How one boarding school helps homesick students
By Paul Attfield
Homesickness can be one of the hardest things to overcome at the beginning of a boarder’s life at school, whether one’s parents are half an hour or half a world away.
As a result, Ridley College, a boarding and day school in St. Catharines, Ont., has introduced an orientation to help minimize the effects of homesickness. After a two-day spell where the students’ parents are present to help their children settle in, all the Grade 7 to Grade 12 students – basically all the boarders – are taken to Muskoka for two camps. There is a boys camp and a girls camp and it involves three days of team building, bonding, swimming and camping.
“We do that because we think you’re not ready to start learning if you’re homesick or if you don’t know anybody and you feel disconnected,” says Edward Kidd, headmaster of Ridley. “It truly is a miracle, kids come back from camp and they feel like they have a friend, they feel like they’re part of it.”
In addition, each child has “a constellation of about 10 adults,” according to Mr. Kidd, such as teachers, head of house, residential dons and coaches, to provide support for issues that arise. He also feels that modern technologies, such as Skype, helps students stay in regular contact with their families.
David Robertson, headmaster of the private boarding and day school Shawnigan Lake College in B.C., says the incidence of homesickness isn’t as bad as it used to be.
“Boarding schools in general are warmer environments than they were 30 years ago in every sense of that word,” he says, adding that his school places a big emphasis on activities and sports to bring students together and distract them, which plays a big role in minimizing homesickness.
That community feel can go a long way to eliminating or at least minimizing any longing for parents and home.
“By living at boarding school I found a lot of people who have the same experience as me, who came from a country that’s really far away from Canada as well, and I actually found a lot of comfort [in that],” says Elaine Wang, a Grade 12 student from Shanghai who attends Havergal College, an independent all-girls boarding and day school in Toronto.