The Challenges of Living as a Boarder

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This is the third part in a series of candid blogs written by our 2014-15 Best School Year Ever winners on the Good, the Bad and the Surprising of their boarding experience at SMUS. This week, Silke Kuhn and Alessandra Massa co-write a blog that covers the challenges that come with uprooting one’s life and moving to a new city (or country) to attend boarding school.

by Silke Kuhn

Boarding school is no Hogwarts. There are no magical adventures to be had here – no quest for lost secrets, or hidden passages to explore, and no perilous journey to defeat the villain, with a mountain of glory awaiting you. Boarding can be a tough ride, and at times it can be very different from what most expect.

The biggest change I had to face was the realization that this isn’t home; it isn’t the life I’ve known for so long. Your family, sometimes the only few people who truly know you at all, isn’t here to hold your hand through every hardship you face. And trust me when I say there will be many experiences that will stretch you. The familiarity of your own bed, or the view from your window that served as the backdrop to all your childhood memories, or that one maple tree that you came to know as your place of solace; all those comforts aren’t here to support you when you stumble.

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Don’t get me wrong, you will find a new place of solace at SMUS, and the view from your room will serve as the backdrop for many new memories that are undoubtedly part of the “boarding life gift basket” – you know, like the one that somehow finds its way under your Christmas tree each year, the name tag reads, “All My Love, Grandma.” In it, you will find new treasures, and others of which you’ve definitely tasted before, there will be some presents that come in pretty packages, and some that are messier than expected, once opened. But you politely say, “Thank you,” regardless, and take them for what they are. The variety of experiences you’ll find in this boarding gift basket invariably include the hard and often messy ones.

There is an innate quality about humans that sometimes mystifies me, and never fails to amaze me. That’s our genuine distaste for change. So let me be frank with you: it’s hard adjusting to the differences here at SMUS, and it’s hard adjusting to the way that life simply goes on when you feel as though you’ve left everything behind. It has proven itself to be a challenge. But change is hard, life does go on, and that struggle has pushed me and my inner introvert to new places, and it will surely take me far beyond where I ever imagined I’d go.

Read Silke’s first blog post about what she loves about being a SMUS boarding student.

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by Alessandra Massa

I do not think there are necessarily “good versus bad” parts of boarding life, but instead pros and cons to some of the good aspects. But with each con comes an opportunity to grow and learn as a student and as an independent individual.

One of the positives I mentioned in my first blog post was the structure and schedule one has on a day-to-day basis. Many great things come out of having scheduled time to relax, work on homework and participate in sports, like being well-prepared for class and balancing social and academic time. Ultimately, if you don’t maximize the schedule and use it to its full potential, you will find yourself cramming to finish an assignment, or find yourself having no time to interact with the boarding community because you are spending too much time on your school work.

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Having said that, my advice would be to use the boarding schedule to the best of your ability and properly use the “prep” time for academics, the boarding activities and house games to interact with the entire boarding community, and free time to relax and do something else you enjoy! The schedule has been altered over many years to make sure it promotes the success of the students.

Another thing that took some adjustment was not having my mom around to help me all the time. It was strange, at first, to not sit down to a home-cooked meal with my mom at night where I would talk about the ups and downs of my day and what I needed help with, or have her cheering me on at all my games – which I was accustomed to back home in Texas.

Although I have only been at SMUS for three months, I have become more independent as a result and that independence continues to grow. Although the first few weeks were difficult, I have learned to really value the time I spend with my family when I am home, and have really appreciated getting to know and interact with my two house parents, Ms. Kaufmann and Mrs. Catto. I know if I am ever in a difficult situation I can ask either of them for advice or help.

Learn more about our 2015-16 Best School Year Ever video contest, with $70,000 in boarding scholarships up for grabs.

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Kyle Slavin
Kyle Slavin is the school's storyteller. Through words and photos, he shares with the community all the amazing things that happen on campus.

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