Photo Credit Jan Garrison
With bagpipes in tow, Alex Jeffirs prepares for her English Speaking Union journey.
August 21, 2015

Anybody who complains about donning their Culver Academies uniforms after a summer off should contact Alex Jeffirs ’15. Has she got a look for you.

Jeffirs is one of three English Speaking Union students who will be attending public boarding schools in the United Kingdom. Noah Trevino will be in Southwold and Dana Brown will be in Yorkshire. Bradley Truel II will be in Argentina as part of a special ESU program. Considered the high school equivalent of a Rhodes Scholarship, the English Speaking Union matches American high school graduates with these prestigious schools. Culver traditionally hosts one or two students from the United Kingdom as part of the exchange program.

Jeffirs’ will be attending Christ’s Hospital, West Sussex, an episcopal school started in 1552 by King Edward VI to care for and educate the orphan children of poor Londoners. The uniforms, complete with long blue coats and yellow socks, have virtually remained unchanged for more than 460 years. Along with outer blue coats, the boys wear breeches and the girls wear pleated skirts. The white cotton shirts include “bands,” similar to those worn by English barristers, according to the school’s website.

The Christ's Hospital uniforms.

The Christ’s Hospital uniforms.

It is about as close to Hogwarts as you can get, and Jeffirs just recently had to send the school her measurements since the uniforms are still provided free of charge to all the students.

“(The measurements) were pretty intricate,” she said. And since the school handles all the students’ laundry, she has been sewing name tags in all the clothes she is planning to take with her when she leaves Aug. 29.

Jeffirs became interested in the English Speaking Union program through Robbie McKinnis ’11, who also participated in the program. She talked with the Director of College Advising Corky Miller-Strong and Associate Director Laura Weaser about whether it would be a good fit for her.

One of the requirements of the ESU is that all students must be accepted into a college. Students then request a one-year deferment, which Jeffirs received from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.

“They were very easy to work with,” she explained. Rollins encourages students to take advantage of study abroad opportunities, especially for music majors, which Jeffirs plans to be when she enters in the fall of 2016. She isn’t sure if any of the classes she will be taking will translate into college credit like the Advancement Placement classes can, but she believes they will certainly add another level of experience.

Jeffirs hasn’t received a class schedule yet, but she knows she will be going through a two-day orientation and then classes will start shortly after that. With longer breaks between grading periods and during the winter holidays, she won’t be finished until late June or early July. And she is hoping to take advantage of that extra time by traveling.

The one unusual item she will be taking to Christ’s Hospital will be her bagpipes. As a member of the Culver Pipes & Drums, Jeffirs has been asked by the Christ’s Hospital officials to bring her instrument so she can perform for the students and possibly give a few lessons. She admits that it sounds a little backwards for a girl from Argos, Ind., to be teaching students in England how to play the bagpipes. “They’ll probably say, ‘Crazy American,’” she laughed.

Jeffirs is also planning on singing in the Christ’s Hospital choir, something she did at Culver. She was part of the group that traveled to Rome for the International Choral Festival in 2013. She has also traveled through the European Union thanks to Global Pathways Spring trip. This will be her first time to England.

After her ESU stint is over, though, Jeffirs will be meeting up with other members of the Culver Pipes & Drums as they travel through Ireland and Scotland for a few weeks next summer. There are only about two weeks between the end of school and the beginning of the tour, so Jeffirs is planning on just staying in London before joining the group in Dublin.

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