When I talk to new boarding parents on opening day I like to tell them two things, that hopefully won’t get lost in the tsunami of other information. I like them to know that I have some sense of how they feel as they leave their sons and daughters in our care: I also had a son go away to boarding school. He was adamant about it, and it was a good thing, a fantastic experience. Secondly, I like to tell them I have some sense of how their sons and daughters might feel; I too went to boarding school, starting in Grade 9.
I had no idea what I was getting into, unlike my son who did know. He had been a day student, and the boarder’s life seemed like the natural, and more fulfilling next step. As a new boarder, some adjustments have to be made, some new routines have to be learned. Likewise for day students, I know. Every new boarder makes these adjustments differently. In some students these adjustments surface as homesickness. I was homesick for a while myself. It was strange to be in a dormitory with seventeen other boys, a barrack-like room where the routines were also barrack-like. Things have changed; boarding is a kinder, gentler experience now, more of a home away from home. Thankfully.
However, these differences between then and now are the product of my own reflections, and mean little to a boarder starting out fresh now. I remember my parents, my housemaster, and one or two older students simply saying, “get busy, get involved, and one day you will wake up and things will be different.” I am not sure whether I actually followed this advice or simply found it to be true when I woke up one day and things were, in fact, different. Looking out on the fields or into classes and seeing the earnest and intent faces it is hard to imagine the difficulties that some of the expressions mask, but at least I know they are following the advice: “get busy, get involved.” It will be a fabulous experience.