One of the things that always amazes me about GIH is the speed with which strong bonds of friendships are formed. On the day that the new Lower Sixth arrive they stand in the GIH garden looking rather shell-shocked, each individual with her own perspective, reflecting the international intake.
Increasingly our intake consists not just of single nationality students, but those with dual nationality and expatriates from many nations, living across the globe. All are strangers to each other and the school, and many are boarding for the first time. Yet a few cups of hot chocolate, a shared evening or two, and already the bonds start to form. Kitty, a member of our Upper Sixth, summed this up: 'Living in an international household has allowed me to approach all those mundane everyday things from countlessly colourful angles. I'm proud to say that my three best friends come from Beijing, Rome and Nairobi.
Take 60 multi-talented, intelligent and friendly girls with diverse backgrounds. Throw in a wonderful team of support staff. Add laughter, fun, tears and homework. That’s GIH!
If GIH has given me anything, it is the indispensable gift of perspective.
Over the year there are many events that help to promote the idea of working together. The first big event of the year is our International Evening, held in November and with the aim of celebrating different cultures. This year the theme drifted from our traditional ideas, and 'The Wild West' was voted in by a healthy majority. When the evening finally arrived, the house was decked out with a variety of props, from the artistic efforts that turned our common room into a saloon, complete with (fake) bullet holes and (empty) bottles, to the rather cheesy inflatable cacti that graced our visitors' room. Choreographed dances, educational quizzes and entertaining songs all featured, and most importantly our students worked together to achieve a memorable evening.
The highlight of the Lent term, in fact probably the highlight of the year for most GIH students, is Leavers' supper. On this night, each of the GIH Upper Sixth invites to supper a teacher who has had a significant influence on their time at Sevenoaks. The Lower Sixth role is to provide the labour that makes this meal happen, and this year they were utterly exemplary in their interpretation of their chosen theme of 'opera'. Decoration planning started weeks in advance, with table flowers carefully matched to table cloths and wall decorations to give a different feel in each room. While the main course was prepared by catering, desserts are the responsibility of the Lower Sixth, and what a magnificent feast they created! In groups of two or three they descend on the kitchen with determination and enthusiasm, creating enough for every guest to have at least three portions, and for the Lower Sixth to sample too. International desserts - what better way to represent the ladies of GIH? It is an evening that shows GIH off to its best; charming and mature conversation with the Upper Sixth at the tables, and slick waitressing from the Lower Sixth. Emotions tend to run high, and it is with tears that our Upper Sixth realise it is nearly time to say goodbye.
But these are just two of the big events that characterise GIH. In fact, the house is all about diversity, and you will find GIH girls involved in PROMO, Gospel Choir, drama, music, sport and VSU. If there is one thing they all have in common it is a desire to make the most out of their relatively short time at Sevenoaks. Their tolerance and enthusiasm is evident throughout all areas of the Sixth Form, and this rich experience adds hugely to the atmosphere in the school.