What students should expect from boarding school, and how to prepare....by someone who graduated about a minute ago and wrote this for her school paper.
- Do not panic! This is probably the worst thing you can do, it just makes the whole process unnecessarily stressful and may induce premature tears (Parental – not your own)
- Do not believe what those Enid Blyton stories your parents have told you. She is a liar. I mean, each to their own on the dancing elves living in their toadstools, but when it comes to boarding school life, she wouldn’t know the difference between a dormitory and her left hand. Think of it more towards Harry Potter… I’m assuming from leafing through one of those books that J.K. got it right – fairly simple dorms, shared dining but no crazy misadventures. Then again, I went to an Australian school – they’re boring!
- Understand that you will get homesick. You may say now that you will not miss your family; I bet you now that you’ll miss SOMETHING about them. Might just be the sound of your dad snoring on the sofa after dinner… I don’t know, you’ll miss something! I admit that I missed my parents, along with sleeping in my own bed.
- Learn how to launder your own clothes. This is something your mum/dad will be more than pleased to teach you and give you practice in those weeks leading up to your departure. Even if you are going to one of those snooty colleges that does your laundry for you, it’s a life skill to learn (plus it’s not nice to be smelly.)
Things I Learnt and Pass on to You! (These are invaluable skills and you shall thank me!)
- Learn to cry on cue. This shiny little trick I used to get myself out of sticky situations. Usually your boarding mistress/master will check up on you at some point and it is irritating to say the least. The best way out of this is to just start crying and claim homesickness. This can usually be achieved by thinking about poverty in Ethiopia or how Marjorie ruined those new jeans by putting them in the dryer. Just don’t use this gem too often or they’ll cart you off to the councillor… fun fun fun!
- Unless you are on your way to one of those snooty colleges, sometimes school dinners are gross. Believe me, I went to a school where I still swear to this day that I saw a dog food van drive up the hill to our kitchen and have the eyewitnesses to prove it. I have three recommendations for situations such as this.
- Avoid at all costs any meals that have “special” or “surprise” as a prefix to their name. This usually means it contains some form of mystery meat. I chose to stick to the salad bar.
- Tell the school that you are a vegetarian. This results in you having a choice of whether or not to eat the veggo meal or the carnivorous option; more often than not, the vegetarian meal is much yummier.
- Take supplies. Museli bars, dried fruit and nuts are easy to smuggle in and are healthier than vending machine treats. Also pack pot noodles, as they are filling and a good meal replacement. Most schools will have some form of hot water facilities; if not, use the shower!!
- Not everyone is going to be your best friend (take that, Enid!). I’m sure you guys have had tiffs with your mates before, but imagine having to live with someone you’ve had a fight with… sometimes it’s not pretty. All I can say is that it’s good training for when you go out in to the big, bad world. Sorry I can’t offer much advice to you guys on that point, but it’s a learning experience. Not everyone is going to have the same likes and dislikes as you, nor the same opinions as you. The only thing I can recommend to you is to stick to your guns and if people don’t like you for it, they aren’t worth your time. I especially sympathise with those of you who feel like a square peg in a round hole, just try to find someone who shares your values; believe me, there will be at least one! I had a great deal of trouble fitting in, but I did make a handful of good friends who helped me a heck of a lot.
Use the fact that you live with thirty-odd other students when it comes to study/assignments: it’s so much easier to get the work done and a lot more fun!
Never EVER express your dislike of a master/mistress to their face, it will only end in trouble. Take that from someone who has first hand experience… and yet was never punished for it – that crying trick works!
You aren’t going to have much privacy. Take a lockable box/chest to put your valuables and personal bits and make sure that you have some time to yourself for recuperating. I found it helpful, especially if I’d had a bad day, to find a spot somewhere on campus and just chill out. On that note: Take an iPod or similar contraption for distraction, but keep it safe!
Do let the mistresses/masters know where you are. Sneaky way of getting down the shops is to say you are going for a run!
Take up a sport or join a club. Co-curriculars look good on your leaving cert and let you meet other people from other schools; best way to meet cute people of the other gender!
Get a non-boarder to adopt you. This is great for long-weekends or when you want a home-cooked dinner and a hug.
If you need help, ask for it. I had an awesome teacher who looked after me for most of the time I was there, even though I was only in his class once. Sometimes it’s good to have an adult to chat to and most teachers are trained in more than one subject if you are uncomfortable talking to your math teacher.
The biggest piece of advice I have for you is to stay positive. You are going to have good days and bad, but take each day as it comes. Boarding school can be the best or worst years of your life, depending on what attitude you take when you first arrive. Know that homesickness sucks, and that even though you are far away from your folks, they still love you and probably miss you twice as much. I know this is going to sound clichéd, but you HAVE to stay true to yourself. Don’t go changing to fit in with other people at school; you should know this by now. If someone is worth liking as a mate, they have to like you for who you are and should support you through whatever happens.
I hope you all have a great time. You will be fine.