Where are they now? Catching up with alumni
We recently caught up with ACS Hillingdon alumna Madison Stewart to discuss what she’s been up to since her graduation in 2014. Madison embarked on a gap year travelling and volunteering in the US before starting an English degree at the University of Exeter.
How has the university experience been for you so far?
I have just finished my first year at the University of Exeter studying English Literature, a subject I first studied in-depth during my time at ACS Hillingdon. University has been a whirlwind in the best way, I love my course and have made a really good group of friends. There is always something to do, whether it is coursework or going on adventures with my friends, so time has flown by!
The greatest challenge has been adjusting back to being a student. This is because I took a gap year where I spent my time volunteering and working before travelling around America for five months. I chose to spend part of my gap year volunteering as this was something I found very rewarding when I did it as part of my Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) unit when studying the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP).
By the time I started at Exeter I was more familiar with being an employee or a traveller than a student. Getting back into a regular schedule and doing coursework was at first a bit of an unfamiliar experience, but it didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things, especially since I enjoy the course so much.
What do you most enjoy at university and have you kept up any of your passions?
Definitely socialising and making new friends has been the highlight for me, already I’ve met so many incredible people who I could see myself knowing for years to come. I have kept up with my passion for writing and journalism, joining a number of societies including the literature society, creative writing society and the university newspaper,’Exepose’.
I actively write for online magazine for university girls, ‘Her Campus’ when I have free time around my studies and have written about my passion for travelling and my trip around America where I reconnected to my heritage. I have also kept up with my athletic/health-related passions, including yoga, hiking, meditation and archery.
You can read all about Madison’s trip around America on her latest Her Campus blog post, http://www.hercampus.com/school/exeter/my-gap-year-across-america
My road trip route across America
How have you found the academic side of your university experience?
The IBDP prepared me above and beyond for university level work, for a number of reasons. As a whole the IBDP helped me because of the high standards it demands from students, meaning that even when you are in year 12 you are writing and thinking at a university level, so when you move from high school to university you are already very prepared.
Also, I think the way the Diploma encourages students to think is a huge advantage, whether it is within the subject or with Theory of Knowledge, because it teaches you to have a critical, cross-discipline and creative academic mind-set which is exactly what you need in university. Lastly, more than anything else the IBDP teaches you how to manage your time and work effectively, and this is how you stay on top of everything and succeed in university.
Do you have any favourite memories from your time at ACS Hillingdon?
I was at Hillingdon from the age of eight until I graduated and have many memories from my time there. I miss so many things, but especially how tight-knit the community was, and the diversity of the school. Being able to work and play every day with classmates from such varied cultural and personal backgrounds was an incredible and unique experience that enriched my learning and myself as a person, and I miss that every day.