We’ve all been to this place called “school," but we've had a different taste of it. Somehow, spending your high school years in a boarding school makes your experience way different from that of a normal school. Take Harry Potter as an example. Harry wouldn’t have been that close to Ron Weasley and Hermione or even have been able to find the Chamber of Secrets if he hadn’t been in a boarding school in the first place. Even though I didn’t live a crazy wizard life like the three of them, going to a boarding school definitely made me a wilder person and opened my eyes about the future.
Out of the thousands of people I met, conferences held, activities I’ve enrolled in and memories I made, it’s the smallest things about boarding school that I miss — things I never thought I would think about until the moment I stepped my foot out of high school.
1. The Food
From different rice sizes and spices stuffed in zucchini, grape leaves and chicken to endless meals that contain cooked vegetables with meat, in the Middle East, each country is engraved with its own cultural heritage and pride, and food happens to take a great part of it.
Arabs love their food, and they’re proud of it. And their absolute joy and worship of food is transmitted to their dishes, making them the best meals you have ever tasted. Since my school contained students from a total of 37 nationalities, our chefs offered various meals such as orange chicken, all pastas, salmon, Mansaf and even America's classic burgers. Being exposed to different food options while still living in a Middle Eastern culture truly expanded my food knowledge and amplified my pleasure as I spent my time in the dining hall.
Besides the diverse meal options my school offered, it’s their Wednesday dinner that I will miss the most — FALAFEL, which is why I had it placed as its own number in this list.
Every Wednesday the dining hall would set different stations that offered humus, beans and falafel. Along with the diverse salad bar options, this dinner meal is truly heaven. As you take that first bite, you feel the crunchiness of the falafel as it reveals the contained chickpeas. Since it’s boiling hot usually, the contained heat is suddenly transmitted to your taste buds, becoming a bedtime melody sprinkled with spices and parsley. Even though nowadays falafel can be found in non-eastern places, it still doesn’t taste the same as it does in Jordan or Lebanon. Going to the U.S. for college and not being able to eat such meal options is something that my taste buds will truly miss.
3. The People
As mentioned, my school has students of 37 nationalities. And with such a diverse community, one would think it’s difficult to merge these students. Well, that’s definitely a misjudgment about diversity. I remember how in my dorm, you would sit in the common area and be able to hear all sorts of languages and accents – Koreans speaking their native language, Arabs calling out on each other and South Africans distinguishing themselves from Americans with their accent. Even though each group had their own style and vibe, they all managed to sit down at one table and discuss ways to improve proctoring in the dorm. They all managed to be friends with each other and spent hours singing together under the showers and gossiping about endless high school rumors. Because every one of us talked so much about our own country and asked curious questions about others, we realized how much we share in common while still differing from one another. I will definitely miss learning curse words from Chinese, French and Siberian students, as well as the cultural rituals they do back home.
4. Its Borders
Having my school located in the suburbs of one of the cities in Jordan, not the capital city, meant less shopping options and activities around us. And because it is located in this huge field with zero shops or nearby buildings, it meant safety was important. Unlike other boarding schools like Deerfield Academy, students couldn’t easily walk out of the gates and cross the street to the ice cream shop or mall in the city. Everything was 15 minutes away by car, and the road was pretty risky for a bunch of teenagers to walk on their own. Thus, we needed permission to go out, usually by having our parents provide transportation or by calling an Uber. However, because the school built high brick walls around the borders of the campus, it felt safe walking in the middle of the night. I was able to move from one dorm to the other, run around campus and sit on the benches under the trees despite how faint the lights were at night. This feeling of security and not having to worry at all about being kidnapped or harassed at night is truly something I will miss as I head off to university.
5. Sign Outs
As I said, borders keep you safe, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make you feel imprisoned as well. Sometimes due to the extra workload and stress, my friends and I would want to extend our vision beyond the walls and borders of the school. Each student is given 12 sign-out permissions for the whole year, meaning you're allowed to leave school in the middle of the week only 12 times, thus we would simply leave the borders of the school in the middle of the week.
Since we were stressed and overwhelmed by the workload, getting out of its borders felt like oxygen entering our lungs again. We would leave campus at 4 p.m. and return back at 10 p.m. From singing out of the window along to the bursting Uber radio, to eating sweets and junks while hanging out in the mall, we did it all in these six hours. Sign-outs simply meant dressing up with your friends and tightening your bond with them. Many of my friendships strengthened because of these hangouts.
Part of the Arab culture is kindness to your neighbor and generosity. Despite the usual breakfast, lunch and dinner meals provided, each dorm received special food according to their desires. My dorm usually had pizza every Sunday, along with fruits for the rest of the week. All the food and delivery expenses were paid by our faculty and school. Extra food is never a sin, especially when it’s your pick.
Their generosity extends to give away gifts for seniors. During parents’ dinner, which was held at school, juniors were our waiters, and dinner was cooked by the school’s chefs. As we were being pampered by our fellow junior friends and welcomed with hugs by our faculty members, we were given free gifts — from decorated pottery to other school tokens that would help us remember all the good times we had here. Not only that, prom and graduation were held at school along with professional photographers hired for the occasion, all of which were paid from the school’s expense. All this generosity and care helps you build this sense of family and personal connection with it.
7. My Family
Being a lonely child has always bugged me. Even though when I moved to boarding school I was away from my parents five days a week, I was five million times closer to people over there. It’s this distance from home that helped me find my own personal Ron Weasley and Hermione.
The girls in my hallway and my friends in other dorms all became part of my family. In our eyes, we were all brothers and sisters. We stayed up every day till 2 a.m. despite check- in, and we witnessed each other's ups and downs. We even reached the point where we knew each person’s personality type. Living with them under the same roof and having them see you when you first wake up creates this sense of trust and feel at ease. I met my non-biological sisters through boarding school. They’ve been with me through every obstacle and journey that my family never got the chance to be part off. My parents only saw me when I came back on the weekends, which is for sure not enough to know someone’s true self.
8. Nature’s Disparity
Living in the Middle East meant witnessing the desert’s dry cold as well as its steaming hot summers. Despite its intense weather and constant change, its contrasting environment makes the hustle worth it. My school’s borders helped contain its green environment from pollution or danger. Inside the borders were fields of grass, trees and running cats and dogs. Gardeners could be seen as well as animal protectors. But out of these brick walls are extensive meadows with yellow grass, dry leaves and the non-existence of trees. It almost felt as if you were living in two different continents despite the fact that you were technically still standing in the same acre. This great contrast between the desert and greenery scene within short distances is seen in the majority of Middle Eastern countries. Witnessing diversity in the school’s community along with its surrounding environment awakens your senses. Each day feels like an endless taste buffet along with endless new memory collections to create.
Those three years I spent in a boarding school marked the beginning of the most exotic, interesting and wonderful moments I’ve ever been through. If you survive high school, then that’s great! But if you survive boarding school, then you’re a champ for sure. The obstacles and experiences you face are more than typical high school drama. It prepares you for the real world.
It definitely helped me grow as a person, and honestly I advise anyone who has a friend, sibling or family member to get them to try boarding school. It’s a whole different game, especially when it’s located in the Middle East!
Lead Image Credit: King's Academy via Facebook