Becoming British Without Leaving Home
Today we have a guest post from a new friend of mine, Silvina Jover-Cirillo. Silvina was born in Argentina, grew up in Uruguay, and now lives in the US. I was intrigued by Silvina’s British schooling in Uruguay and thrilled when she offered to write this guest post. Enjoy!
If somebody would have asked me back in the 80’s and 90’s, it would have never crossed my mind that I, upon my arrival to the U.S., would know more about British people than Americans.
My parents chose for me a private “British” school to give me the opportunity to learn English, but little they knew it would become much more than that.
I entered the doors of St. Catherine’s School –a fully bilingual school- in Montevideo, Uruguay at the young age of 4 years old, and was released back to the world at 17.
So, how is a bilingual education implemented in Uruguay?
Usually, school starts at 8 am and finishes at 5 pm and, depending on the teachers assigned to your class, English is taught in the morning and Spanish in the afternoon, or vice-versa. The beauty of the system relies on the fact that the immersion is not done in the form of a language class, but rather you live and breathe the British culture through regular classes in English such as geography, history, mathematics, or whatever class is needed to comply with the requirements set forth by the Ministry of Education.
Moreover, a few other factors contribute to the British atmosphere and cultural learning: English teachers are usually British natives; international compulsory English examinations such as spoken test offered by the Trinity College London, First Certificate in English through Cambridge University, and the international version of the British General Certificate of Secondary Education, wrapped by the option of pursuing the International Baccalaureate parallel to the regular high school curricula allow the children and young adults to enjoy the same type of education as any other kid in Great Britain. Furthermore, Scottish dance, field hockey, and rugby were among the most popular extracurricular activities.
English-only policies and end-of-the-year plays in English complemented our language immersion, which can be topped by the fact that I remember learning “God Save the Queen” before my own national anthem. I am the result of the combination of all these activities…and more.
Looking back, as a mother of a 5-year old boy, I am both grateful and amazed at how my parents were able to take me from one place to the other in order for me to fully enjoy this type of education!
So, eight years ago, when I met my husband (a native of St. Augustine, FL), I could be described as follows: A young, wannabe barrister living in her grandfather’s flat; loves to wear trousers with cardigans or pullovers in her favourite colour, which is blue; and likes to enjoy a good night out at the cinema.
Interestingly enough, I have never visited Great Britain.
Now, after 6 years in the U.S., I seem to be fully trained in Americanisms with isolated cases of Britishisms, which are usually made aware to me by my own son.
Today, with my family spread out throughout 4 different continents and 7 countries, my foreign education provided in my own backyard has given me not only a theoretical type of knowledge, but also an open mind to understand the fact that this world is vast and diverse, allowing me to consider myself a citizen of the world.