04 Mar Boarding School: Not Your Average Zoey 101 experience
No, I was not a “bad” kid who needed to go to boarding school. Quite frankly, it was something normal and common where I grew up. Moving to Saudi Arabia when I was 10 years old when my Dad got a job with Saudi Aramco, boarding school was something I knew I would have to do. Saudi Aramco Expatriate Schools only taught up to (and including) grade 9. So, to finish high school, you were accommodated by the company to attend any boarding school of your choice. Where did I choose to go? I chose to go to a small boarding school in Boston, Massachusetts, USA called Landmark School.
I chose Landmark for several reasons: there’s a low student to teacher ratio (3:1), which provided good academic support, 60% of students boarded, and I got to experience living in the U.S. for the first time. Growing up somewhere where all my friends and peers also went to boarding school made it feel so normal. On top of that, there were students from all over the world, which made it feel even more normal.
For three years, where I slept, where I ate all my meals, where I hung out with my friends, and where I played sports all happened at my school. Doesn’t this sound EXACTLY like university? Honestly, it was the same thing… but different. Boarding school is a lot more strict than University. I had a curfew, designated study hall time, I had to make my bed every morning, no boys in girls rooms, no girls in boys rooms, sign out before leaving my house in the morning, sign into my house after dinner, and sign out (with an email from my parents’ with permission) to leave campus. Similarly to having a Residence Don or an RA, I had a houseparent that lived in my house. Despite the disciplined aspect of it, the nature of Landmark encouraged and provided a plethora of opportunities to get involved, which is really important. Having that implemented at a young age was a blessing! Below are some photos of my old room at Landmark, starting with Grade 10 all the way to Grade 12.
This may come off as a ‘not so fun’ experience, but it honestly was. Going to boarding school forced me to become independent. Learning to be on my own at a young age made living in residence in first year Uni very easy. I also learned how to travel alone at a young age. In my opinion, I think what sets my high school experience apart from the average person who goes to their local public school and commutes everyday are the relationships I built. When you live at a school with less than 400 students and a low student-to-teacher ratio, you build strong relationships with your teachers. Your teachers essentially become your friends. I looked up to a lot of them, so it was nice to be close with your role-models. Not only did I have really great connections with my teachers, I also built really strong friendships with students. When you’re a teenager, you’re changing and growing a lot, so you end up knowing these people on another level.
Downsides of boarding school? I have a list for that too! To every great experience, there are always a few things people don’t like, or they wish were different. Overall, I am thankful for the high school experience that I received, but there are things that I wish were different. For starters, I was never alone, which in my opinion was both a blessing and a curse. At least at the boarding school I went to, there were very few single bedrooms, so most people had at least one roommate. The three years I was at Landmark, there were barely any moments that I was alone or had the chance to be alone. Secondly, you kind of live in this unrealistic bubble. You practically live where this person’s dad is the president of this company, or this person’s grandmother is Judge Judy (no joke) or this person’s parents owns a yacht. In terms of money, I was surrounded by the top 5% of the population.
What was the hardest part of boarding school for me? I think it was what my parents missed out on. Leaving at a young age, they weren’t there anymore to see me grow and change. Of course, I saw them multiple times a year (thank God) but it’s different when you no longer live at home with them. My parents missed out on things that parents should normally be there for. For example, it was my Physics teacher who picked me up from the DMV after I passed my driver’s test. A teacher would take me to the doctor if I was sick, not my mom. They never got to see me compete in a Track & Field meet, and they were never there to see me win awards or get accepted into University. Of course, I spoke to my parents every day, but it is different when they aren’t physically there. Those are the little things that I missed out on, so consider it a blessing if you did have your parents there to walk you through those important moments.
Despite all of this, if I had the chance to do it all over again, I would probably choose the same thing. Boarding school is not for everyone and everyone has a different experience but overall, I do think I would be very different today if I did not have this opportunity.