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A Tale of Two Cities: Merlin’s Time in the Capital

Back in March, we sat down with a number of past and present students across our five centres to get a better sense of what it means to study at CANDI. The City and Islington College cohort hail from all over the world, creating a real melting pot for ideas, styles and approaches to life. This week, we look at the story of Merlin Bernardini, whose studies with us were his first experience of the English education system.

A Tale of Two Cities: Merlin’s Time in the Capital

Passionate about film and media, Merlin came across City and Islington College while looking for a post-16 course. The comprehensive curriculum along with opportunities outside of class saw Merlin join the college in 2018 from a leading French-speaking school in London.

“There are so many things that are different, such as the hours that you do in college. I’m doing three days a week. At my school I was doing every day eight till six, sometimes seven if we had enrichment activities after class. I think that at college you are more independent. Teachers don’t need to help you necessarily in the same way as they help you in school: a lot of it is down to you.

“It’s not that they don’t mind, but coming here is your choice. If you don’t come to class, it’s you that suffers. At school, if you don’t come to class you get a detention and that’s it. You learn quickly that your life is your responsibility at college. You’re here to learn, and the opportunities are there if you want to take that seriously.”

Merlin’s study programme is built around a Level 3 Creative Media course, which offers insight into all the different dimensions of working in the Media: “We don’t just do filming; it’s also photo-shoots, radio.” For Merlin, the main thing is that it is never a routine. There is always another approach, always another aspect to consider.

When he’s not in class, Merlin works for the college’s internal agency, CANDI Creative. Set up at our Centre for Business, Arts and Technology, the extracurricular activity helps students from the centre’s three disciplines share and combine ideas to provide creative solutions to modern business problems.

“I think CANDI Creative is preparing me for the final major project at university. I’m going onto the next step with a feel for how these big projects work. The thing about studying here and the CANDI Creative path is that we are not just preparing for university, but also for afterwards in the future. Sometimes you have to go behind the scenes and gather more information. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box. That’s what I’m learning to do.

“Aside from that, I’ve been able to work with the Tate Modern through a collaboration with the college. A director told me he liked my work and wanted me to work with them beyond the college project, to film part of a huge event that happened at the museum.”

We talk a little bit about Merlin’s move from a traditional, formal school, and his jump into the English education system. City and Islington College has modern resources for student support and offers students with learning difficulties to sit down and make adjustments that can ensure they get the most out of college.

Merlin said: “I am dyslexic, and I think before my school didn’t know how to help people with dyslexia. It was an inconvenience. At this college, whatever problem you have, the teachers care and give you the time and opportunity to succeed in what you want to do. I now get 25% extra time on exams, which has helped me to finish on time and get better grades. It’s about giving everybody fair and equal chances to get it right.

“For me, City and Islington College is welcoming. I think it’s a place where you can feel like you’re in the right place – not just for studying, but being with other like-minded students and teachers.”


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