Park House graduates have gone on to accomplish great things all over the globe. We had the chance to reconnect with one of our Alumni, Ben Philip recently and he shared some amazing memories of his time at school.
Ben was part of the 2011 Graduating Class at Park House English School. After receiving his BA (Hons) in Journalism from Robert Gordon University in 2015, he has had some interesting roles as a journalist and TV presenter. He is currently a Senior Journalist for the BBC in Scotland.
When asked about his memories of Park House he had this to say:
“I have very fond memories of my time at Park House English School. My classmates and teachers were extremely welcoming and supportive. The school community was genuinely like a family who looked out for one another. I had come from a school that was double the size, with double the student population.
I arrived in Doha during a great period of change. The city had just hosted the 2006 Asian Games – the city was like a giant building site and Park House too had its own expansion plans. A new wing of the school was built with new science labs and a sixth form building was established to welcome Year 12 and 13 pupils.
I was part of one of the first cohorts to use the sixth form common room. Something that I firmly recall, is the feeling of relief at being able to wear black trousers rather than the green ones we’d had to wear in Year 7-11! I made a lot of good memories during that period of my life and the way in which the school supported me enabled me to believe in myself and embrace the opportunities that followed leaving school.
The main value at Park House was always to ‘Be Kind’. Heather Brennan, the founder of the school was my Headteacher when I first arrived in Doha. I remember she always asked pupils to be kind because everything else would fall into place if we stuck to that ethos. This is genuinely something I have always tried to take with me in my own personal journey. However, the other values of pride, honesty, enthusiasm and success developed my confidence, independence and resilience to meet the challenges of life.
Something Park House was brilliant at was extra-curricular activities. I loved representing the school in football, volleyball, badminton, and cross-country. There was also the special highlight of representing the school at the Model United Nations in St Petersburg, Russia. A trip I will always remember, not least because of how cold it was after travelling from sunny Qatar, but because of how much I got out of the trip. It was a chance to speak to other like-minded students from schools all over the world, develop our communication and public-speaking skills and also learn about the history of another country. It’s no secret that my favourite A-Level history topic was the Cold War and Russian Revolution. Actually visiting Russia brought much of my learning about these subjects to life.
Another highlight was the genuine support from teachers who cared about pupil success. During Year 13, I was one of two pupils studying A-Level Geography. I left the school with an A* and a Cambridge Learners Award for achieving the highest grade in the world from all those who sat the exam. Something I don’t think would have been possible if it weren’t for the one-to-one teaching.
For pupils reading this now, it might be difficult to realise and appreciate how lucky you are to attend a school like Park House – one of the most prestigious schools in Qatar and the Middle East. A place where everyone is equal and has a chance to succeed and achieve what you make possible.
What advice do you have for current sixth-form students?
Like most journalists, I’m an obsessive note-taker and hoarder of materials which one day might come in handy. I have dived into my personal archives and retrieved a written speech from a Park House awards evening on Monday 20th June 2011 – this would be the last time I would address the school as Head Boy alongside Head Girl, Fiona Smith and Sports Leader, Hazel Blythe.
The awards night was to celebrate and reflect on the many achievements and experiences of Park House students over the academic year. However, it was also an opportunity for us to say goodbye and pass on any advice to younger students.
Here are a few excerpts from the speech:
Fiona opens the event by reflecting on her own personal journey since arriving at Park House 15 years previous:
“It is hard to believe that it was 15 years ago that I put the Park House Uniform on for the very first time, but what is even harder to believe is the fact that it will now be stored away forever. The friendships, the memories and the lessons learnt since entering Park House are things we will cherish forever.”
Towards the end of the speech I reflect on my own personal journey since arriving at the school in 2007:
“Being Head Boy of such a multi-cultural community has been a real privilege. I fondly recall telling my family back home in Scotland how I regularly find myself in situations sitting at a table with someone from Iraq, Venezuela, Jordan, Australia and Germany. I felt incredibly welcomed when I arrived here at the school and I hope this continues for others.
“On numerous occasions throughout this year I have suddenly realised that this is in fact the last time. The last time I attend registration, the last time I experience the laugher and learning of everyday school life and the last time I may ever see some people in the common room. What has become such a familiar setting will most certainly be missed. It is for this reason that I say to all students, make the most of your time here. Do as much as you can while you are here because it’s not long before you are heading home from school for the very last time.”
My views on this haven’t changed. I feel very privileged to have lived in a place like Qatar and attended such a supportive and encouraging school like Park House. For many in the expat community, living in Qatar is temporary. However, the opportunities and experiences you have will never leave you and I would urge anyone reading this to make the most of your time there.