We recently asked people in the BuzzFeed Community who went to boarding school to tell us what it's actually like, and they revealed some surprising stories and eye-opening experiences that more people should know. Here's what they had to say:
1."It's a terrible psychological ordeal. I don't know how *unexpected* it is, but it is definitely something people don't talk enough about. I was at a boarding school from 15–18, and almost everyone developed some sort of psychological issues from being there."
"Whether it's being 24/7 with your best friends/worst enemies, the blurred lines between school and life, or not being able to manage a good connection with family and home friends, it took me years to unlearn all the damage that was done to my psyche."
2."I went to a boarding school in New Zealand for six years. From age 12–18, it was very similar to the Harry Potter situation, but without all the magic. The boarding houses were separated into four competitive houses, each with its own color. Each house was named after a former teacher. Each year group of students would be housed in the same dorm (i.e., all year 3s together). We were assigned a prefect (year 12) to basically be in charge of us."
"They would have to make sure we were up in the morning, showered and dressed by 7 a.m. Then we have to wait, standing by our bed for morning inspection. Bed made, room tidy, shoes clean. If you weren't ready, the whole dorm would get punished...which usually meant you were now the sh*t with your dorm. You might have to do a 'dorm walk.' A dorm walk was when you had to walk down the door slowly while you got hit..."
3."In my experience, some of the most outwardly rule-abiding kids actually broke the rules the most and were really wild. They knew how to be sneaky. They'd learn the rules really well, so they knew how best to break them. They knew all the best, most secret places to have sex and do drugs/party."
4."I went to boarding school for a year. I didn’t expect to hate it so much. There were only, like, 50 students in my grade, and we were separated by major, so it was hard to make friends. I was there on scholarship, but most of the other students were super wealthy and very aloof. I guess I was mostly just surprised by how isolating it was."
"I was not prepared for that, even though I probably should have been. ...and yes some of the students had famous parents."
5."Boarding schools and most private schools in general aren’t as 'preppy' and fancy as you’d expect. Most of the students are regular teenagers who want to do fun teenage activities and come from a variety of (rich) backgrounds."
6."I went to public school, but I moved in with my (now ex-) partner and their family (whose mom is a teacher there and my ex is an alum) on the campus of a very well-known, elite boarding school in New England. The stories I could tell… Faculty selling vodka in emptied plastic water bottles for an extortionate price, celebrities casually walking around sometimes to check out the school to see if they want to send their kids there, security guards waiting outside classrooms and dorms of different students, literal royals from countries all over being common, the dining hall alone being bigger than half of my public school, the overworked and underpaid/underappreciated staff and corrupt administrators, the ungodly amount of homework that students had per day (minimum six hours and Saturday classes), plus mandatory sports (another three hours minimum, five days a week), and chapel once a week."
"Most surprisingly, though, because the majority of the students were wealthy, most didn’t care to show off their wealth. Meanwhile, at my public high school, it was the opposite, and people would make a point of pointing out their designer items. Meanwhile, kids who come from the wealthiest families in the world could not care less about labels, brands, and flashing money."
7."I'm in the US, and we had a lot of international students (which was odd, considering we were in the middle of nowhere in a state called Indiana [which is not a major state IMHO — not too much going for it])! We had a lot of students from South Korea, and I specify that because we actually did have one student from North Korea. We also had students from China, Japan, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia."
8."One time, a girl asked me if she smelled like weed. I have no sense of smell and didn't like her, so I said no. She got caught with a massive stash and was on a plane home the next day. The fairy lights from her room were up in the boarding director's office for years after that."
9."I was on the lower socioeconomic end compared to my peers. There was no need for thrift shopping; at the end of every year it was almost guaranteed that a button-up shirt, tie, pants, shoes, etc. would be left behind in perfect or lightly used conditions once students left the dorms for home."
10."There was a midnight orgy in the principal’s office. I was a participant."
11."This one girl was notorious for always hiding her used tampons in the pillowcases of people she didn’t like. Five years after graduation, she was arrested for public indecency. Don’t know what she’s up to now."
12."I’m an old lady now, but I still remember the girl who screamed, 'Girls shouldn’t feel ashamed of natural bodily functions!' in the cafeteria and then shat on a table. Everyone thought she was talking about periods, but clearly not."
13."Discipline was public. A committee would meet and decide your punishment. The head of school would then announce your name, offense, and punishment in a school-wide assembly. Punishment could be expulsion, suspension of ability to leave campus, janitorial work, community service, etc."
14."It was wild. It was so strict. If you stay up past your curfew, you have to clean the toilets for the next two weeks. It happened to a girl in my dorm, and she argued back and forth with the headteacher and kept saying no. You don't wanna know what happened to her..."
15."I went to a co-ed boarding school from the ages 15–19 in Denmark. ... No matter how rich the parents are and how expensive tuition is, the mattresses are not changed. At my school, you had to petition to bring your own furniture until you were a senior (last year before graduating)."
16."I attended a boarding school for four years starting when I was 14. I thought I was so independent and mature and ready for it, but after a few months the reality sunk in, and I struggled with profound homesickness. I also went to public school up until then and had never had homework or written a paper before, so it was really overwhelming being thrown into very academically challenging classes and having to do three to four hours of homework a night (six to seven when I was a junior and senior)."
"Also, this was in the late '90s/early 2000s, so cell phones didn’t exist. We had one pay phone per dorm to use to call home, which made talking with our parents even harder. My friends and I basically had to raise each other. Juicy details? Everyone hooked up in classrooms, different academic buildings, and a dozen other creative places where they wouldn’t be caught lol."
If you've been to boarding school, what was your experience like? Feel free to share your story in the comments below.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.