Whenever I tell someone I went to boarding school, the first question I am asked is usually, “What did you do wrong to make your parents send you there?” They are always shocked when they hear me respond with the fact that I actually chose to go to boarding school, despite my parents’ reluctance to leave me 8,000 miles away from home. There is always a stigma attached to the words “boarding school,” making it seem like some type of prison for delinquent teenagers who need to be reformed. Although there certainly are some boarding schools like that, most boarding schools are a wonderful community of people who choose to be there for the unique educational and social experience that regular schools can never dream of providing. Here are eight life-changing reasons why boarding school was the best decision I ever made.
1. I became independent.
Without the ever present shadow of my parents over my head, I had to learn to live on my own and take care of myself in nearly every aspect of my life. Take laundry for example. Who knew there were so many ways to screw up clothes? Not only did I neglect to separate my whites from my colors, but I also stupidly put my dry dirty clothes in the dryer first along with way too much liquid detergent. Needless to say that nearly three hours and $10 later, I was unpleasantly surprised to find my hot dirty clothes sticky with detergent in the dryer. However, without this classic boarding school experience, it would be extremely likely that I would be facing this exact problem when I move into my college dorm, so I am very grateful to have learned this essential life lesson when I did.
2. I learned how to be creative with food.
Living in a dorm room with sub-par dining hall food, no private kitchen and a limited allowance from my parents each week for eating out, I had to learn to be creative with the dining hall resources. I learned that there are at least 12 different ways that a panini grill can be used, including as a stir fryer, which honestly saved my life on shepherd’s pie and meatloaf nights. Oh, and don’t even get me started on hand mixed chocolate banana peanut butter milkshakes (desperate times call for desperate measures), or the things that can be done with a waffle maker!
3. I learned how to adapt quickly to new and uncomfortable situations.
Living on my own without parental guidance forced me to learn to pay attention to the nuances in each and every situation, and adjust to make myself and others feel more comfortable. Moving into a dorm and sharing a building with 43 other girls who I had never seen before in my life was definitely a new situation, but the experience taught me to not let new and unfamiliar circumstances deter me from making some of the best friendships and memories of my life thus far. Without the experience of feeling uncomfortable in a new situation such as living with 43 strangers in a small building, I would simply be stuck in my tiny little comfort zone at home with the same friends and family I’d known for all my life, unable to grow into the daring, adventurous and adaptable person I am today.
4. I developed stronger relationships with those around me.
Because I lived on campus with nearly 300 students and faculty for three years, I was lucky enough to have the ability to get to know and make deep connections with my peers and mentors. I made lifelong friendships, not just with fellow students, but with my teachers as well, which isn’t something that happens at many other types of schools. I got to know my teachers on a personal level. I got to hear their amazing experiences and stories and learn more than just historical events and mathematical formulas – I learned about life from those who had lived it to the fullest. The most valuable lessons I’ve learned weren’t from the classroom; they were from the people around me, students and teachers alike.
5. I learned how to appreciate the people in my life.
Being across the ocean from my parents, and living on a completely different continent, the homesickness was so real. When I had lived with my parents, I never gave a second thought to the fact that they would always be by my side no matter where I was. I took their presence and everything they did for granted. I never imagined that I wouldn’t get to watch movies with my brothers or have lunch at the snack bar with my friends after school. But once I moved across the world to boarding school and I no longer had my people around me all the time, so I learned to value the time I had with them during school breaks. This helped me to realize how important it was that they know how much I appreciate them, especially when I’m on the opposite side of the Earth.
6. I learned to be open-minded.
Boarding schools are often composed of at least 40 different nationalities – people from all different backgrounds, cultures and walks of life. Living with such a diverse group of people for several years, studying with them and eating dinner with them, I was exposed to a variety of fascinating stories and experiences that I had never even imagined could be possible. As a result, I am a much more cultured and open-minded person today compared to the person I was when I first moved into my dorm room three years ago.
7. I learned how to fail.
A boarding school education is difficult by anyone’s standards. Coming from a public junior high school with low demands and expectations, the workload I faced upon my arrival at boarding school was daunting to say the least. I was used to getting straight A’s and being at the top of my class, but seeing my grades at the end of the first trimester, I realized that I would have to work a lot harder if I wanted to do well in my new environment. My first trimester grades may have been a slap in the face, but I learned from my mistakes and failures in order to grow as a student and motivate myself to achieve my goals. Had I stayed at my previous school, I would never have learned this life lesson until college, at least.
8. I learned how to live and work with others as part of a community.
Before boarding school, the thought of having to share my room and bathroom with another person would have made me want to throw a fit. I am a clean and organized person who cannot stand the idea of someone else possibly touching my belongings. However, being forced to share a tiny room with another girl and a communal bathroom with 43 other girls I barely know taught me an important life lesson: to be compassionate and chill out, because I can’t control everything the way I want to. In this way, I learned what it means to live and work with others – I learned how to be part of a community, part of something that is much bigger than just myself.
While I know that there are many great facts and formulas that can be learned in a traditional high school setting, I doubt any could compare to the experience of living with the very people who nurtured me as peers and mentors until I was ready to fly. Going to boarding school meant I was immersed in the subjects I studied, and I learned from and with every person around me. I became a part of every person at my boarding school, and everyone there likewise became a part of me. I am so glad I chose to go to boarding school, because even though it was hard at times, the lessons I learned there could not be learned anywhere else. It was an experience I will never forget and always cherish.
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