The first month of the new school year is almost at an end and before the term gallops away we look at part 2 of our Q&A with ex-boarder (Kinross Wolaroi School, 2014), Kate Ponder, we talk more about some of the issues unique to boarding, that arise for some children in those first few weeks of settling into the new school year. Kate is talking with our communications specialist at Boarding Schools Expo, Kim V. Goldsmith, ex-boarder of Ravenswood School for Girls (1987).
I used to write letters to my parents or make diary entries… that helped me put into perspective what I was feeling and then I could work through it.
At boarding school and probably even at uni, homesickness is probably a common thing that crops up with everyone at some point – either at the start of the year or halfway through. How do you deal with that?
Homesickness is a tricky one. A lot of people at boarding school and college who get homesick go home for the weekend. I didn’t have that luxury because I lived too far away so I found a few things to help me out, like going and doing the things I love, going to friends’ homes on the weekends.
Another one that was really good, but perhaps a little old-fashioned looking at the technology we have now, but I used to write letters to my parents or make diary entries. I’d write down what I was struggling with, what I was feeling and what I’d prefer to do and then it was up to me as to whether I posted the letter or ripped the page out of the diary. But that helped me put into perspective what I was feeling and then I could work through it.
So, a little of distraction and a little bit of processing?
It’s like a list of putting down what’s going on and then putting down something next to it that might be a solution – a compromise of something that you might be able to do instead of what you are really wanting to do.
Has it made you more resilient?
Definitely. Some situations, you have to be quite quick on your feet to get through, others take a bit of planning – so you learn so much in the process and you do draw on it after you finish school.
One of the unique factors about boarding is that you live with so many other people. How did you find living in a boarding house?
It was very strange for me. I do think there are some people you just cannot live with no matter how much you might want to. I talked to my house mother about it at the time it happened to me. It was difficult.
How do you negotiate the group dynamic of different personalities living in a confined space?
I remember when I was in Year 8, I was in a room with six girls and we couldn’t change rooms. I did let people know that I didn’t get along with some of these girls. We were friends but I couldn’t live with them. So, we had to do things like move the furniture around so we had our little section and private space.
You kind of have to stick it out for most of the part…which is not what everyone wants to hear but it’s worth it in the end, particularly if you can move out at the end of the experience and still be able to be friends.
If you’ve had that experience in a boarding house, then it’s easier with work colleagues, or any situation really.
How does that set you up for after school? One of the things I find myself telling my daughter is that you’ll always have to work or interact with people you don’t get on or are difficult. Do you think it gives you the skills to be able to negotiate that later?
You go through that first stage of, “I really don’t want to do this…” and then you get into the “OK, I have to do it!”. If you have to do it, you both accept it and knuckle down and try your best to keep it light and happy, and make conversation…it’s so much easier to get through. If you’ve had that experience in a boarding house, then it’s easier with work colleagues, or any situation really.
How important is it to be able to go to staff if you do have to negotiate a problem in the boarding house?
It depends on the situation. I didn’t always like going to staff, I preferred to work out situations myself. But you have to know your limits and recognise when there’s no way you can fix it on your own. Depending on the gravity of the situation, it depends on how far you take it up the ladder.
Any parting advice for children and their parents at this time of year?
It’s going to be scary but if you can get through those first weeks, it all starts to fall into place. The best thing is if you can keep smiling, take something with you that’s important or reminds you of home and make sure you keep in contact with friends from home and family and let them know how you’re doing.
Missed Part 1 of our two-part Q&A with Kate Ponder?