ve also applied in the UK and already have a few acceptance offers. My hope is to go onto doing a Masters and then a PhD.

How has the IB helped you with applying for universities?

Doing the IB Diploma definitely helped with the success rate I have so far. While in Russia I had to do a lot of different subjects in school, here I get to focus on six. This gave me a better chance to develop. It’s not just about the subjects, as I mentioned before I have to submit a lot of papers and analyse a lot of work.

For Economics I wrote my Extended Essay on my previous business. I had to analyse it and evaluate from my point what I have already learned.

CAS has also helped me to an extent. I would say I was already quite passionate about sports and creativity but I have done more service because of it. Definitely more than I would have done in Russia. CAS, in general, is great for university applications and especially when you can quote well-known charities you have worked with.

Can you tell me a little bit about your teachers and how they helped you?

The difference between Russian teachers and the teachers here is that there they can’t always focus on every student. Back home I was in a class of thirty people and it was hard for the teachers to keep a record of how everyone is doing.

Here, we have really small classes and really good teachers. In my Maths HL class, it’s just me and another pupil in the class. All my other classes are very small too. Economics is the biggest class I’ve got but that’s because everyone wants to do business.

What is being a boarding student like?

It was really nice for me to gain independence. I miss my parents, but I also feel more in control of my life. I decide what I do before and after school, it’s my responsibility to get up and go to school, to keep my place clean and other things like that.

The boarding house is great! Every house parent has been great too. There is a community in the house – watching films, studying together. I have my own room and even though it’s small I get to have peace and quiet for studying.

As a Head Boy, what advice would you give any students thinking of starting the IB?

The IB is an international school and my advice would be to not be afraid to make new connections and new friends. It’s amazing when you dive into all these new cultures and everyone is from somewhere interesting. Don’t hesitate, go make new friends and speak about things that you care about.

Thanks Nikolay!

Thanks Nikolay for sharing your experience. Nikolay has been offered a place to read Economics at top UK Russell Group, Warwick University and is undergoing the interview process for several Ivy League universities in the US. We wish him the very best of luck!

Andre, an ESL Summer School student

Andre, an ESL Summer School student

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is André and I’m from Stuttgart in Germany. I joined Westbourne in September and am currently in the first year of the IB Diploma Programme. Before I joined Westbourne I completed the English Summer Language (ESL) Summer School. Back home in Germany, I went to a bilingual school which meant that some of my classes were already taught in English.

Why did you join the ESL Summer School?

After I decided to join Westbourne School, my education agent in Germany advised me to do the ESL Summer School course before the academic year started to improve my English fluency.

I’m glad I did that as I found the summer course quite helpful.

Can you share a little more about how you found the course helpful?

Although my English level was good before I arrived it was still helpful to get a lot of practice. I learned how to do presentations and conduct research – skills I really needed later for school. My teamwork skills also improved massively as that wasn’t something I had been paying attention to before. It has helped a lot with all the group projects we are now given in school.

It was also great to meet people who were also going to join the school as boarding students. I got to make friends before the academic year had even begun. I was also already used to the boarding house because we lived there for the summer school.

Did you have any expectations before you arrived?

I had a pretty realistic vision for what the structure was going to be. I was expecting to have classes in the morning followed by lunch and activities in the afternoon.

I was also expecting to develop my scientific English language skills and learn how to present data confidently. It was great to see myself becoming better in that with every presentation I did.

Tell us about a typical day during the Summer School

After we woke in the Boarding House, we would have breakfast and take the short walk to the school. We would then get into our groups for lessons.

After lunch, which was provided, we would head out for different activities. There was a lot of choice with activities. One day we saw an English movie – Lion King, on another we went climbing in a specialised climbing gym.

We would always do really different activities where you can practise your speaking with other people and get to do fun new things.

Tell us about your fellow students.

We were all roughly the same age. There were students from Year 7 all the way to IB1.

