23 January 2023

The Monday Briefing: No Violins

The Monday Briefing: No Violins

World's smallest violin

(humorous) A notional violin that plays tragic music for the afflicted; used in dismissive responses to complaints of woe.

I’ve enjoyed four very interesting meetings over the last week or so, each of which being with either a student of the past, or a future student at the College.

Firstly, let’s start with the past. 

It was a great pleasure to catch up with two recent alumni students as part of our podcast series, gaining an update as to where they are now and how they have progressed since they left the College, whilst providing an opportunity to reflect on their memories and achievements accrued during their time at Ealing.

On Friday afternoon, I spoke with Fabien, an undergraduate now studying History and Ancient History at Exeter University. Our meeting had a flavour of deja vu about it: For the entirety of his Year 13 studies, which transpired during the Covid pandemic, I taught him as the lone History student in my class, via video call. During these lessons, we held in depth conversations about the nuances of revolutionary and communist Russia, as well as Modern Britain. It was heartening to see that he is well, and prospering in his new surroundings, particularly given the challenges of the time he was at the College.

Whilst all other students at the College returned to in person lessons when lockdown came to an end, Fabien was the exception. Unable to return due to his mother’s fragile health, and his need to care for her as she shielded, Fabien had no choice but to stay at home. Many students found lockdown difficult - I can remember that there were moments that I did - but not being able to see even the light at the end of the tunnel must have been almost unbearable. Add to this the anxiety that comes when one is mugged on the streets outside his home when going on to get groceries to help care for his mother. 

Fabien never made an excuse though. He never made a complaint. He just got on with it. 

We spoke of how he had always been a shy student, but had learned to overcome his fears by trying things in a supportive environment. No excuses, no complaints - just give it a go as he told me; it will build your character. One can’t fail to be inspired by Fabien. What he went through, and the application he showed to move his life forward is life affirming. He sent me a wonderful email soon after receiving his results, and I’d like to quote some of that below:

“The years that I have been enrolled at Ealing Independent College have been nothing short of great. After coming off the back of the worst schooling experience I've had, EIC was exactly what I was looking for in terms of community, generosity, and intensive and specialised education. Although this past year and a half has come with its challenges, EIC has always done its best to make sure that I achieve results and outcomes that I'm fully capable of, with full effort put into those to do so. Overall, EIC has not only made me a better and more efficient student, but has made me a better person. A person who learned the value of time & commitment, patience, and doing what is necessary to accomplish what I want to accomplish.”

The College will soon be taking our 2023 delegation to the Model United Nations conference at MIT in Boston. Fabien attended the 2020 edition, and won an ‘Honourable Mention’ award for his efforts. The podcast featuring Fabien will be broadcast on our Spotify channel on Thursday.

The previous episode features Namit, arguably one of the College’s very best students. Namit won the inaugural EIC Scholarship Competition in 2019, securing a fully funded two-year A Level programme at the College. Namit strained every sinew to achieve everything that he possibly could over his time with us, sitting four A Levels rather than three: Mathematics and Further Mathematics; Physics and Computer Science. He spoke of Ealing as the place where he went from being a lazy student to one who started to get the very best from himself.

He spoke of the importance of utilising relationships, and making the very best of the opportunities which were open to him: expert UCAS guidance; additional interviews to support his application; candid discussions offering advice from teachers who he really admired. Everything was set up for him to do the best he possibly could. Again, no excuses, no complaints - just consistent levels of hard work, and strong levels of intelligence developed further by curiosity, and a drive to get better. The result: Four A* grades and a place on a prestigious course at Imperial College London, studying Design Engineering.

For a shy student, who had doubts about even taking up the scholarship at Ealing, it shows just how far he came at EIC that he now talks of founding a start-up company, meeting four simultaneous deadlines and trying something new, away from home comforts. These were all skills learned at the College - and acquired through such a ‘no excuses, no complaints’ mindset.

You can listen to the episode of our podcast dedicated to him here.

From former to future…

Another two conversations enthused me further this week. 

It’s always a pleasure to hold our Scholarship Competition, won in the first instance by Namit. It’s an even better occasion to meet with the winners, of which there were two for 2023. The standout duo both scored above two thirds of the marks available on a gruelling set of questions.

Both have a great deal in common. Before they got to us, education had not worked out for them the way they wanted it. Both made no excuses or complaints as to why.

Both have had to go through bouts of learning from home. Both called it character building. Both are incredibly capable students with bright futures. Both recognise that they can sharpen their abilities best at the College. Both see EIC as the place that can get the very best from themselves.

I’m really excited to see what both of them, who fully deserve their scholarships, can do.

I think what resonated most with me in both meetings was their abundant desire to rise above the obstacles that have hindered the realisation of their sizable potential to date. With our expertise and guidance, yes, but primarily through their own determination and industry. In many ways, they are already exemplary College students - they get what we are all about: no violins needed, because it is already understood that no complaints or excuses will be forthcoming.

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