Hi friends! Welcome to my very first “Tea Break Tuesday”!
You may recall that I went to boarding school from grades 3-12.
I have noticed that when I tell people that I went to boarding school, they sometimes give me a funny look. It turns out that apparently there are some stereotypes around boarding school… the most common stereotype I have heard is that boarding school is where the naughty kids get sent! Another one I’ve heard is that boarding school is for elite rich kids.
As someone who spent a number of years at boarding school, I thought it might be interesting to share some of what that experience was like for me.
So a few basics: The school is a Christian boarding school called Rift Valley Academy (RVA), and is located in central Kenya.
Homesickness. In my school, students lived in dorms in much the same way that university students live on campus. RVA is only about an hour from Nairobi, and between away-games, weekend trips to ‘town’, and mid-term breaks, I was in Nairobi on a frequent basis. Some kids experienced homesickness, but to be honest, I never did, not even a little bit. That may also be due to the fact that when my parents divorced, school was a welcome respite from all of that. I found the culture at school to be supportive and inclusive, and not only that, but I had a great group of friends (still friends to this day!) with whom I had a strong sense of “belonging” — they were closer than sisters. Plus, I was always too busy with school, sports, and other extracurriculars to be homesick.
Weekend activities. I don’t know if other boarding schools are this way, but RVA always had activities going on every single weekend. These included sports tournaments, plays/musicals, concerts, movie nights, banquets/dances, dorm/class trips, and also planned activities for dorms and/or classes to do together. There was always something going on. I won’t say I never got bored or that I never complained (what kid can say that?), but in hindsight, there really wasn’t much to complain about!
Strict. Like a lot of private and/or religious schools, there were a lot of rules at RVA… curfew, chores, attendance at chapels during the week, attendance at church on Sundays, no kissing, no short skirts, no spaghetti straps, no drinking, no drugs, etc… and yes these rules generally make sense and I probably wouldn’t have broken them even if they didn’t exist. But hey, as kids we still managed to complain about #alltherules.
Playing sports. Every term (trimester) constituted a different sport season. I played soccer, basketball, and volleyball. Other sports included field hockey (girls only) and rugby (boys only). Since RVA is located at elevation, this meant we were usually more fit and had better endurance compared to teams in Nairobi that trained at lower elevation.
Cafeteria food. There was one cafeteria on campus that all students ate at for every meal. Age groups were separated into 3 different dining rooms (1st-6th grade, 7th-10th grade, and 11th-12th grade). Bear in mind this was decades ago, so things may have changed or been renovated since. Meals were slightly predictable and on a rotating schedule. Boy did I used to complain about the food! But in reality, it wasn’t that bad. Sure, there were meals I absolutely despise even to this day (looking at you shepherds pie!), but overall we had plenty of wholesome and healthy options. The food was all prepared on-site, so no packaged or processed foods were provided as far as I am aware.
Walking everywhere. Even without playing sports, most people there had active lifestyles. Everyone walked everywhere on campus, and there were plenty of hills (plus high elevation). The campus is spread out enough that between walking to the dorm, class, cafeteria, or elsewhere, you could easily get all your steps in for the day.
Dorm parents. Every dorm had “dorm parents” who lived in the building and took care of the students who lived there. This meant organizing weekend activities for the dorm as well as nightly group meetings for devotions. Dorms were always separated by gender and generally also by grade or age group. For example, 7th-8th grade girls lived in one dorm, while the boys lived in another. Students addressed their dormparents as “uncle” or “aunt” (in contrast, teachers were addressed as Mr., Miss, or Mrs.). Sometimes dormparents were also teachers, which was the case with our awesome junior high dormparents, Uncle John and Aunt Pattie. Uncle John also taught 9th grade biology (when I took his class, I called him Mr. Schuit). Side note, I LOVED that class – it was one of my favorites in all of high school, and it was because of his class that I decided to major in biology in college. 🙂 Another side note, Uncle John and Aunt Pattie also came to my wedding reception 🙂
TV? Internet? I’m not sure how it is nowadays with the advent of smartphones and streaming, but back in “my day”, there was little to no TV of any kind, and no internet access. We sometimes watched movies with our dorm or class, but not much else besides that. And as far as internet, no one had computers or even smartphones. If we wanted to send emails, we had to go to the computer lab. I’m sure that things have changed now that every kid probably has a smartphone and laptop.
Roommates. Similar to university life, we always had roommates (usually 2-4 per room depending on the room size). We usually chose who we wanted to room with for the term, and my group of friends pretty much always stuck together. One time in 3rd grade, a bunch of us snuck out of our rooms after lights-out and decided to hang out in the bathroom (such rebels). I don’t know what we were doing, but probably just being mischievous, staying up past when we were supposed to. Our dormparents heard us whispering and giggling, and when I poked my head around the corner to see if they were still there, they saw me and had us get right back into bed! Another time in junior high, my friend Kristi got mad at me because she could hear the skittles in my mouth — I had a thing for skittles while doing homework — so she went and did her homework somewhere else. After that I always made sure to enjoy my skittles quietly. 🙂 Kristi and I are still friends to this day… she’s the blond one in this photo. When I went to college, the adjustment to dorm life and roommates was pretty seamless, probably because I had similar experiences growing up.
Scenery. I mentioned earlier that RVA is on one of the rift valley’s escarpments. The views were always incredible. Mount Longonot was in clear view, and we had the most unbelievable sunsets. Sometimes my friends and I would go for walks or sit on one of the fields that overlooks the valley and just hang out. I miss that view a lot!
There’s a lot more to say, but I’ll save that for another day. I loved my boarding school experience and would not change anything about it. Those were some pretty awesome years.
Know anyone who went to boarding school? What was your school like?