One powerful lesson I learned by attending boarding school with an internationally diverse population

By Brett VanVort ’16

Going to boarding school is a transformative experience. When I try to explain this phenomenon to other people, I find that it is a difficult task. To me, it seems that only people who have gone through the experience themselves can understand it. My goal of this article is to articulate one of the many opportunities for insight that boarding school provides its students.

One profound insight that students gain at boarding school is the perspective of new cultures. At Hyde, the first cohort of international students arrived in 2008. Hyde was at first reluctant to introduce international students. The apprehension was that, “School is for kids, Hyde is for families.” The administration worried that parental “buy in” from international families would be weak considering the massive distance between the two parties. But after introducing the students, all apprehensions were quashed, and expectations were shattered.

Hyde-Bath’s international student population is now 25% Asian, 4% African, and 1% other. There have been plenty of students that hail from European countries as well. Being a student who has only known Hyde as having international integration, I would say that I could not imagine the school without it. I remember when telling my friends at home about the Asian culture, I described it as a whole other universe. Not only did they have a completely foreign language, they had a completely different view of fashion, family, and customs.

After spending time with the international population, I realized that describing them as having an alternate universe was insensitive. As I got to know them in my discovery group, I heard their struggles and empathized with them. Playing soccer, lacrosse, and wrestling together gave us a common goal, and we saw each other for our strengths. Dancing and singing in performing arts made me realize they were just as insecure as I was about putting myself out there. And as I continued to learn their language, I laughed with them, especially after they told me my Mandarin is getting better. They did not have their own universe; I just chose not to acknowledge they had the same experiences as I did.

If there is one thing I have learned from Hyde, it is that language is not a communication barrier. For sure, it may be a complication, but emotions are truly the one language we all understand. Speaking from experience, and acknowledging others, has provided a deeper connection of what it means to be human. I have to thank Hyde, and the international community, for gifting that insight.

This is one of the many phenomenon that students at boarding school experience. I know that for me, this lesson will undoubtedly be carried with me on my endeavors to college. I certainly will have no problem introducing myself to international students, seeking their help, and including them in both my academic and social growth.
Hyde is one of the few, if not the only, boarding schools that nurtures this insight. I am thankful for the opportunity to add this valuable perspective to my own, and could not imagine seeing the world without it.