Going to boarding school
boarding; boarders; rural; school; schools; education; friendships;
What is boarding school?
Most kids go to school during the day and come home to their families or caregivers at night.
Sometimes kids can't go home every night so they 'board' or live at school during term time and go home during the holidays.
There can be a lot of reasons for this.
- Maybe the kid lives way out in the bush and there are no schools nearby.
- Maybe the local area school is only for primary or middle school kids.
- Maybe parents have to travel a lot.
- Maybe the kid has a disability and needs to live in a special type of school.
- Maybe parents went to boarding school and want their kids to go too.
- Maybe the kid has a special interest or talent and needs to go to a special school far away from home.
- Maybe the kid comes from another country because his parents want him to be educated at that particular school.
- Maybe the kid needs a fresh start somewhere else for some reason.
Boarding school can be a great experience for kids, but it is a big change from living at home with the family, and change can seem very scary at first.
Whatever the reason for going to boarding school, the result is the same. Kids are away from their families for most of their time - usually for several years. Life will be different for the kid and the family.
Making the decision about boarding school can be a stressful time for everyone. All of you need to talk about it.
- Talk about the reasons for your going to boarding school. What do you expect, what do your parents expect from you?
- Talk about the school you will be going to. Look at the information on the school, check out their website, talk to other kids who are there already or will be going there.
- What kind of accommodation will you be living in? How many others will you be sharing a room with?
- What will you do at weekends?
- What extra activities are there, eg learning to play a musical instrument?
Make a list of anything that worries you and talk it through with your family.
- Visit the school with your parents before the decision is made.
- Take a list of questions with you to ask the teachers or other kids so that you have a better understanding of what it will be like.
- Talk about what will happen on long holidays and long weekends.
- Go away on a camp or summer school trip so that you have some experience of living with, and getting along with, people you don't know well.
- Talk about your feelings about being away from home.
Keep talking and asking questions until you and your parents or caregivers feel comfortable about the decision.
Knowing that something is going to happen gives you time to prepare your mind, as well as your clothes and the other stuff that you will need. The school will send lots of information about what you need to take and what you can't take with you.
Living with a group of people is very different from living with your family. You have to learn to get on with others, be responsible for looking after your own stuff and follow the rules that are there to make everyone's life pleasant and safe.
You could get yourself ready by:
- keeping your room tidy at home
- organising your belongings so that you know where everything is
- keeping up with your schoolwork
- learning how to wash and care for your clothes, shoes and sports equipment
- learning how to make simple meals - some schools may have a kitchen where boarders can make their own snacks sometimes.
- marking your name on all the stuff that you will take with you
- talking to kids you know who are already going to boarding school
- getting to know anyone who will be going to that school from your area - if you do your lessons at home through 'School of the air' (Open Access College) then you may be able to 'talk' to others in your class who are going to boarding school too
- checking if your future school has a 'buddy' system, where another student from the school will email you before you go and help you when you get there
- organising how you will keep in touch with your parents, e.g. email, letters, regular phone calls, a mobile phone - a phone card could be useful
- arranging how to keep in touch with friends from school or around home
- talking about your feelings with mum, dad and other family members
- talking about an allowance and maybe organising a debit card so that you can get pocket money
- organising music, video or computer games that you want to take
- taking photos of home, pets, and friends, etc. to take a bit of home with you
- save some photos onto your computer, or have a digital photo frame
- Remember that you will have only a small personal space, so don't get carried away!
- reading the info from the school and talking about subjects, sports, clubs and activities that you would like to do
- having a good clear out and tidy of your stuff at home.
Check out some of the topics on this site they may help you.
- Changing schools
- High school, no worries!
- Making friends
- Going to high school
in the swing of things
The first few days at any new school can be stressful.
Being a boarder will mean that you have probably already met the other new kids who are also boarders before the rest of the students arrive. You may be living in a house with a few others, sharing a room with one or more others, sleeping in a dormitory with a lot of others. All these kids will be feeling just as nervous and strange as you.
So, how can you settle down quickly?
- Unpack and put your stuff away.
- Put out your photos.
- Be friendly to the other kids - they're just as nervous as you.
- Be a good listener.
- Check out the timetable. There will be time organised to show you round so that you know where everything is and how to get there.
- Join clubs, sports or interest groups. You don't have to be an 'A' team player to enjoy sport. It's supposed to be fun!
- Understand that it is quite normal for you to feel homesick at times. Be understanding towards others and they'll be understanding towards you.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Join in!
- Follow the rules.
- Work hard and keep busy.
- "Remember that the other new students are probably as shy as you are. If you don't talk first and try to make friends, it may not happen."
- "Make sure you get to know as many people as possible."
- "Take and make the most of opportunities."
- "Don't bottle things up inside you. The more you talk the easier it gets. You can talk to older boarders as well as adults. They understand what you are feeling; they've been through it too."
- "Just be yourself. Trying to be 'super cool' all the time is just too hard!"
- "Try to get involved in things and meet people right at the beginning. You don't have to be great at everything, just give it a go."
- "Get to know people and be friendly, as you are living with these people like brothers and sisters."
- "Talk to your parents on the phone, write emails or letters at regular times. Remember that being separated is hard on them too, but they are giving you a great opportunity."
- "Be respectful of other's space and give them privacy. Having people around all the time means you don't get much time to yourself."
- "Decorate your room and get a really bright quilt cover so that it looks homely."
- "Bring some little snacks with you that you can eat if you feel hungry."
- "Bring your laptop if you have one."
- "Get to know the school buildings before your first day of school so that you won't get lost and be late for your first lesson!!"
- "Be ready to join the biggest family you'll ever have, but still keep in touch with home. It will help you to deal with the change."
- "Join sports and other after school activities. You'll meet lots of new people who are interested in the same things as you. You'll find heaps of great friends, and keeping busy will help you get over feeling homesick."
- "Try not to bring too many expensive or sentimental items. It is disappointing if they go missing or are broken."
- "If you are a weekly boarder or go home most weekends it can be harder to make friends, so see if you can organise to stay in for a weekend. It makes it a lot easier."
- "Abide by the rules. They are there for a reason and if you fail to follow them the consequences could be serious."
- "Don't get carried away with having lots of social time. You need to be organised and work hard if you are going to make the most of this opportunity."
- "Don't expect it to be easy. If you have a bad day then think that the next day will be better and work towards it. There are always people who will listen, understand and help you."
- "Make friends with non-boarders too. It's good to visit someone's home sometimes."
- "This is my first year of being a boarder. When I came here I was really quiet and scared to talk to people. I wouldn't go to the Common Room for days. Slowly I began to make friends and started to fit in. Now I know most people's names and everyone tends to get along. Living in a Boarding house is like living in one big family. I miss home but I know that I want to be back here next term."
- "Being a boarder is a good way to get to know people from other year levels because living in a Boarding house you don't just hang out with people in your own year. It is not unusual for a year 8 to be best friends with a year 11 student.
- "Boarding has its ups and downs, you get homesick and sometimes the food is not that great but most of the time it is like being in one big family. You make friends that you know you'll keep for the rest of your life."
Kate and Kim say
"Lots of kids go to boarding school. If the decision has been made for you to go to boarding school then find out as much as possible before you go. Talking over your worries with adults, friends and older boarders will help you. With modern technology it is easy to keep in touch so that you can still feel part of the family even though you are away from them."
If your friend has gone to boarding school keep in touch regularly so that both of you can continue your friendship.
We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.