Six One (Year 12) student Mariia has won first prize in an essay competition organised by HMC Projects in Central and Eastern Europe, with an impressive and moving piece responding to the question Not Better or Worse but Different: Is This Your Experience of Education in a British Boarding School? Detailing Mariia’s adjustment to joining Benenden from Ukraine, the essay – described by HMC Projects as “outstanding” – combines a lyrical prose style with Mariia’s characteristically open and positive outlook. The essay is a testament to how Mariia’s differences have made her a special part of the Benenden community.
“Being different does not mean better,” Mariia writes. “Nor does it mean worse. “It simply means being different, which you can turn into being special. Into being interesting. Into being exciting. Into being an explorer. And the things you can achieve with this mindset in this wonderful place are countless.” It also pays tribute to the elements of British and Benenden culture that Mariia has embraced, as well as the parts of Ukrainian culture that she and her fellow members of the Ukrainian Society have brought to Benenden – including delicious varenyky, which were very well received in the boarding House!
She writes: “I am very grateful for everyone who is open to learning new things about my culture and asking questions. What makes me different from everyone else here has not stopped me from sharing my otherness – no, rather my specialness – and making new contacts and friends.”
Mariia joined Benenden on an HMC Projects Scholarship in the Summer of last year. HMC’s Scholarship Programme gives students from Central and Eastern Europe the chance to study for two years in a British school of the highest quality. At the start of this academic year, Mariia and three other Ukrainian refugees currently studying at Benenden formed the Ukrainian society, which has been educating students and staff alike on Ukrainian culture since.