From Us to England, and back again


courtesy of Matthew Hoffend

After having spent two years studying in England, sophomore Matthew Hoffend has adjusted to life back in the U.S. while retaining some of the customs of his English experience.

“This is totally the bee’s knees.” He laughs as the friends around him begin to cock their heads in confusion. He responds, “Don’t be such wind-up merchants,” and continues to smile when someone finally asks, “What does that even mean?”

courtesy of Google Maps

Matthew Hoffend, sophomore, was meant to spend 18 months in the U.K. but his family extended their stay to two years, and he still showcases his time there in what he does.

He walks into his first period English 2 Honors class moments before the bell rings, not with any rush, but the usual swagger in his walk that says he has no worry at all about making it to his seat before the start of class.

He dresses as though he still lives in the U.K. with much more proper attire than the rest of the sophomore boys who prefer sweats and hoodies; he contrasts with a button up shirt and khakis almost every day.

“Since [the U.K. school] was a private school, people only dressed in designer clothing and cared about how they looked. People wouldn’t wear sweats or pajamas,” Hoffend said.

He walks over to a pod of girls’ desks offering a casual “Hey Genny,” or “Hey Rachel,” and in the background, the guys across the classroom joke at how someone with a 5-foot tall statue can befriend girls with such ease. He picks up a conversation about whatever is new in their life or comments on the numerous rigorous assignments they have. 

At the end of each day, he stops in the hallway to discuss the day with whomever he passes, again offering a casual, “Hey,” before heading out to the blue Subaru in which his mom picks him up in every day. Tossing his firetruck red backpack in the backseat of the car and hoisting himself into the front seat, he divulges the details of the day to his mother.

To some, he is an intense defender on the lacrosse field, to others, a jokester in the classroom, a fierce competitor of a golf course, and even more so, a smiling face in the hallway. Known to some as “shark,” he’s the kind of person you won’t miss if you’re in class with him.

“During his freshman year, when he just transferred into my PE class- the unit was swimming.  He was such a graceful swimmer that he earned that nickname (shark),” said Coach Gebhart, Hoffend’s freshman P.E. teacher.

According to his neighbor, Lauren Theoharous, most Hinsdale residents, if given the opportunity to live somewhere else, would want to. Matthew Hoffend had this opportunity not by choice, but because of his dad’s job. Living both here and in England has given him a different perspective on life as a whole.

“A company that [my dad] used to work for offered him a position, but legally he could not work for that company in the U.S., but internationally he could,” Hoffend said. “I am a more cultured person from living in England especially after visiting a lot of other places in Europe.”

He was 13 when he left for England in 2014. For most, middle school is an awkward time of change and self-discovery, for Hoffend, he experienced all of this while moving across the country. During this time of change, he even developed a British accent saying words like “Mum” instead of “Mom.”

A day in the life for Hoffend in England consisted of rugby, golf, soccer, or lacrosse, any of which could be played with the 120 other 8th graders at recess. The block schedule at his school meant only one class two to three times each week for one hour. After school, he could spend time binging out on any of the popular Netflix shows in the U.K. (that aren’t necessarily top picks in the U.S.)  like Suits, Midsomer Murders, Downton Abbey, and Sherlock. 

Coming back to school and life in America was very difficult for Hoffend, given that his best friend had moved away, and others had made new friends. The transition from a private to a public school was a “culture shock” for him.

One teacher, in particular, made it easier for Hoffend to adjust to his new life in America. Weight training instructor, rugby coach, known for his go-getter and harsh teaching style, an unlikely friend for Hoffend, Coach Gebhart assisted him in adjusting to life in Hinsdale.

“I was is Gebs gym class for freshman year. He would joke around with me especially in the swimming unit and it was really fun. It was nice to have a teacher that seemed like he cared about you,” Hoffend said.

Coach Gebhart speaks highly of Hoffend, describing him as hard working, determined, and driven to make the best version of himself. 

As for plans to return, Hoffend doesn’t know if he’ll study there again, but can see himself certainly visiting. 

“I can’t decide between the U.S. and England, especially since I got adjusted back to living here. There are both positive and negative aspects of living in both,” Hoffend said.