An Interview with Chelsea White, Year 12 Kinross Wolaroi School
Who, what year, where from, how long have you been boarding?
My name is Chelsea White and I am a Year 12 boarder at Kinross Wolaroi School (KWS) from Narromine. I started as a boarder in New House in Year 9.
What have things been at home over the past year?
Things at home have definitely been difficult over the past couple of years due to the drought. My family runs a mixed farming operation with cereal cropping and a lamb feedlot so naturally, the lack of rainfall has been tough. We haven’t had a successful crop in the past three years, however, we’ve been able to keep feeding sheep through the feedlot which has been helpful.
What were your expectations of boarding before you arrived? Has boarding met those expectations?
I had a lot of friends from primary school that had gone to boarding school in Year 7 so I was pretty excited to become a boarder myself. I think I expected it to be a bit like an extended sleepover, however, I soon realised it was a little more structured than that! Boarding at KWS has definitely exceeded my expectations. I never expected to meet so many people from across NSW with whom I would form such close friendships. The KWS community as a whole was so welcoming, particularly my New House family which made settling into boarding life a smooth experience. I love how all year groups are able to interact together, it’s not unusual for the Year 12’s to sit in the common room and have a chat with some of the Year 8 students in the house.
What have been the biggest challenges of schooling away from home?
In my early days in boarding, homesickness was a challenge that I had to overcome. However, some of the major challenges for me during my time as a boarder have been during the past couple of years during the drought. There’s definitely an element of guilt that I feel being away during such tough times at home. It’s always a bit disappointing when it starts raining at school so you ring home to check if they’ve had rain but all they’ve had is another dust storm.
Do you talk about this with your family? Or do you prefer to talk with people at school about it?
I think it’s definitely important for me to keep a strong connection with my family at home during these difficult times. Maintaining regular contact with my family while I’m at school is essential in helping me to overcome any challenges that arise. I ring my parents every night and ask about their day and they are always supportive of me if I am struggling with an assessment or missing home.
I find talking to people at school really helpful if I am facing any challenges. I’ve also got a close relationship with my Head of House, House Mother and Residential Assistants, all of whom I would feel comfortable to approach to have a chat.
How does the school support you when things are tough?
Within the day school community, there are a number of avenues to pursue if things are tough. These include the School Counsellor, the Head of Wellbeing and Mentors which are allocated to Wellbeing groups. We meet four times a week with our Wellbeing groups where discussions are facilitated by our Wellbeing Mentor. These groups are formed with other peers in your year group in Year 7, and the group and Mentor remains the same until Year 12, allowing many positive relationships to be developed. These periods are a great opportunity to debrief and discuss the busy happenings of KWS life.
School has been particularly tough due to the outbreak of COVID-19, as we undertook our schooling from home. Being in Year 12, getting through subject content and completing assessments remotely was a little difficult. However, the school was and has been so supportive of us on this journey. Teachers and other staff members have been so helpful in ensuring we understand the work. Our mentors continue to check in regularly to support us and discuss how we’re coping, while also providing up-to-date information about the HSC.
Have you found something that works for you when you’re feeling down? What is that?
One of the most helpful things I have found if I’m feeling a bit down is talking to my friends, particularly other boarders. For the majority of boarders, they have undergone similar experiences in regard to homesickness and life during the drought. During my first few weeks as a boarder, there were a couple of occasions where I felt homesick. During these times I found the other girls in the boarding house were really supportive. Girls that started boarding in Year 7 had been through the same experience and offered me many pieces of advice. I still remember something one of the girls told me in my first few weeks – “Trust me, it gets so much better.” I held onto this until I settled into life away from home and realised it was very true. That girl is now one of my closest friends.
As a large regional boarding school, many of the boarders at KWS come from drought-affected areas, so it’s always comforting knowing the people around you are undergoing similar tough times at home.
How will what you’ve learnt about resilience help you after school?
I think boarding has certainly made me a much more resilient person and allowed me to develop independence. These skills will definitely help me in life after school when it comes to undertaking a gap year, travelling overseas and going to university.
What advice would you give to others thinking about boarding, but who may be worried about leaving home?
It is completely normal to feel nervous about leaving home to go to boarding school. I was definitely nervous before I started, but the opportunities I’ve been provided and the life-long friends I’ve made make me so glad I made the decision to board. So many of my favourite memories are from my time as a boarder.