Marlborough College: More than just an academic hothouse07.06.2012
Sending your child abroad to school is an exciting prospect, however of course parents are going to worry about how their children will feel at living away from home. We spoke to our colleague Flora, who went to Marlborough College, about her experiences at one of the top British boarding schools.
Lucullus: For how long were you a student at Marlborough?
Flora: I started at Marlborough in 2004 and left 5 years later having done by A levels. Was it difficult to get a place to study at Marlborough? Where were you at school before? To get in I had to sit Common Entrance which, in hindsight, wasn’t too difficult because I was well prepared by my wonderful prep school - Twyford School near Winchester. At the time though, I was definitely convinced that these were the hardest exams that I would ever have to take in my life!
Lucullus: Were you able to choose whether to board or to be a day pupil?
Flora: I chose to board at Marlborough partly because my parents lived over 2 hours away, but largely because I wanted to go to boarding school. My older brother also boarded and I had always been told that, when I was older, I would too - it was something I looked forward to. I had already boarded for some time at my prep school so wasn’t too worried about feeling homesick - my prep school was quite small and everyone had siblings there, so it felt like a big sleepover most of the time! I knew that it would be different at Marlborough and that I would see my parents a lot less but I knew I would really miss out if I was a day pupil- my fondest memories of school are not from when I was in class but from mucking around with my friends in the evenings or at the weekends.
Lucullus: Why did you choose to board at school?
Flora: My parents were very happy for me to board - in fact I think they might have been cross if I said I wanted to stay at home as they knew I would feel left out and ultimately regret being a day pupil.
Lucullus: Why did you choose Marlborough College?
Flora: When I was deciding where to go, my parents took me round several schools they thought I might like and then let me decide for myself - so again I was very lucky and allowed to choose for myself rather than being sent where my parents wanted. I knew I wanted to go to a mixed school and everything at Marlborough seemed so impressive - the buildings, the sports pitches, even the older girls seemed glamorous and grown up. I was also given a hot chocolate when I went to visit one of the boarding houses which may well have contributed to my decision!
Lucullus: What was life like at Marlborough?
Flora: I definitely felt that I was pushed academically at Marlborough - if I was lazy and my marks weren’t good enough I was treated to several stern words from my Housemistress. However the atmosphere in the classrooms was always very friendly and relaxed - no one laughed or made you feel stupid if you made a mistake. Probably the most important thing though, was that we didn’t just focus on exams and how to pass them - the teachers always looked to tell us more and really give us an education rather than just sticking to the syllabus. This meant that the lessons were so much more interesting and I actually wanted to learn something rather than I felt I had to because it was in the exam. The staff didn’t just teach us academics though- if you were being a brat and misbehaving they would make sure you knew that what you were doing wasn’t acceptable. Going to boarding school certainly made me grow up and take responsibility for my actions.
Lucullus: What most impressed you about the school?
Flora: What I really liked about Marlborough was that they tried to make everything possible for you - if you wanted to try a new sport or subject, or do something out of the ordinary, the school gave you the opportunity to do that. There were so many things organised that you could always find something that you enjoyed whether it was woodwork, astronomy or rock climbing, and you were always encouraged to try new things. For example in my first year we had to choose a new language to learn and I chose Russian, thinking it would just be fun for a year or so- 8 years on and I am living and working in Moscow - something I never dreamed I would do, and would never have been able to do if I hadn’t gone to Marlborough.
Lucullus: Are you proud that you went to Marlborough?
Flora: I am not sure whether ‘proud’ is necessarily the right word because I would never want to boast about my education, but I certainly feel very lucky that I went to Marlborough. I had a wonderful time there and will always remember it fondly - my closest friends are from school and after living with them for 5 years they are practically family. Whilst I was pleased with my exam results, I think Marlborough did much more than just educate me academically, and although it wasn’t always easy, I will always be grateful that I was given the opportunity to go there.
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