Ioanna shares her passion for languages
Ioanna Pampalou, a Year 12 student, grew up in Greece, moving to England when she was 15. With Greek as her first language, Ioanna has not only become fluent in English, but she is also taking German at A-level, alongside Biology, Maths and Physics. We really enjoyed chatting to Ioanna about her move to England, the differences she has found between the Greek and English cultures, her love of languages and her plans for the future.
Tell us a little about your birthplace and your move to England
I was born and grew up in Greece; my birthplace is Chios, an island in the North Aegean Sea. When I was 15, my family and I moved to England. Greek is my first language but I have learned English since I was seven years old. English is a compulsory lesson at school and students learn English from Year 3 until Year 12. Unfortunately, the aim of these lessons is grammar and vocabulary, so there was scarcely any speaking and listening. However, my parents believe that the ability and the skill to communicate in English is very important; so from seven years old, I took English as an extra-curricular activity and when I was ten, I started to learn German too.
I attended Year 11 in Bedale High School. I am really grateful to my teachers and my classmates because they supported me a lot. From the first day I went to school, I felt I belonged and was valued there. I was given many opportunities to develop my knowledge and personality, to adjust to my new environment and meet the expectations of a different educational system.
What influenced your decision to choose to study at Richmond Sixth Form College?
My teachers in Bedale High School, especially Mr Moulding, my Maths teacher, who knew I was interested in Maths and Science, encouraged me to study at Richmond Sixth Form College and Richmond is amongst the best in that field in our area. Then when I visited the Sixth Form open day, I was impressed by the way it was organised, I had the chance to meet some teachers and ask questions. Another reason that led to my decision to study here is that Richmond Sixth Form is a small college, meaning that the selection criteria are to a very high standard and the support offered to students is really personalised. To be honest, I would not dare to be in a huge college hidden behind anonymity and I was not impressed by the marketing of other colleges that I visited, before I made my final decision. Additionally, I really liked that last year, during the first lockdown, the teachers provided us with material and helped us with bridging the gap of our missing education. Finally, the relationships I have built with my classmates and my teachers remind me a lot of my school in Chios.
What are the main differences you have found between education in Greece and in the UK?
I believe that the educational system here is based on different values than the Greek one. Each and every student matters and they are in the centre of the learning process in both systems. However, here you have a more holistic approach, the first priority is the emotional wellbeing and then the academic development of the students. I still remember that Mr. Kelly, my headteacher in Bedale High School had emphasised that I need to like to attend school. In Greece a student must go to school and be a successful student, there is no option not to be a good student, even being an average student is not enough. Additionally, here students can build their own learning plan, they can choose the subjects they like and they are supported to do so. In Greece there is only one pathway with set subjects.
In the UK, there are many practical, hands-on lessons like Textiles, Food Tech, and Design Technology that provide students with skills. Additionally, a great difference is that here students do many practicals in sciences; unfortunately in Greece there is a lack of funds so the teacher can only now and then demonstrate an experiment.
Finally, what I enjoy the most here is that there is no competition amongst students. In Greece, there is a lot of competition for who will be the first in the class, in the school etc. Although I used to be the first student in my school, my classmates didn’t like that, they believed that teachers were fond of me because my parents were teachers.
What are the main cultural differences you have found between the two countries?
The Greeks are noisier and I could say more stressed, probably because of the austerity and the many political problems they have had to face in recent years. However, they have learnt to be more organised than they used to be. Additionally, they have to battle against the lack of meritocracy, unfortunately there is a kind of corruption even for the simplest things, for example if you need to go to the post office but you have a friend that works there you just go to say ‘hello’ to them and you don’t need to wait in the queue.
On the other hand, there are still strong family bonds. The Greeks are more ‘traditional’, they nurture customs and traditions. Families are very supportive and we look forward to gatherings and celebrations in order to be all together.
The English are more tolerant towards different cultures. They are independent and more open to change. I believe that the English are less stressed because they have a well-organised life and there is always a plan B. I like that here there is meritocracy and independence. The lack of gossip is also evident here, everyone minds their own business. I was impressed that you celebrate only birthdays and Christmas. In Greece we used to celebrate every national and religious day! For the majority of the English people everything is just a social event that is celebrated with a bunch of friends. In Greece, there are around 40 people for minor celebrations like birthdays and 250 at least for weddings, everyone enjoys an abundance of food and dance.
What inspired you to choose German A-level and also to take on an A-level in Greek?
In my opinion the knowledge and the ability to communicate fluently in foreign languages are a key qualification for any professional development. Nowadays, Germany is amongst the most powerful countries in Europe, their economy and scientific sector is developed. Additionally, knowing German enables me to access bibliography that I may need for my further studies.
I have taken Greek A-level to honour my country and our civilisation and to certify my knowledge by getting a qualification that is accepted here.
What inspired your interest/passion for languages?
My parents are my role models. My mother has studied English, German, French, Hebrew and my father English and Spanish, also my younger sister learns French. I admire the fact that my mother was an Erasmus+ coordinator in Greece and she could travel in Europe and could communicate with others. I like travelling a lot and I am interested in learning about different cultures so I think the knowledge of a foreign language is essential.
Are you looking to use your languages in your working life?
The ability to communicate is the most important skill one must ensure. Definitely, my knowledge will be helpful for my development.
What other A-levels are you studying?
I love Maths, another language you could say, and Science. Therefore, I am studying Maths, Physics and Biology.
Are you planning to go to university; if so, where would you like to go and which course are you considering studying?
There are a few things that fascinate me like Biosciences, Maths and Astrophysics but I think I need some time to make my final decisions.