August 11, 2015

8 Life Lessons I Learned at Boarding School.


It’s not everyday that you come across someone who has attended boarding school, not only for high school, but for middle school as well.

I know what you’re probably thinking and no, I wasn’t a bully or doing hard drugs, I wasn’t sent there for punishment and I wasn’t skipping out on juvie.

I was actually a pretty good kid.

However, I was in a unique family situation where the best decision for my education came down to boarding school.

My first boarding school found me in the woods of North Carolina, surrounded by the beautiful blue Appalachian Mountains. I lived in a big house with several roommates; there was an apple tree in the backyard with a tire swing, along with a small meadow that was often lined with beautiful little flowers.

It was a place for learning, spiritual and interpersonal growth, a place to make life-long friends and a student community filled with a lot of heart.

It was almost like a magic land to me. We raised our own animals, grew our own food and volunteered with our local community. We went on trips across sections of the Appalachian Trail, climbed mountains, canoed down miles of rivers and biked down long, winding, dirt paths.

We went on academic learning adventures outside of the state that lasted for 18 days—helping out different communities while improving our own.

I took away many important lessons from my three years there. These are the ones that have stuck the most:

Be kind.

To all living creatures, whether they are the animals we raise or those we call our faithful companions. Be kind to the garden you grow as one day it will nourish you. Be kind to the honeybees as they lend a helping hand. Be kind to your neighbors, to each other and offer assistance when you can. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.

Be honest.

With those around you as well as yourself. Be honest within your communication to others even when you may be fearful, feeling unwanted, left behind, or depressed. Your friendships, your teachers and most importantly, you will benefit from expressing your feelings and being truthful with your words. Honest communication makes all the difference in life.

Try something new.

It may be scary, you may be nervous, but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on all the fun. If there is something you feel you must do, take a chance and do it. Break out of your repetitive patterns and live your life with no regrets. After all we only have one, it’s best to make the most of it.

Be free.

To be yourself. Don’t stand in your own way; don’t change just because society would like you too. Go hiking until you reach the top of a mountain and look out at the world around you; that’s yours to conquer. Remember that. Open your eyes and take the world in from a new angle. There’s always something to do. Free yourself to be you and be a participant in your own life.

After ninth grade, I graduated and moved on to a different boarding school. It was much more reserved. Our classes remained mostly indoors, we didn’t climb mountains, or swim down streams. Instead, we rode horses, danced, and spent time creating in studios or sitting for hours with our heads inside of a textbook. It didn’t necessarily feel forced but it was a vastly different atmosphere from the one I had just come from.

It wasn’t as free, the people there were different and definitely not as independent as what I had been used too. In this new environment I learnt more important lessons:

Be careful about whom you trust.

While it’s nice to have many friends that you can run around with, sometimes it’s best to keep particular secrets to yourself. The world isn’t always as kind as we imagine it to be. Backstabbers lurk in corners, there are those who like to “tattle” and some who will be so jealous of your happiness that they will try to tear you down. But, you can still find friends. You can still trust others. You can still have fun. You just have to be a little selective when choosing who to befriend.

Don’t let fear stand in the way.

There are many things we are afraid of, whether it’s getting accepted into a new school, applying for colleges (or grad schools, or new jobs!), learning a foreign language, or even moving. Persevere until you find a way around the obstacles that stand in your path. In the end, you will thank yourself for it.

Stand up for you.

Stand up for your emotions, your dreams and what you believe in. No one should shut you into a corner and make you feel less than what you are. That’s bullying. No one should tell you that you don’t matter or that you’ll never be worth anything but even if they do, it’s not true. You are worth something and you matter to a lot of people.

No one has the right to deny you your dreams—not even your worst enemy.

The most important thing you can do for you, is let your voice be heard. You are uniquely you and you shouldn’t give someone else the power to take that away from you.

Accept failure and embrace success.

J.K. Rowling pointed out that if you haven’t failed then you haven’t lived. I am a strong believer of this. Failure is a part of growing up. It’s a part of becoming your authentic self, and it doesn’t stop as we get older. Failure will happen. It doesn’t mean you’ll never succeed, it just means that the time isn’t right now. Your time will come when it’s perfect for you.

While I appreciate the academics of that school, how it prepared me for college and toughened me up for the “outside world”, it changed me.

I dealt with a lot of bullying and unfair treatment. I had to learn how to adjust on my own as there was no one really there to guide me.

It took a long time for me to see the good in the lessons that were instilled upon me during my time there. But now I am thankful.

I am thankful for each experience, I am thankful for those who stood by my side or stood up for me.

I am thankful for my brilliant teachers who furthered my education.

I am thankful for both good and bad as everything has helped shape me into the person I am today.

I am proud to say that I have still held onto the childlike wonder that I gained at my first boarding school. I am genuinely curious about what the world has to offer.

And I know now that all I can do is be authentically me.




Author: Josefina Hunter

Apprentice Editor: Sarah Kolkka / Editor: Renée Picard 

Image: Tim Parkinson-Flickr

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Josefina Hunter