BY LACHLAN REISS-WEARS, YEAR 12, THE ARMIDALE SCHOOL
If we were to have the fortune of meeting, you would instantly notice my height. Within a minute, you’d know my name is Lachlan, and “yes, I do play basketball and the weather is lovely up here”.
Over the course of an hour, you’d discover my love of guitar, the South Sydney rugby league team, and my hometown Coffs Harbour. By the end of the day, you’d have come to learn just how great a part of my life is as a boarder at The Armidale School.
I had always been interested in boarding school, but the means to go weren’t available.
Becoming a boarder
What a ride it has been.
However, by January 2018 that hurdle was overcome, and I started in Year 10, boarding at the same school my father and uncle had attended. I will leave at the end of this year as a boarding house vice-captain, captain of debating, captain of basketball and a CUO in the cadet unit. What a ride it has been.
Starting boarding in Year 10 was initially a challenge. I had to find my place in firmly established social groups, of demographics varying differently to my home. Saying that, I was welcomed by all, but it was finding myself in the first few months that will define me for life – and with that I found myself gradually mixing with different groups fairly regularly, along the way, collecting mates I am confident will be best friends for life.
Alongside this were the opportunities. The obvious ones were things like Cadets and the various sports on offer. However now in hindsight I see the real opportunities were in the development of my character, on my journey to becoming the young man I am now.
More than just academics
…being able to give back to your school or its town.
I had succeeded at my old school, but I hadn’t thrived. I had only succeeded academically. Soon after the transition to boarding at a new school, I began to thrive across all fields. As an example, I had never been great at sport – I’d really only played casual basketball, whereas I now hold the 2020 basketball captaincy.
On a collegiate level, I had no interest in interhouse competitions, or pride in school other than wearing my uniform well. Again, after experiencing boarding – the support, the memories, and the spirit collaborated to drive me to wear my house colours with determination, and school team jerseys (be it soccer, basketball or rugby) with pride and passion.
Another aspect crucial to being a boarder are service opportunities – being able to give back to your school or its town.
I enjoy swapping stories with former TAS students on reunion weekends, but I also had the privilege of giving by being able to take part in the ANZAC ceremonial guard, committing early morning hours to training so I could help commemorate and thank past and present service men and women.
Taking on the challenges
…developing our character and only deepening our friendships.
However, it hasn’t all been a rose-tinted journey. Our region had been hit by one of the worst droughts on record. While I am not from a farming background, to see what my boarding mates and their families were suffering, struck me – and taught me a valuable lesson in perseverance when I encountered my own challenge.
Last year, in Year 11, I was diagnosed with a brain condition called Chiari Type One – causing a range of symptoms such as constant headaches, fogginess, insomnia etc. Initially it was hard to manage, but then with the help of the boarding community – my community of staff and peers, I was able to regain my strength and manage myself to use my condition to my advantage – driving me to perform better across the board, while being thankful for all the opportunities and supports I have.
Also affecting me last year were the bushfires that ravaged the country. My father’s house near Willawarrin narrowly escaped destruction, with flames coming just 50 metres from his home – but others in my local community were not so fortunate.
While there were times I felt guilty that I was not there to help and was away at school, it was the support I was given – and hopefully able to give others – within the boarding environment that has strengthened us all, developing our character and only deepening our friendships.
Thanks to what I have learnt while boarding, I feel better equipped for my days beyond “the old school yard”, having gained skills for whatever may get thrown my way.