Everything You Want to Know About Life at Boarding School
Have you always wondered what to expect when you go to boarding school in the UK? Is it like Harry Potter’s Hogwarts? What is it like to stay in a boarding house? What about the meals? What happens on the weekends? To answer your questions, one of our consultants shares her experience as a sixth form student at Sevenoaks School.
It’s 7:00 am and my alarm promptly buzzes. The three other girls in my four-person sharing room rush to get ready and dress in our formal school uniforms (it includes a tie and blazer!) and walk 10 minutes to the cafeteria for breakfast. I straighten out completely and snooze my alarm. The plan is to fool my housemistress into thinking that I have already left for breakfast as she inevitably goes to each room every morning to check that all the students are on their way. It’s 8:20 am and I wolf down the muffin my friend snuck out for me. Now we wait in anticipation for our daily house meeting and registration. Mrs Greenhalgh, our head of house, goes through the day’s agenda and we then leave for our first classes at 8:50 am.
This was a typical weekday morning at my boarding school. As with most boarding schools in the UK, all boarders were divided into several houses and I was assigned to GIH–Girls’ International House. My house comprised fifty grade 11 and 12 girls from all over the world living together in a series of traditional English cottages. We had two communal kitchens for snacks while all our three main meals were eaten in the cafeteria.
From 8:50 am till 4:00 pm, our day was interspersed with hour-long classes, breaks and free blocks. In between classes, we had 10 minutes to make our way through the sprawling green campus. My first morning break was at 10:45 am–a quick 20 minutes to run to the library and finish any pending homework, catch up with friends or eat a snack. More classes followed, after which we had a break for lunch at 1:05 pm. For those of you wondering about vegetarian options, there was always a good jacket potato or pasta from which to choose. Lunch was followed by more classes, extracurricular activities, sports or community service, depending on the day.
Once the school day was officially over, we were free to participate in more activities, spend time around campus with friends, go back to our boarding house or step into the quaint Sevenoaks town for some shopping. Supper started at 5:30 pm–a bit early for my Indian lifestyle but I got used to it! Following this, we headed back to our boarding house by 6:30 pm where we spent the next two hours doing homework. By 8:30 pm my growling stomach would lead me to the communal kitchen to whip up some pasta or grilled cheese, after which we would gather around the television to watch a show. Our housemistresses would come around by 10:00 pm to usher everyone back to their rooms for the night.
On weekends or holidays, the boarding houses hosted field trips, which ranged from rock climbing or mountain biking, cinema trips or even laser quest, along with parties or events such as cooking a meal for the teachers or cultural evenings. This was a great way for me to bond with the other students and the school faculty.
My two years at boarding school were an incredible learning experience. Living with 50 girls from all over the world allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and embrace new traditions and appreciate new perspectives. In between the classes, homework and extracurriculars, we also always found time to have a bit of fun with weekly fashions shows, binge-watching old movies and a lot of chatting about our lives and families. In fact, we all grew to become each other’s families away from home. We became the support system when someone was low and shared in the celebration for every success!
If you are thinking about a boarding school education, here are some steps that you can take to make the process smoother and assimilate better:
- Visit the school if you can during the term. This way you can get a sense of the general atmosphere and buzz on campus. Small things such as noticing the way students wear their uniforms or what kind of book bags they carry can help you feel more comfortable on your first day.
- Talk to one or more current students to get an insight into their personal experience. This will help you to get comfortable with being away from home and also help you get deeper insights into life as a boarder and understand what it entails.
- Learn how to manage your time efficiently. You will probably have a tight schedule with academic classes at school but the rest of the time as a boarder will be used at your discretion. You will need to manage your time socialising with school friends, doing homework, taking some personal time and staying in touch with friends and family back home.
Attending a boarding school away from my home and family did come with some challenges, but as I reflect back on those two years, I fondly remember how they helped me grow and shaped me into the person I am today.
Here are some more reasons to consider a boarding school education. To read more about applying to boarding schools in India, click here. If you are looking at boarding school options in the UK, read this article. Alternately, if you are considering a boarding school in the US or Canada, go through this blog post, and this for boarding schools in Switzerland.