I was admitted to a boarding school at the tender age of 12. At that age, I had no idea what boarding school was all about. I was a young girl from a small town and had little exposure to the big bad world outside of my small town bubble.
I expected people to be accepting and saw it as an opportunity to make lots of new friends. Instead, I was met with harsh bullying and social rejections. Our school’s phone call policy was very strict & our letters to our parents were screened for inappropriate content. Therefore, I grew up with little guidance.
Not only was it difficult to leave my friends at home behind, but it was also difficult to make new friends in boarding school. People always mocked at me and found new ways to bully me. It took me a while to adjust to my new life. I hated it at first.
However, I soon began to see the positives of my boarding life.
I learnt how to be resourceful in boarding school. It taught me how to put my limited means to good use and how to pass time without TV, internet, mobiles, iPods, iPads, magazines, etc. As a result, I learnt how to creatively utilise my free time. I became an avid reader and spent my free time in journaling, writing poetry or short stories which were then circulated in the dorm, liked by some and mocked by others. Consequently, I quickly learnt to do my own thing without caring for the opinions of others. I recall creating beautiful scrapbooks full of colourful and artsy pages, with each page remarkably distinct from the other. In addition, I also learnt how to live resourcefully with only a narrow cupboard full of belongings. It was also a lesson in minimalistic living. 😉
Boarding school is also responsible for teaching me how to deal with conflict. When you share a living space with 30 other girls, some conflict is inevitable. However, despite having some quarrels, we each learnt to live amicably despite our differences. We soon began to overlook the differences and accept others for who they are. We began to move past our petty quarrels and take a united stand for our boarding house and its people. I made some great friends for life. It taught me how to be a great friend to people I care about.
Because I was the only child, boarding school has played a huge role in developing my personality. I grew up with other kids the same age. I grew up with kids from all parts of the country. Every dorm-mate had a unique personality and I learnt how to adjust with different kinds of people. I learnt the importance of sharing. If there was a new book in the dorm, it was circulated amongst the thirty of us by turn. If someone brought grub (illegal food items like cake, chips, coke, etc.), it was shared amongst the thirty of us. If someone got a CD (I know I am old!) or an Ipod, it was shared amongst the thirty of us. Everything was shared and this taught me the importance and value of community living.
Since my school’s phone call policy was very strict, for the most part of growing up, I could only speak with my parents for 8 minutes in a month. So in a way, I kind of grew up on my own by observing my peers. Boarding school taught me how to fight my own battles, how to console myself when I am crying, how to give advice to my own self, how to overcome the sorrow of not getting selected for some inter-school competition, or how to rise up after getting a bad grade, how to deal with bullies, etc. Essentially, it taught me how to be on my own.
Almost everything I know about teamwork, unity and good competitive spirit comes from boarding school. If your batch has decided to take a stand, you show solidarity and stand with them. You support your own people. This was the first lesson I learned in boarding school, albeit the hard way, but a lesson well learnt and to be with me for life.
Boarding school taught me how to fend for myself. I learnt survival tactics – where to hide my grub, how to get a clean bathroom, how to sleep in a noisy dorm, how to sleep with lights on, how to study in a noisy dorm, etc. I gained the self-discipline to do things even when I didn’t want to. I learnt to check my privilege and eat whatever was given to me because we were not allowed to go out of campus to eat outside food or order food from outside or bring any food from home. We ate whatever was served to us in the mess hall or available in an extremely crowded and very short-lived (one hour) canteen session.
It was my experience with the best and brightest girls from the country, that turned me into the ambitious woman that I am today. Through our constant interaction with people of eminence both from India and abroad, we were taught that no goal is too big to achieve. Through several practice sessions before any cultural performance or even an arts and craft competition, I understood significant role that practice plays in winning. I gained great exposure because I was exposed to activities, speakers, teachers and events that I would not have been exposed to in my previous small town school.
The boarding school I attended, placed great emphasis on culture. It was compulsory to attend art classes, play an Indian and a Western musical instrument, learn an Indian dance-form, play a sport, do Yoga and other physical activities, etc. Our school constantly organised cultural shows and events including art exhibitions focused on Indian art, plays focusing on Indian history and culture, dance performances featuring dances from various in the country, musical shows featuring performances from various states in the country, invited eminent social workers and distinguished artists to speak. This exposure to Indian culture enabled to appreciate my culture and identity deeply. Few schools in the country focus on instilling a strong cultural identity and pride amongst their students. I was fortunate enough to attend one that taught me to value my Indian heritage and yet keep an open mind to respect the cultures of others.
In conclusion, boarding school made me the strong, free-thinking, and independent-minded person that I am today. Boarding school has strong roots in my identity. I was fortunate enough to experience something so unique such as my experience in boarding school. It is definitely a place that shaped me, if not the place that shaped who I am today.
Feature Image Credit – Photo from Pexels.