I was the only German national, but I enjoyed being surrounded by people from all over the world. Others were from the Netherlands, Poland, China and various other countries.

Overall, did you find the ESL Course worthwhile?


For three weeks you get to improve your second language a lot, in a hands-on way that you wouldn’t be able to achieve unless you speak constantly. I wasn’t expecting to see a big improvement because my level was good already and I could hold a decent conversation, but found academic English very useful and benefitted from gaining confidence in doing presentations.

The course is a really good opportunity. Also, you meet people from so many different cultures and get to interact with peers you wouldn’t have otherwise. I still chat with a lot of them on social media.

Plus, it’s so beautiful in Penarth so you really get to enjoy yourself.

How does the pace of life differ at Boarding School now, compared to school before

It is completely different.

The standard and the attitude from the teachers are nothing alike. In Germany, the students aren’t that keen on learning and the teachers are a bit less concerned with the process. I used to get the feeling that the teachers weren’t doing much work in order to prepare for lessons.

The feeling here, with teachers who have so clearly prepared for their lessons, is completely different. They really try and help everyone in the class by having a really clear structure for their lessons supported with Powerpoint slides and activities to engage us with.

Could you share any tips for future ESL Summer School students?

I think you should just be open-minded and not be afraid of having a new experience. If you’re willing to learn and meet new people, then you’ll improve your English really quickly and have a lot of fun.

Future medical student Matilde

Future medical student Matilde

Could you start by introducing yourself and telling me a little bit about your experience with Westbourne?

My name is Mathilde Gallia and I’m Italian. I joined Westbourne in Pre-IB and am currently in my last year of the IB Diploma.

How did you decide to come to Westbourne?

I was studying in Italy and really felt like I needed a change. I wanted to learn English and I was also influenced by my sister’s education path – she went to study in America. I didn’t want to travel as far so I chose the UK.

With the help of an Italian agency, we found a few schools and I was advised Westbourne was the best one. I came to visit and I really liked it. I thought that my English wasn’t great and also I was scared of going to a big school; I was afraid of being around a lot of people who already spoke English perfectly.

When I came to visit here, everyone was so friendly. I visited another school afterwards, but I didn’t like it as much so I chose Westbourne.

Did you find any differences between Westbourne and Italian education?

Everything is different! I think the main difference is that the school was really big so you couldn’t find teachers outside of school time. Here, every time you need someone they are around to help you.

The teaching method is also really different. I like it way more here because we combine theory and practice, studying both Chemistry and Biology there are lots of opportunities for practicals and dissections. In Italy they just want you to learn things by heart and it’s only theoretical.

Another difference is that here I do more exams. It’s actually a good thing because I am well prepared for my final exams and I feel confident. In Italy, I would have a lot of tests but I was never prepared for the final exam.

Can you share with us your plans for University?

I plan on applying for Medicine back home in Italy. Primarily due to the UK Medical Degree being much longer and I’m not sure that I want to study abroad for another 5 years. I also wanted to be closer to family because studying Medicine is quite intense and I would be great to be close to my family for their support.

I’ve always wanted to study Medicine. I can’t imagine myself pursuing anything else. I also feel prepared for university, having studied abroad. Before I couldn’t even imagine what would follow but at Westbourne, they really help guide you through the process of applying for University.

Studying at Westbourne and doing the IB Diploma has really helped me with the application process. The Biology and Chemistry IB Curriculum is exactly the same as the exams for entry into the medical course. That is really useful! In Italy the curriculum doesn’t cover the entry exams, it just covers other things that wouldn’t have been useful.

You have been in both the Boarding House and Home Stay, can you explain why?

When I first joined Westburne I chose to stay at the Boarding House because I really like being surrounded by people. I think it was the best way for me to meet a lot of new people and make friends.

I became friends with everyone so quickly and my English improved a lot. When I first came, I was the only Italian student so I was kind of forced to speak English. I also really enjoyed how close the boarding house is to the school, the train station and the gym.

