The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

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The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

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Life on the other side


A distinctive boundary exists in St. John’s Wood, dividing ASL families from the rest of London; 40 percent of ASL families live in St. John’s Wood and 13 percent live in Hampstead, Admissions Systems Administrator Trish O’ Malley, said. ASL has formed a tightly-knit community, difficult to escape, and almost impossible to access as an outsider.

New families often find themselves accidentally immersed in a community of Americans who make little visible effort to integrate themselves within other areas of London. Owen Gaynor (’17), who moved to London last year, said, “most people find it easier to just associate with ASL people.”

For High School Principal Jack Phillips, his London experience has been confined to the ASL world. Phillips confirmed this by saying his time in London has thus far not been markedly different from his time spent in Phoenix, Arizona. “Almost all of my time so far I’m at school or home, predominantly surrounded by Americans,” he said.

Faculty and students seem to be operating in a world entirely separate from London. Alexandra Campili (’15) described the ASL community as an “American town,” as students and faculty alike tend not to extend themselves beyond their community, which represents their comfort zone.

Health Teacher Joy Marchese, however, struck a different note. Marchese said that she has colleagues that she is close to at ASL, but most of her friends come from different communities. Marchese said that she “left the US to have a different life” and so took “took advantage of the incredible opportunities that London has to offer to do culturally diverse activities, and get outside of St. John’s Wood.”

Many students, however, do not feel the need to break outside of the bubble, viewing it as a necessary rift. “I don’t see why we would venture out” said Alisha Ghandi (’15) because she has no way to interact with British communities or people.

Phillips said that if the school does intend to engage more with the community, the effort would need to be “authentic” and “should be built around meaningful activities or work”. If ASL intends to build a healthy bond the relationship should not be entirely based on community service, as the implication would then be that ASL has nothing to gain.

One area of communication with the surrounding community is found through paid work. Students at ASL are often engaged in a variety of work opportunities in London; it is expected that part-time jobs help extract students from the ASL bubble, however most jobs held by high school students are related to ASL in some way.

Many ASL students say their jobs do not get them out of the ASL bubble, and sometimes pull them further into it.

Melina Asnani (’17), who babysits once a week, said, “My job keeps me in the ASL bubble because the kids I babysit live in St. Johns Wood and go to ASL.”

It seems that although working students are making an effort to be outside of the school and create a different environment for themselves, it is a struggle to find a job that does not have a connection to ASL.

Sydney Martin (’16) works for the London Sports Flag Football League, running the concession stand and answering questions for parents or children. According to Martin, her job also keeps her stuck inside the ASL bubble. “It doesn’t get me out of the bubble because most of the kids who play in the league are from ASL,” she said.

Omar Elmasry (’14) is the head umpire for London Sports Baseball. He said that “most of the players are American kids” but “some umpires are actually not from ASL so it does help me get out of the ASL bubble, but I’d say about 70% of the other umpires are from ASL.”

Even a job that is based in South Africa has connections to the ASL world. Audrey Leland (’14) has a job with the Ubuntu Education Fund that she discovered through the school. “My work gets me slightly out of the ASL Bubble but Ubuntu’s very connected to ASL so I am kind of the link between ASL and Ubuntu,” she said.

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  • M

    Mousumi ChatterjeeJan 28, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    We have been an ASL family since 2010, however we’ve lived in London (West Hampstead) since 2001 and have 2 other children in British schools. I feel fortunate that my son (class of 2020) has a variety of friends from the local community and is able to experience life “beyond the ASL bubble”.

    Based on my observations of life at AsL, I completely agree with the opinions in the article. Although a difficult task, it would be huge progress to break this cycle.