To many, boarding schools are places of unapproachable evil, filled with catty matrons and strict headmasters, hell-bent on providing the ultimate discipline to the students. The meals are substandard, the rooms grotty holes in the wall, and the school itself resembles something like a reformed 1820’s prison.
For other’s boarding school is like Elysian Fields, where the roads are paved with gold donated by the rich parents who send their children to school there. Princes, princesses and every wealthy child in between thrive in the luxury of their 5-star bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. The cafeteria is a land of champagne and caviar, with Belgian chocolate dripping from the ceilings.
Then there is the reality. Boarding school is essentially like plucking up your bedroom from home (perhaps a little smaller and with worse wifi) and putting it in the middle of a hundred other people’s bedrooms. Eventually, it becomes less like you’re stranded in a sea of people you don’t know, but you actually begin to develop a love for the people around you, as if they are an extension of your family. The matrons act more like friends than disciplinarians and will generally poke fun at you more than the students do, acting as a sort of substitute mom, always there to laugh at you when you trip over the bag you left in the dining hall, but also ask you if you’re okay first.
Imagine the food as a somewhat happy medium between school lunches and your mom’s home cooking – it’s isn’t five star, but it’s not going to kill you. Occasionally though, you may get the odd Christmas or welcome dinner where the catering staff are looking to show off some Masterchef-style cooking, and your beef curry with rice turns into a trio of boeuf with a red wine reduction.
But overall boarding school isn’t excessively lavish or pitifully poor, boarding school is mainly focused around recreating an environment that is as close to home as possible for students, some of which may only get to see their families five or six times during the school year. There are days out and boarding activities just like you would have at home, and there are still TVs and laptops for when you need a break from work.
Life isn’t like the beginning of ‘Wild Child’ or those creepy boarding school horrors movies, and it also isn’t one big sleepover. For me, boarding school isn’t just about the reduced commute or even just the quality of education. You make friends that become your family, and memories you will never forget.