For my second year, I decided to move into Home Stay. I loved my room at the boarding house, it was exactly what I’d expected. The only reason I decided to move was to have more personal space. I find it very difficult to concentrate and study if I’m not alone and I wanted the opportunity to have my own, personal space to focus on my last year of the IB Diploma.

I like my Home Stay, the room is big and the house is close to everything. The food is good and the House Parents are super flexible. It’s not a problem if my lesson finishes at 8.30pm and I need to have dinner then. Also, Del is a really good cook. She likes baking and I love eating cakes, it’s the perfect match!

I also really enjoy being in the same Home Stay as my classmates Macy and Michelle. I love being together with them. We spend a lot of time together and I know that they are there to help me if I ever need it and vice versa.

What’s the best part of being Head Girl?

I don’t really know how I became Head Girl! The teachers awarded it to me… though I do feel like I am the right person for it. I love being around people and I love helping people. I feel like if anyone needs me I’ll be there to help.

Since I became Head Girl I have been involved in organising things; people come to me and ask me for advice on writing EEs (Extended Essays) and other coursework. I love helping people because it makes me feel useful and that’s the best part of being Head Girl.

If you had to give a piece of advice to someone considering applying to Westbourne, what would you say?

I would tell them to just apply. I’m a really shy person and even when I didn’t know anyone at first, I found the experience of being here and staying at the boarding house absolutely fantastic.

I love the fact that this is a smaller school because when I had to learn English everyone was willing to help me, everyone was there for me and all the teachers were just really great!

Thanks Matilde!

Matilde is currently in her second year on the IB Diploma Programme, studying HL: Biology, Chemistry, English and SL: Italian, Geography, Maths alongside the core elements of the Diploma Programme, an excellent combination for her aspiration to study Medicine at University.

IB Diploma entry starts in September each year, international direct applicants are encouraged to apply early for the opportunity to gain one of the 24 available places each year.

Esther, an international boarding student

Esther, an international boarding student

Please can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Esther and although my family are from Hong Kong, I was actually born in Birmingham, as my parents moved to the UK themselves for University.

However, when I was 7 we relocated back home to Hong Kong, where my grandparents live. Ever since I moved to back Hong Kong I always knew I wanted to go to university in the UK, so I thought that if I was planning to come for university, my best chance was to come a bit earlier to prepare for it.

I had considered going to Manchester or Solihull, where I was born, but then I went to an exhibition and I met Westbourne School and I was like … yes!

When you first went to the school’s fair, did you know what type of school you were looking for?

I wanted it to be a smaller school because then I would fit in easier. I also wanted it to be a more international school so I can get to know more about other cultures. And I really have now!

I have friends now from Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, Russia, Argentina … basically from all over the world and the UK.

Last term, there was this girl that lived with us in the Boarding House, Emma – she lives in Germany now and me and my family are planning to visit her.

Before you came to Westbourne, did you have any worries about fitting in?

I was worried initially about fitting in… my doubt was that I won’t fit in because there are only so many people you could fit in with. But then I reassured myself that when it is a smaller school you get more attention from teachers.

Although actually when I arrived, In terms of fitting in .. I was in a class with all new people so it was pretty easy.

Can your share with us about how you settled and if you ever experienced home sickness?

There were a lot of new pupils when I joined so we all helped each other and we all stuck with each other so that made it much easier.

I was homesick only in the first one to two months because I was missing my parents and sibling and obviously friends from home. But then gradually you get used to it.

You can call your parents every day so that is good. After the first term I don’t even call that often because, like I said, I’m getting used to it. I call them like once a week.

Tell us a bit about how your lessons differ now?

In my previous school it was mostly just the teacher speaking and the students listening only.… you didn’t get to participate. That is why I wanted to go somewhere where the style of study is more interactive.

