MY JOURNEY THROUGH GEMS CIK- Francine Gasasira- Founding Student. Sept 2013 – Dec- 2017

I vividly remember trying on my new school uniform as the summer holidays of 2013 started to come to an end; in my parents’ bathroom. My stomach swarmed with what people describe to be butterflies, representing my excitement and nervousness intertwined, as a series of “what-ifs” flooded my mind.

A week later, GEMS Cambridge International School, Kampala, more commonly known as GEMS or CIK held their first assembly ever – opening with 60 primary school students. In my class, at the top of the school there were only 8 students: Oriana and Jose from Venezuela, Ananya from India and Manuela, Joel, Rachael, Mark and myself from Uganda. At first, I observed my classmates from a distance and familiarized myself with the new environment, but it wasn’t long before I opened up to my new community and made strong bonds with people that I am still very close to today. Ms. Brittany, my former teacher did not only teach us the required academic content, but she also taught us lifelong skills such as being kind, looking for one another and loving holistically. Before we knew it, we had formed a close-knit community within GEMS. The small numbers of the school made it much easier to form friendships regardless of year group, age, religion or culture – at school we were all GEMS.

Because the school was new, we experienced more changes than the average primary school student was. However, the many changes, good, bad or ugly, shaped our experience in such a beautiful respect.

Soon, our little family of 8 began to expand like a balloon slowly filling up with air. At the end of the year, when we sat for our checkpoint exams the class had nearly tripled in number. Due to the conducive, encouraging environment, I excelled in my checkpoint exams; receiving a perfect score in Mathematics. The following year, I was granted a scholarship to join GEMS Secondary, due to my academic as well as sporting achievements.

The school started to rapidly grow, with more people joining the GEMS Community. My little class of 8, quickly multiplied to one that was split into two streams of about 21. From English with Mr. Martin, Music with Mr. Dennis, the London trip with Mr. Paul to juicy changing room banter that often made us late for P.E; my GEMS experience slowly became embellished with memories and friendships that I still cherish very deeply today. All the swimming galas, interhouse basketball competitions, Christmas bazars, piano lessons and other after school activities and many more, still strongly resonate with me today. The little things such as walking with my friends to the shop to buy a packet of juice after basketball practice are really what I miss the most. Our diverse student body and teaching/administrative staff taught me how to deal with people that I wouldn’t usually tolerate and our frequent changes taught me to adapt to change efficiently.

Fortunately, I did very well in my second set of checkpoints, which I wrote in Year 9, the year I like to call the best year of my life. Like all good things, my journey at GEMS came to an end after only one term of Year 10. Despite the fact that it was only a term, it gave me a little head start with regards the IGCSE Syllabus, which was of tremendous help. I also started playing a new sport, netball, which I still love playing today.

In January 2018, I relocated to the UWC school is eSwatini, Waterford Kamhlaba, where I wrote my IGCSE exams. Because it was extremely hard to leave Uganda and the GEMS community, it took me a little while to adjust to the Swazi culture and bigger, more overwhelming community at Waterford. However, I managed to find my place and emerged at the top of my class after the IGCSE exams we wrote in October-November 2019, with 6A*s and 3As.

Although falling outs, petty drama, teacher changes and blue days were common I really wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I feel very privileged to have attended GEMS CIK as my complexly beautiful experience there shaped who I am today, allowing me to reach great, great heights.