Boarding school made me the person I am today
Being away from home since I was 13 made me stronger and more independent
Ah boarding school. Everyone’s read a story or watched a movie or a TV show where boarding school plays an instrumental role in turning a naughty child into a great person. There are late night feasts, strict matrons, and sneaking out to meet boys. Most of this is exaggerated.
I essentially spent five years watching Netflix, and ordering takeaways, with lessons thrown in. It sounds great, but to be honest it was fairly boring. I think I only ever snuck out once, and only had the occasional cig and slug of wine, and even that was only when it was legal (my house mistress was very strict, okay, and I liked the fact I was good kid). While some people feel helpless and alone, others, like myself, thrive.
As the elder sibling, I always had an element of responsibility, but when I left at 13 I was a spoiled little shit. While some may say that being sent to boarding school would make that worse, for me it did the opposite. Being made to look after my own stuff, and having to clean up after 40 girls, I became a much more responsible person. It sounds stupid, I know, but the fact that I was now having to do stuff for other people, made a much more considerate person. Making my bed every morning is a habit that I still have never got out off, if I try to leave without doing I feel horribly guilty. Possibly the only reason that I knew how to change my sheets when I got to uni was because I did it every week at boarding school.
Boarding school not only made me cleaner (my mum was so happy) but it also made me more caring and responsible of my surroundings. I would like to destroy this myth that boarding school is full of cleaners who do everything for the pupils – it’s not. The amount of times I’ve had to clean butter out of sofa seats where people have dropped toast in the common room is far too high for anyone normal human.
I think the most defining moment I had, was probably in my first year. While I never really encountered bullying, one of the older girls did not like me (I was very loud, and probably very annoying). She put her camera in my tuck box (snack box) earlier in the day then walked in an accused me of stealing it at bedtime. For an insecure 14 year old, this was horrible. I cried and cried, until she came in and told me she was joking.
Horrifyingly, she thought this was funny. She told me to stop being such a baby. While this is a pretty messed up story, it taught me that not everyone was going to be nice to me, and showed me that no matter what bitchy people do to you, your friends will always stand by you. The girls in my room, who at this point didn’t know me that well, stood up for me. The hierarchy is intense, so this in itself was a brave move. The whole evening was a nightmare, but it taught me a really valuable life lesson.
The other life skills I learned range from being able to butter toast without a knife (toast was a big element of boarding school, okay, it literally was the only thing I’d eat some days), to being able to live in the same room as people I despised. This was a great foundation for living in halls, but it made me much more confident. If you ask any of my halls flatmates, I was very chatty on the first day, and immediately wanted to know everything about them. It did however, give me some annoying habits.
I literally have no sense of personal space. Like, I will walk in on you while you are showering and have a chat, simply because me and my friends would all shower at the same time. Equally, I will take food off your plate without asking. Imagine if you will, having to eat school food constantly (even though ours was pretty good) – when there was something you like you took it off someones plate. It was a dog eat dog world, no wonder I was so fat.
I also learnt that it is never, ever, a good idea to drink cheap wine when you have to be up at 7:15 in the morning. One of the very few times I drank in school, was after my house soiree (a concert type thing, it was weird, I’m not sure how to explain it). My year and I took the remaining wine bottles that had been provided for parents, and smuggled them into our house. Smash cut to 2am and I am wine drunk and have to be up in five hours. It was awful. Have you ever been to an Economics class hungover? I would not recommend it. Since this day, you will never, ever see me drink wine if I have to be up early.
I’ve always maintained that boarding school is not for everyone. I had friends who hated it, and hated having a very strict structure around you, but for some people it can be the making of you. For me, it made me value my mornings, and made me shower really damn fast. But I think the most important thing it taught me, was to value the women around me.
The girls I lived with for five years each gave me something special which I value so much. The strong women who guided me through my teenage years, made me into a very strong feminist, and it gave me such an amazing foundation for my future. I learnt that it is OK to be yourself, but it is also OK to want to be like other people. I learned that while you can always work harder, sometimes, there is literally nothing you can do but your best.
Finally, I learned that no matter how much you think you life sucks, there will always be someone who can’t go home on a snow day because they’re stuck in a boarding house, where their house mistress won’t let them out, because it’s “too dangerous”.