Our communications specialist at Boarding Schools Expo, Kim V. Goldsmith, is an ex-boarder of Ravenswood School for Girls (1987) who clearly remembers her boarding days, particularly that first year and the first weeks of the new school year. She caught up with Kate Ponder of Louth (pictured), ex- boarder of Kinross Wolaroi School (2014) and now a third-year uni student studying a Bachelor Education (Early Childhood and Primary) to talk about tackling that settling in period.
I remember this time of year vividly from my boarding days – the anxious countdown to going back to school. Some kids go quiet, others act out. I was a quiet one. Do you remember those feelings just before going back to school?
Yes, I was also very, very quiet. In Year 7, I didn’t know anybody going to school so I was nervous but I was also very determined not to let Mum and Dad know I was scared.
Did that get better as you got older?
It did but it took a while. All through Year 7 I remained pretty quiet and didn’t make very many friends throughout the first year. As I got older, I got used to the routine and I did make friends and it got a little bit easier from there.
As you get into the older years you’re used to the routine but you don’t know what the year is going to throw at you.
Do you think it’s just one of those things that takes time or that even going into Year 12 there’s some feeling of anxiety? Come to think of it, Year 12 is probably a bad example because there’s a fair bit of anxiety wrapped up in Year 12 anyway. But I guess, it’s like starting a new job or anything new really, isn’t it?
It doesn’t matter what year you go into, it always has that little bit of anxiety. As you get into the older years you’re used to the routine but you don’t know what the year is going to throw at you.
What did you do to help yourself adjust in those early weeks?
I think it’s hard to adjust, particularly in Year 7 because I couldn’t go and ride my horse or ride a bike or anything like that. I fell into art and music quite a lot. I’d sit down and draw or go for a run with my music playing – hobbies I enjoyed doing, and tried to relax myself.
Is it a matter then of trying to maintain the interests you had before you went to boarding school so you’ve got something to fall back on?
Definitely. It helps you reconnect with what you’ve left behind. I’d be drawing and one of my year mates would say, “That’s really cool! Do you do art?” and that would strike up a conversation. Or you could find someone who likes the same music as you and it can really help you find friends and bring you closer.
What was one of the most challenging things about leaving home? I guess in your situation, you came from the family farm in a remote area with wide, open spaces and activities like horse riding. It would have been a big change.
It was the lack of freedom and the forced dependency – I was very independent before going to boarding school, and when I got there I had set timetables, I had to be in a room with certain people, I had to follow this schedule. I found that very, very difficult to deal with.
It helped me recognise how others around me are handling situations.
Do you adjust or do you just have to do it?
You adjust in a certain way but I hated it throughout all my school years. I didn’t enjoy having to do things at certain times and not having a say but I just accepted that it’s just how they do it here and this is what I’m going to have to put up with… keep it going to get through the day.
You’re obviously drawing on some of those experiences now you’re at university. How do you think boarding has perhaps prepared you for life after school?
It helped me get into a realistic time schedule. You don’t have a set time to do things on the farm. What happens next happens. So, it helped me fall into a bit of a pattern. It helped me recognise how others around me are handling situations. I can pick out people at college who might be struggling and offer them advice and help.
Part 2 of this Q&A with Kate Ponder will be out 24 February.