08/08/2013 10:13 BST | Updated 07/10/2013 06:12 BST

Boarding School Isn't as Awful as Hollywood Would Have You Believe


Often, you'll see evil parents in films threatening their naughty children with boarding school, like it's the ultimate punishment. Well, that's just a load of nonsense.

When I was eight years old I went to boarding school. A lot of people will automatically think 'how awful' - it wasn't. As the youngest of four I knew boarding school was going to be on the cards one day. I used to miss having my siblings around when they went off to school and my sister, who was closest in age to me, would come back with funny and exciting stories that didn't make it sound bad at all. Unfortunately the age gap meant my sister was at senior school by the time I started boarding but she would send me comic strips called 'SuperJose' - they were sheer brilliance.

I remember one day a girl nastily saying to me (I don't remember how old we were) that I was a boarder because my parents didn't love me, but I wasn't hurt by her words, I knew that they did, I knew that she was just being spiteful. My father's job meant he was posted to the Middle East a lot and my parents knew another posting was imminent and so decided to get me settled at school whilst they were in England. I understood; I always understood that they had my best interest at heart. At times it was, of course, hard. The only time I remember being really ill with the flu my Mum came and took me home, so she was there when I needed her. My parents were always there when I needed them. I did get homesick, especially in my first year but I had brilliant houseparents who were loving and kind, and Mrs. B, who would come in a few times a week and help look after us.

I still remember my very first evening, sitting on the end of my bed and realising my parents had gone. I won't dwell on it as I know that my Mother will read this and I don't want to upset her - I know it must have been just as painful for her, probably even more so. On my first day I dropped my bowl of cereal in the dining hall and left mortified. On the first afternoon of my first day a teacher, who was later to become my houseparent, came to my aid when I was lost and terrified of my new surroundings. In my first week one of the girls in class told our teacher I was crying when I didn't want anyone to know. That was my first week; that was the hardest week. It was scary because it was a new place with new people and I missed home, but it got better. I was young and I adapted but I was also lucky in my first year, I was very well looked after.

We were only allowed one phone call a week, which sounds cruel, but it was done to help us get used to school and not long for home. At eight I could barely find enough to say to fill up the weekly ten-minute call, I'm sure this was frustrating for my parents. In our second year we were moved to a new house and our old houseparents left but Mrs. B, thankfully, stuck around. Saturday nights were the best nights - we'd have a tuck shop where we'd spend our pocket money on sweets and watch Blind Date, Gladiators, Baywatch and a film. In my final year at prep school my parents moved me to a new boarding house where the teacher who had helped me on my first day was the houseparent. Having great houseparents made a huge difference to my life in prep school, my first and final year were my best because our houseparents created a home for all of us and they encouraged us to have fun.

By the time I went to the senior school I was used to boarding, I was allowed to phone my parents when I wanted and sweets were permitted. In sixth form I had a great time, I had a close group of friends and we had our own common room where we could relax in the house. We'd smuggle vodka bottles behind the ceiling tiles and hide our drunkest friends from whomever was on duty. It was exactly how you'd imagine 17 and 18 year olds would behave when they're away from home. We had a lot of fun.

Now, when I spend time with my nine-year-old nephew and my eight-year-old niece I am amazed that I was at boarding school at their age. That I was okay with it and I still am. The only thing that I lost out on was time with my parents and that's why I love living in my parent's flat. I see my parents all the time, in a way I don't want to move out because I'll miss all the bonus time I'm getting. Although, I do feel like I should be hiding vodka bottles from them at times.

Like everyone growing up I had my fair share of embarrassments, bouts of bitchiness (sometimes coming from me) and heart ache. It was school, just like any other, except I lived there. It really wasn't the horror story some people would have you believe.

Boarding school taught me a lot. It taught me 'bitchy resting face', although we didn't have a name for it back then. I appreciate time with my parents and siblings more. I learned how to use a washing machine properly at 14. I still feel guilty if I have more than two biscuits, as we were only allowed 'one creamy, one plain' at morning break. My friends in my last two years taught me the value of true friendship. And, I learned that teen love is not everlasting and you absolutely will get over it.