Updated: Dec 7, 2020
#SponsoredPost The only international school in Hong Kong to offer both day and boarding school options, Harrow Hong Kong opened its doors for the first time in September 2012. Since then, the school has gone on to nurture thousands of eager minds, with nearly 50% of pupils in Year 6 and above choosing to make the magnificent Tuen Mun campus their home from Sunday evening through to Friday each week.
It’s a unique set up, through which pupils (and their families) enjoy the best of both worlds: children have stability in the boarding environment, away from the often chaotic nature of Hong Kong life, while parents can concentrate on work during the week, freeing up quality time for the family at weekends.
Structure and Routine
One of the biggest benefits of boarding is that it maximises the children’s time by giving them a good night’s sleep and removing the daily commute. At Harrow, boarders wake up at 6.45am, giving them ample time to get dressed and have breakfast before call-over at 8am. Lessons begin at 8.15am and run until 4.30pm, with snack and lunch breaks in between. In the evening, there’s plenty of time for study, meaning most homework gets completed during the week, as well as additional, enriching activities and, of course, dinner! Pupils also get free time to relax, chat with friends and call family back home. Bedtimes are staggered according to age.
A Supportive Environment
Ask the pupils what their favourite thing about boarding is, and the resounding answer is the close bonds they are able to form with others.
“My favourite thing at Harrow would be the ability to connect with my friends,” says Year 10 pupil Kingsley. [Boarding] allows me to develop strong relationship with both them and my teachers. We see each other every single school day, and we support each other throughout the year. Whenever we come across a problem, we help each other out and solve it together as a team.”
Helen, also in Year 10, says Wednesday’s hot chocolate nights help form connections too. “Who doesn’t like a cup of sweet, warm chocolate after the long hump day?” she says. “It’s a chance for the entire boarding house to gather, catch up with each other and socialise – a simple drink and some time to relax can make such a positive difference to the week.”
Health and Nutrition
Which brings us on to food. Are boarding school meals as bland as legend would have us believe? “There are lots of options to choose from,” says Daniel, Year 8. “Each day, the menu is different. Some days there’s BBQ pork; other days there are fries.”
“The food varies every day to avoid repetition,” adds Kingsley. “Food in the morning often consists of high carbohydrates and nutrients, as they are sources of fuel to keep you going for the day. For lunch, there are often three choices with carbs and protein to refuel you. Nutritious fruits are also provided every day to ensure your body stays healthy.
“Dinners are often considered the best meal of the day, since there are a lot of options to choose from. This year, the chef has added a ‘chef’s special’, which changes every time, and there’s often a long line for the new noodle bar.”
“Having been in the school for a few years, I can definitely say that the variety of meals has widened a lot,” adds Helen. “Vegetarian options have become more varied, and boarders’ dinners have improved in terms of diversity and quality. I particularly enjoy the salad bar and the snacks that are available in the mornings.”
Home From Home
Do the children ever get homesick? “My first year boarding, I missed my family very much,” says Robin, currently in Year 7, “but after I started making friends, I forgot about being homesick. When I have a problem, I go to my friends and they help me out. When I have a problem that maybe my friends can’t handle, I go to my house mistress.”
“Sometimes I do miss the comfort of being at home when school gets really stressful,” says Helen, “but I think that I enjoy the feeling of working and being stretched to the limits over resting at home. School life can be really buzzing and fast paced at times, so I’m immensely thankful that everyone is compassionate and always willing to look out for each other. No matter if I’m having a good day or not, I can always reach out to my friends for words of comfort or encouragement. Even in times when we’re all very tired or stressed and don’t really feel like talking, a simple hug or a pat on the shoulder (in the pre-Covid world) could brighten each other’s day.”
Something for Everyone
One of the big advantages of boarding school is the opportunity it gives pupils to take part in super- and co-curricular activities (SCAs and CCAs).
“SCAs take place during school hours,” explains Helen, “so I like to choose academic-related activities to keep my brain active. In the past few years, I’ve really enjoyed solving maths problems, so I signed up for the Maths Olympiad SCA. Recently, I enrolled in a financial education course, which really opened up my horizons. Some of my friends join activities like the Literary Harrovian SCA or the Duke of Edinburgh award. The possibilities are endless.
“I spend most of my free time going to music and volleyball CCAs. I’m a part of various ensembles, like orchestra and big band, and I’m also in the girls’ volleyball team. Most days after school, instead of going back to house to relax, I go to a music room or the sports hall to have some fun!”
“There are many options to choose from,” adds Daniel. “I have Lego robotics and debating as my SCAs. I also have fencing and maths CCAs.” “Being at boarding school has allowed me to try a range of different activities,” offers Kingsley. “These have helped me to develop a lot of new skills, to step out of my comfort zone and to try new things.”
How do the older pupils feel they have grown or changed as a result of weekly boarding? “Boarding school has allowed me to establish and build both independence and self-confidence,” comments Kingsley. “Not only do I have to take charge of many tasks and challenges with my own academic success but I also have to take charge of my personal needs. This has allowed me to develop a sense of responsibility and of cooperation with others. The school is not just an academic setting, but a home. Since I started boarding, I truly feel a part of the Harrow family, where we all look out for each other.”
For Helen, one of the key skills she has developed while boarding is time management. She also says that her experience at Harrow has led to her being more open as a person. “Living with other people means that it is extremely hard to bottle up your emotions,” she says. “You have to learn to share some of your happiness and worries with the people around you, because ultimately, they care about you. I’ve learnt to put trust in people and have tried to become more reliable and trustworthy for those who need it too.
“I think that boarding has improved the social skills I’ll need in the future. There are really diverse year groups around the campus, and talking to different people brings me new experiences. Apart from that, I think the variety of activities offered on campus [has] really helped me to recognise my strengths, interests and things I’m not so good at. I’ve discovered a lot about myself since I started boarding, and I hope that as time goes on, I’ll go on to reflect and grow even more.”
Harrow’s vision is for its pupils to not only achieve outstanding academic results but to also develop the motivation, skills and determination required to make a positive difference in the world. The experiences shared by Kingsley, Helen, Daniel and Robin are true testament to that.
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