The decision to attend a boarding school can be life-changing. Even parents convinced of the advantages sometimes harbour doubts whether this step is right for their kids. Stereotypes about boarding schools often support their concerns.
In the article below, Swiss international boarding school Institut Montana cuts through the stereotypes. How does it look in real life? What are the benefits of attending a modern boarding school?
Starting a new life at boarding school is a huge adventure, but the change in lifestyle can be daunting.
Experienced boarding staff understand this. They know how much care to give at first and how gradually to help children take more responsibility. As days go by, boarding students become increasingly independent. They learn to fit into the rhythm of school life, to manage a timetable full of classes, meals and after-school activities. They also learn to keep their rooms tidy, to organise themselves for weekly laundry, and to make good use of their free time.
When it is time to leave for college, former boarding students arrive prepared. They have learnt how to be responsible, organised, they are full of initiative. They are ready to make the best of themselves.
Growing and learning together
When a community of friends lives and learns together, they absorb the advantages of peer learning. This is often hugely motivating. Boarding students can do their homework together and challenge each other academically, extending the depth of their learning and enriching their grasp of the subject matter. Of course, learning with your friends can be a lot more fun than doing homework by yourself at home.
Boarding schools often offer designated study time for students to do their homework. This study time is supervised by teachers who are available to help with questions. Later, houseparents are also available to support students; they have plenty of experience in helping students reach their goals.
Making lifelong friends
Ask anyone what they like most about being a boarding student, and the answer is likely to be – my friends! Boarding students eat together, live together, and celebrate successes together. They create fond memories of evenings and weekends in each other’s company. Even trying times can turn into positive memories when you have your friends close by. Strong support systems come from sharing the formative experiences of these young adult lives.
As we can see with our alumni, the bonds of friendship formed in boarding school last a lifetime, long after school years are over.
An important part of growing up is learning how to structure your time.
Not all children learn self-regulation at the same pace, and boarding school life is organized to help each individual learn according to their needs. The day has a structure, with regulated wake-up times, sleeping and eating times. This has to fit into the academic timetable, with its slots for lessons, homework, activities and leisure time. Weekends have their own pattern of mealtimes and scheduled activities but with more flexibility. This helps students learn to exercise their judgement about finding a good balance. At the same time, each student is supported in their progress at developing the techniques to organize themselves well.
With the minimum of stress, and with careful attention to the healthy development of each child, these crucial skills become part of the repertoire of these growing young people.
Another aspect of a structured life is a balanced school calendar. Students at Institut Montana have longer Christmas, Easter and summer holidays, which allows them to spend quality time with their families.
The word “boring” does not belong to the lexicon of boarding students. Their free time is filled with options that promote their physical and their mental health as well as providing lots of fun. Facilities for sports, partners to play chess, workshops for becoming an expert in robotics, options to explore cooking from around the world, a library and an art room, are right there to learn from.
These extracurricular activities help students stay active. They also discover hobbies and passions and grow into accomplished adults whose lives are rich.
Fun weekend and overnight holiday trips
Boarding life at weekends often means fun trips with your friends. In the heart of Switzerland, opportunities are endless. It could be cultural, visiting historic cities and famous art galleries; adventurous: karting, water sliding in canyons or rock climbing with a certified instructor. Holidays or long weekends might take students on overnight trips to explore other parts of this beautiful country and, of course, to go skiing in winter.
Life around nature
Many boarding schools, like Institut Montana Zugerberg, are in beautiful locations. They are surrounded by nature and secluded from the noise and pollution of big cities. For students it means lots of fresh air and outdoor activities on their doorstep: hiking, mountain biking, sledging, cross country skiing, the list goes on.
Balanced and healthy nutrition
Boarding students have all their meals at school, so it is essential that the food is carefully planned. The kitchen is a central part of any boarding school, with a chef who knows how to source ingredients that are local and fresh to ensure that these growing young people get the nutrients they need. Boarding school students have no time for unhealthy snacking. Instead, they are provided with healthy options in their breaks. At Institut Montana, bowls of fresh fruit are always available.
Wonderful houseparents: 24-hour supervision and care
Houseparents play a huge role in a boarding student’s life. They are counsellors, mediators, comforters and guides. They supervise students in their daily lives, overseeing their general well-being and supporting them as they learn how to structure and balance their days.
As they get older, children need a few more freedoms to learn self-responsibility. Boarding schools allow some exploration and independence while keeping those young people safe. At Institut Montana, for example, older students have the privilege to venture into the nearby city of Zug, with permission from parents, and subject to their record of behaviour. Of course, their houseparents know where they go, and students must be back punctually at the stated time.
Exposure to an incredible number of nationalities
In the modern globalized world, it is very beneficial to be exposed to various languages and nationalities. Boarding schools, especially Swiss boarding schools, are known to have diverse international communities.
Boarding students learn to embrace and appreciate the cultural differences, live together harmoniously and discover the diversity of our world through their daily conversations with fellow boarding students from other countries.
Network for life
Bonds formed among boarding school students are very strong and last for life. At Institut Montana, we cherish the strong sense of community shared by our former students and staff. We are a global family of passionate individuals who share a deep enthusiasm for education, a love of learning and affection for each other.
Our alumni look back on their school years with fond memories and laughter. Many of them take time to mentor current students. They come back on campus to deliver high-end workshops and love to give back to our community this way. Our alumni network is spread around the world, making it easy for our former students to find trust and support from a fellow boarding school friend in almost every corner of the world.
Attending a boarding school offers many advantages, teaching young adults important skills so that they grow with confidence, resilience and independence towards adulthood.
Institut Montana has almost 100 years of experience as a boarding school, but it continues to look forward. We make careful use of understanding of child development to provide the best experience for our students. They will build strong bonds of friendship and receive thorough preparation for their future lives.