Student Diaries: Leaving School in a Pandemic

As we enter a second year of disruption for students taking their final exams, we decided to get to the heart of what it is to graduate school in a pandemic by having two ambitious young UAE students diarise their final year at school, exclusively for WSA. In the inaugural column, we are delighted to introduce Stefania Cioban, student at GEMS FirstPoint School.
Student Diaries: Leaving School in a Pandemic
By Jenny Mollon
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Stefania Cioban is a Year 13 student at GEMS FirstPoint school.  Stefania will be writing regular diaries for as she progresses through her final year of school...  

My name is Stefania Cioban and I am a Year 13 student at GEMS FirstPoint School.  I am one of the 2021 graduating class, which has come with its ups and its downs!

I originally come from Romania, however I have been attending FPS since 2014 (Year 7). Being at FPS since the start, seeing it change and evolve over the years is something which I take great pride in. I have been able to learn from some incredible teachers who have definitely shaped me into the well rounded student that I am today. The memories I have from this school will be life-long and that’s why this year has been a complete roller coaster!

In terms of my studies, for my A levels I chose to study Mathematics, Business, and Fashion & Textiles. When choosing my subjects, it was important for me to study pathways that both challenge me academically and creatively. Therefore, I can now have the ability to pursue an undergraduate degree of choice that I truly enjoy.

More recently, I have gotten an unconditional offer to study Fashion Business at Polimoda in Florence, Italy. This was incredibly exciting! Polimoda offers one of the best Fashion Business degrees in the world, meaning that I get to be surrounded by some of the most talented individuals in their field and make defining connections, which is crucial in this competitive industry.

Furthermore, being located in Florence, which is an up and coming fashion capital of the world, and home to some of the most iconic fashion houses such as Gucci, is truly inspiring for a passionate individual like myself. Pursuing Fashion Business at an admirable fashion university should allow me to reach my goal of working in a setting in fashion marketing or an editorial position in the professional workplace.  I can't wait!

That said, being a senior student already comes with a lot of pressure and stress, and in addition to this, it becomes a lot more difficult going through this experience while also being in the midst of a pandemic.

As I study the British Curriculum, we are highly affected by the status of the UK when it comes to Covid-19.   Due to the fact that UK schools have been closed for an extended amount of time this year, the government has decided that it would be best if GCSE and A Level exams did not go ahead, meaning that the exams of all other British curriculum students around the world are also cancelled.

This therefore leads us to being graded using an evidence based approach, where our class work and test performance throughout the year is used to prove whether we are capable of achieving certain grades. This has caused a lot of excitement for most students as the pressure of being graded no longer depends on a single exam, but we have the opportunity to show progress through a wider range of different ways, such as classwork, homework and other relevant assignments.

This has not been the case for everyone though; there are a few students which feel like they perform best under the pressure of controlled exam conditions and an evidence based approach has added a lot more onto their plates due to the constant need to submit new high quality work. Overall, although this new change in the grading system has increased our workload in some aspects, we are grateful that we have a lot more control over the final outcome of our grades which definitely relieves a lot of the stress that would come with sitting our 'real' A level exams.

Despite all of this, my school has been very helpful when it comes to dealing with the changes involving new grading systems and what we can do moving forward. We are constantly being updated whenever new information is being released from either the UK government or individual exam boards, which addresses a lot of the anxiety that comes from the uncertainty of what our next steps are.

FPS has also implemented a mentoring system where each student gets the chance to get individual help from a member of the senior leadership team. There, we can talk about our struggles and concerns regarding school work, or just use it to talk about our well-being. This is very helpful as students feel heard and cared for, as well as it allows us to gain personalized advice on how we can improve moving forward.

Stefania will be writing for until she graduates from GEMS FirstPoint School in summer 2021.  Look out for her next diary entry soon!

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