Boarding life

SMUS-Views-Bob
Boarding life
Russian student Anna Maeva leads an international troupe of fellow boarders from Mexico, Korea, Canada, Germany, and the US in a Russian folk dance.

Five or six years ago on the first day of school, one of our German parents, who had just dropped his son off in boarding, came to my office because he wanted to meet the Head of School – a perfectly understandable wish, when you have come several thousand kilometres, and leaving your son behind on trust. He was the Chancellor of the University of Frankfurt. Why are you sending your son to our school, I asked. They wanted their son to experience the broadening consequences of living in another culture, they had done the research, we have a substantial Advanced Placement program that is recognized worldwide, and besides, he said – pointing to the piece of our literature that he had in his hand still – what you say is true. What we said in the piece of literature was, “the leaders of tomorrow will have an international education.”

At our school we believe that every single student has his or her own capacity for leadership, and is capable of discovering in the inner self the courage, respect, honesty and initiative to make the world a better place. We believe that the context in which these values need to be instilled is global, international. So our school cultivates and promotes a conscious and deliberate global perspective, whether you are from Victoria or the other side of the world.

This year, we cannot possibly cram another boarding student into the residences. Every bed is occupied. The immediate benefit of the School’s boarding tradition to all students, including day students, is the commitment to the education of the whole student. While the primary reason for attending SMUS is outstanding preparation for higher learning, we also expect all students to throw themselves into the life outside the classroom – in sports, the arts, service and extra-curricular activities. Most often these programs operate, as they have always done in a boarding school, in the evening or on weekends. It is a full life, even if you are a day student. One of the hallmarks of our school.

Another consequence of boarders in our midst is the reality and immediacy it gives, every day and every week, to the global context which we believe it is important for our students to acquire as they prepare not just for higher learning, but also for life. We have students from about twenty different countries every year, a number that has steadily and consciously grown in the past fifteen years. This year and last year we have broadened our boarding enrolment to include students from Brazil, Switzerland, Nigeria, Italy, Holland, and Australia. These countries are in addition to the countries already represented in our boarding community, which include Canada, the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Cayman Islands, Barbados, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and occasionally other countries.

Our school offers to these students, and to everyone, the opportunities for learning and leadership that we build into our daily and weekly life. In return, they give us the enriching breadth of their cultures in the flesh, walking among us, leaving the important message that these other cultures consist of real people – people who spread around them the delectable texture of their own tastes, habits, points of view, entertainment, food, songs and language. Although we do send our students away to other countries for different experiences, their first and constant taste of the rest of the world take place every day, in their classes, on the sports field, in Chapel, in the orchestra, and so on.

I went to boarding school as a student. You could say I am a real “believer”. I think the opportunities in boarding for learning about other people, about yourself, for becoming self-reliant, self-disciplined and mature, are unparalleled. Boarding school of today is much different from the somewhat tribal, rough and tumble school I attended. First of all, boarding school is much much better than it used to be. It was good for me, yes… excellent, in fact. But boarding school today is a more constructive, supportive, civilized life than it was for me. It is a home away from home. I can understand why our families and students choose a boarding education.

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Bob Snowden
Bob Snowden was Head of School at St. Michaels University School for 22 years, from 1995-2017.

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