There is also the question of size. In my former school we were 40 pupils in a class. At Westbourne we might get split for some of the main subjects, however there is still no more than 20 people in class.

Last term I was with 10 people in a class. This term we are 12.

You mention a difference in teaching style, could you tell us more about that?

In my old school the teachers would just talk and we had to write down everything that they say or it’s basically just listening and you can’t do anything else.

Sometimes they would just give you something to do, for example for math they would just give you problems to solve on your own to figure it out without teaching and that was pretty harsh.

Here, there is more interaction and support and the teachers ask you questions and make sure you are okay with it before they carry on. If after a test they find out that most people don’t understand it they go over it again instead of just carrying on.

Tell us about the homework?

I used to get more homework before but in Hong Kong most school give a lot of school work so that is normal.

Here there is less homework but if you feel like you don’t have enough the teachers encourage you and you could ask for more to practice on the stuff that you aren’t sure about. So if someone didn’t understand a topic in maths they would just ask for more help and homework.

Can you share with us what co-curricular activities you take part in?

I do piano on Monday because I’ve been doing piano since I was 5. I really enjoy it, it’s very relaxing.

Tuesday I do Duke of Edinburgh and Thursday I do Mathematical Reasoning. I joined the last one because my friends do it and I figured I could always use some extra help with maths. But then I think it’s a lot more logical than normal maths like you can’t go straight to the answer. You have to think about it more. It’s like IQ questions.

Duke of Edinburgh is basically training your physical skills .. you have to do physical skill, activity and volunteering. A bit like CAS in IB. And you have to do the activities for three months. For physical I am planning to go to the gym with my friends. It’s a good motivation. For skills I’m doing piano and then for volunteering I’m teaching my friend piano. For the whole past term, she was asking me to teach her so this was a great opportunity to do that.

Now that you have been at Westbourne for one full term, do you feel that you made the right choice?


When I left Hong Kong, it was me and one of my friends who went off to boarding school together, except she boards at a different school. There it is much more strict, they can’t really leave the school unless it’s a Saturday or Sunday. Here it is much more friendly and relaxing.

We are near the town centre and that makes everything really easy. We also go to Cardiff nearly every week. For things like shopping and cinema we hop on the train and it’s easy because we live next to the train station.

Thanks Esther!

Esther is currently in Pre-IB at Westbourne, our one year IB Diploma preparation programme for students aged 15 years.

Welcoming international boarders from 12 years on to the GCSE, Pre-IB and IB Diploma programmes, discover more about applying to Westbourne as an International student.

IB student, Fedor

IB student, Fedor

B student Fedor graduated in 2020 and is now studying at the University of York.

He told us how his IB2 studies and, in particular, the in-depth analysis he carried out for his IB Extended Essay, have proven instrumental in his undergraduate research.

“When researching Stalinist Russia for my IB Extended Essay, I discovered that a person who had lived in my old apartment block was killed during the purges. Fascinated by this man’s story, I continued my research after leaving Westbourne and have recently been led a campaign to erect a memorial for him. None of this would have been possible without studying the IB at Westbourne.”

He continued:

“The man’s tragic fate just couldn’t leave me indifferent, so I continued research into his life after my Extended Essay’s submission, cooperating with an NGO called The Last Address to hopefully erect a small memorial plate in the name of this man. Well, this is exactly what happened yesterday. The plate was affixed onto the block, just under the windows of the flat where Fritz Petrovitch Pauzer was arrested in 1937. A small ceremony was also held on site with a few of Mr Pauzer’s relatives, including his grand-niece who recalled her father’s memories of Mr Pauzer.”


“The family of Mr Pauzer was kind enough to share the scans of the archived file on him from the 1930s, which they only accessed recently. After studying the 60 pages of this file, it became clear to me that I might need to take it one step further, and I decided to book an appointment with one of my professors at York to see if there is an opportunity to publish an article about Mr Pauzer’s tragic fate, with the translation of newly-acquired primary sources.”