This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Thalia and her time at a boarding school.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi! I’m Thalia. I spent my entire childhood living in an American oil compound in Saudi Arabia, although I was born in Canada. I have been back in Canada for 10 years this September, and I’m 25. I live in Toronto with my boyfriend and I can usually be found knitting or cooking up a storm.
Before you went to boarding school, what was your educational history?
I attended the American school on my compound, and it was only for the children of the people that worked at the company. It stops after grade nine and you have to make other arrangements after that.
What are the biggest misconceptions about boarding school?
I know the biggest one I keep hearing is that we’re all very rich and entitled kids. All of my friends were very down to earth and lovely people. I mean, we were all just kids in high school, right?
Why did your family choose to send you to boarding school? How did you feel about that decision?
The schooling system in my compound only goes up to grade nine. The options other than boarding school were either attending school in a different city, or boarding at a school in Bahrain and going home on the weekends. Neither really appealed to me, so it was off to boarding school I went! I made sure to choose one that was close to extended family, so I could have some familiar faces nearby.
Tell us about your boarding school.
The boarding school I attended was in a small town in southern Ontario. It is co-ed, but has only been for about 20 years. It has about 400 students. The majority of the students were boarders, which was important. There are other schools that have mostly day students, which would have been difficult on the weekends. All of the students were divided up into “houses” (Harry Potter-style). My house had 50 girls and three teachers living in the building. We all had to wear uniforms (ties and kilts and all). My school was fairly well rounded, but they have an awesome arts program.
How old were you when you went to boarding school? How did you feel about being so far away from your family?
I was fifteen when I left home, and I cried pretty much every day my first year I was there. I made friends with a lot of day students, and I wished that I could have gone home every day after school. I also missed my family like crazy. My second year there, grade 11, was much better. I started making more boarder friends, and we all bonded from being so far from home.
It was rough being so far from my family, but we talked on the phone a lot, and my mom sent me letters. I went home three times a year for breaks, which helped a lot as well.
Tell us about an average day at school!
Boarders had to be in uniform and signed into breakfast at 7:30 at the latest. After breakfast, we’d have chapel, which usually lasted 20 minutes. After chapel, we’d had a couple of minutes to rush back to our rooms, and gather our books before our first class. Classes proceeded as usual, with about an hour and a half for lunch. After our afternoon classes, we had just enough time to change out of our uniforms for sports or extracurricular activities. You had to be enrolled in something during that time. I did cross country running in the fall, cross country skiing in the winter, and track (or rowing) in the spring.
After sports, we had supper. After supper, we had “interhouse” which was when boys were allowed to visit girls dorms and vice versa. The doors had to be open and all feet on the floor. After interhouse, we had study! You also had to have your door open for study and a teacher patrolled the halls of your dorm to make sure you were doing homework. After study, you had a bit of free time before bed. The internet and phone also shut off around 11 to get us to bed. In grade twelve, you got some perks: you didn’t have to go to breakfast, or participate in study, and your internet stayed on all night. The weekends were a bit more relaxed than weekdays, but there were still activities for us.
They really kept us busy, and I’m so thankful for that. If we had a lot of downtime, I would have been so much more homesick.
Do you think your time at boarding school affected your relationship with your family at all? Or your approach to life?
Just before I left for boarding school, my younger sister and I fought all the time. After I left, I really missed her and she joined me at the same school two years later. I never really had any fights with my parents as a teenager, mostly because I only saw them three times a year and missed them so much.
When I went off to university, I felt like I had already done everything before, so I felt a lot more secure. I didn’t really feel a need to rebel either, because I had left home three years before everyone else. I feel a lot more independent than I might have been if I stayed at home for high school. It’s also made me more open to new experiences.
Would you ever send your own children to boarding school?
I had a great experience there, but I don’t think I would, unless it was absolutely necessary. My situation was different, which was why I went to boarding school. I see myself staying in Canada for the rest of my life, and I’d keep my hypothetical kids at home for high school.
Did any of you go to boarding school? Or have a non-traditional education experience?
original image (without text on top) by elle moss, for sale here