Housemother Blog: Rogerson
8th February, 2019
Leaping into the unknown, together.
It takes undeniable courage to leave the comfort of what you know, hop on a plane and travel to another country to begin an exciting new adventure.
To do this as a young boy or teenager is nothing short of exceptional.
As they make their way through the Castle gates for the first time, driving past our pristine pitches and picturesque grounds, they each feel a cauldron of emotion that ranges from excitement and happiness to nerves and sheer terror about how they will fit into their new term-time life here.
We know how incredible Merchiston is and how lovely the pupils and staff here are, but for our new boys – they are stepping into the unknown. Whether he is coming from Auchterarder or Australia, I commend each and every boy who comes to our wonderful School, because change is good, yes, but it can be nerve-wracking.
The enormity of this move for our international and exchange pupils is not lost on us and we, as Housemothers, do everything we possibly can to make that transition as smooth as possible.
Each international pupil faces his own challenge when stepping off the plane in Edinburgh for the first time.
Rory and Lorenzo joined us at the beginning of this term from St Andrew’s College in Christchurch, New Zealand, and St George’s College in Quilmes, Argentina, respectively.
After a lengthy discussion about how much they have loved their time here, I asked the boys: “…and what has been your greatest challenge?”
“The weather,” said Rory.
“Understanding the Scottish accent, Ma’am,” Lorenzo answered, with a warm smile.
They, like all of the international pupils who have arrived here. have undertaken, arguably, the bravest adventure of their young lives to date – travelling to another country, leaving their family and friends behind, and starting afresh with a school full of complete strangers in a different country.
…and they have loved every moment of it!
“When I arrived, I was really scared, and I looked around me and thought, wow, this place is incredible!” Lorenzo said.
“I was still nervous about meeting everyone and worried about how I would find all my classes in a big school, but I didn’t need to worry at all.
“The social side of things has been amazing from the beginning. We all have a lot of fun playing pool in the Day Room and chatting. Even if you don’t know someone very well yet, we would just play pool and get to know each other.
“Going to watch the Scotland game against Italy at BT Murrayfield gave me a chance to spend time talking about rugby in my home country of Argentina to some of the guys in my year. We had a great chat about it, and I got to know them, too,” he added.
“Yes,” said Rory. “I was really excited as I’d been here the day before and I’ve had family come here, but I was still nervous.
“Sport was the game changer for me. Playing rugby really helped me get to know some of the other guys. Everyone was really friendly before that, but my first rugby training session was when everything really clicked into place.”
Rory and Lorenzo have now reached the end of their exchange period; they are wonderful young men, and we will miss them in our Boarding House (or ‘boarding home-away-from-home’, as I like to call it). I wish them both very well for the exciting challenges that lie ahead in their futures!
Helping boys to settle into life in a foreign boarding school must be sensitively managed. It is such an important skill that the Boarding Schools’ Association runs a certified training course for UK based staff.
In his book, The Integration Handbook: A Resource Book of Ideas for the Integration of Overseas Students in Independent Boarding Schools, Peter Etherton reinforces the importance of supporting pupils, as they transition into their new environment and helping their peers to adjust, too.
We do this in the Boarding House, initially through a ‘buddy’ system. A boy will be given a guide who may share similar interests. He is responsible for showing him around the School, introducing him to our ways of doing things and helping him to make new friends. The House Staff assist by helping with the practical arrangements including uniform and academic support etc, and we, as Housemothers, create social events which are a wonderful way to relax, chat, eat and help our new pupils meet other boys.
It is our absolute priority that our international and exchange pupils – and indeed all of our boys – feel at home here.
Yes, by coming to a new school they are braving an exciting new challenge, but they are not doing it alone. They have an entire community of pupils and staff who are waiting to welcome them and support them on their adventure here — leaping into the unknown, together.