Education & Enrichment Living In Hong Kong Schools

Ready to board? Boarding school options for expats

Making the right choice for your child’s education is always a source of concern for an expat parent. Here we look at boarding school and summer school options in Asia and beyond, any of which could prove to be the perfect solution for those facing this decision.

Boarding school: Students say boarding at United World College South East Asia makes a profound difference on a person
Students say boarding at United World College South East Asia makes a profound difference on a person


United World College South East Asia

United World College South East Asia (UWCSEA) offers boarding at its Dover campus in Singapore. The two boarding school houses are home to over 180 students from around 50 different nationalities, making for a truly diverse, international experience. We asked recent graduate Mikhail Lysiuk, class of 2016, about the experience of boarding while completing the two-year IB Diploma programme.

What impact has UWCSEA had on you? I’m pretty sure everybody can say, “Before coming to UWCSEA I was a different person”. It’s not possible to remain the same after meeting so many new and interesting people, after breaking through the stress of the IB and experiencing all the other challenges and amazing moments!

One focus at UWCSEA is on developing intercultural understanding. Were there any special events in the boarding houses to encourage this? True knowledge about a country comes from personal interaction, observing one’s behaviour and just being around people from different places. So, to share my culture, I participated in all the international evenings, events and activities for boarders. I felt I had a great responsibility to represent my country all over UWCSEA. Hopefully, by now everybody knows where Belarus is, that it’s not part of Russia, and that Belarusians are tough and ready for big adventures but can be nature lovers sometimes.

What will you remember most about your time at the college? Last year in my room I had cultural diversity and mental unity. It was amazing. We could understand each other without saying words, and share jokes that only we could understand. I’ll also never forget the commitment of our community after the earthquake in Nepal. It was wonderful – it gives me hope in people. And I will never forget UN Night; the preparations and then the performing were great.

What are your plans for the future? Next year I will start at St Olaf College in Minnesota in the US. Even though I was admitted to higher ranked universities, I decided that St Olaf is the most suitable choice for me. After finishing my degree my plan is to go to Nepal to complete a life dream: to summit K2.

How would you sum up your experience at school? UWCSEA is truly unbelievable. The uniqueness of the place and the magic of the people who work and study here make it so special. I think every UWCSEA alumni has a fire for change and is set to spread it around the world.

Marlborough College believes learning outside of the classroom is a vital part of the boarding school experience
Marlborough College believes learning outside of the classroom is a vital part of the boarding school experience


Marlborough College Malaysia

Marlborough College Malaysia is a co-educational international British school that offers weekly and full boarding for students from ages nine to 18. The full boarding school programme includes a wide range of activities for students before and after school and during the weekends – in fact, it sounds like so much fun we’re surprised the students ever want to leave! The school’s 90-acre site on the southern tip of Malaysia is just 15 minutes from the Singapore border, and there’s plenty of space for facilities, including grass pitches for rugby and football, a cricket ground, a hockey pitch, five tennis courts, squash courts, a gymnasium, netball courts, swimming pool, athletics track, an indoor climbing centre, fitness suite and space for badminton and table tennis. A nearby lake and local nature reserves provide opportunities for local fieldwork and adventurous activities.

The wide range of experiences provided in the boarding school programme reflect what the students would be doing if they were “home”. Weekend activities include cultural visits, shopping trips, water parks, riding stables, Go-Kart tracks, laser quest, paintball and archery. There are service trips to local children’s homes, as well as visits to homes of the disabled and elderly. Students are also taken over to Singapore to visit the attractions and beaches on Sentosa, museums and galleries, and taken on river trips and treks.

Mr Jon McNaught is the Trips Coordinator for the school, and believes that learning outside the classroom is an integral part of school life. “The benefits of any activities beyond the school gate are very important,” he says. “Far more learning takes place and a deeper understanding occurs when children are doing and experiencing, rather than simply learning about something,” he says.

Mr McNaught believes that significant learning occurs when students push themselves out of their comfort zones, which is why their more adventurous trips are an important part of the boarding school experience. One of the integral aspects of the school year is the annual exchange programme with Marlborough College UK, where a select group of students stay in the boarding houses and attend lessons at the college, giving them an invaluable international experience.

Social events are organised for the boarding students, from barbecues to birthday celebrations. These get-togethers teach the students social interaction skills and how to conduct themselves in social settings and, more importantly, they help to create the close-knit, friendly community in which they live.

Boarding school: Branksome Hall Asia has a reputation for academic excellence
Branksome Hall Asia has a reputation for academic excellence

South Korea

Branksome Hall Asia

Located on the island of Jeju in South Korea, Branksome Hall Asia has a reputation for academic excellence. Using the motto “discover your remarkable”, the school aims to inspire girls to discover their individual strengths and talents. It offers state-of-the-art facilities and a “home-away-from-home” approach in its boarding school houses, with the aim of empowering students and supporting both their academic and personal needs. We chatted with the four Heads of House, to find out what life is like as a boarding student.

Tell us about the students’ communal living arrangements. We have four houses of residence: Ainslie, Shin Saimdang, Sherborne, and Seondeok. Each one tailors its programmes to suit its residents, as each combination of individuals will bring with them a range of different needs and talents, making a unique community of its own. Our hope for our girls is that through their communal living experience they will be empowered young women, loving learning and holding fast to their principles in whatever arena they choose to dedicate themselves.

What are the advantages of being a boarding school student? Residence is a place where the girls can learn to build and sustain relationships with one another, communicate respectfully and grow healthy work habits. They become skilled at working with others, to achieve common goals for the benefit of the community. Girls are given responsibility in the house, which builds strong and independent living habits.

How do you support students who are new to the residential life? We have an induction programme to support new students. Each girl is directly under the care of the residence family Teacher Don and is supported by a residence buddy. Our school counsellor will also check in on her regularly for the first few weeks.

How do the students spend their weekends? The girls are encouraged to take part in sporting activities, and they have access to the school’s facilities, including the swimming pool, gym and fitness centre. Regular excursions off-site such as going to movies, shopping or the beach are planned, and our weekend programme offers plenty of activities that promote team-building, independence and creating fun memories and lasting friendships. There is time set aside for academic study and clubs.

What academic supports are in place to help residential students? Our students have round-the-clock academic support from our Teacher Dons, who work closely with the girls, providing support with homework and other academic projects, along with Teacher Interns in each House to further extend the support to our girls. The School also offers a Mentorship programme, much like a “Big Sister, Little Sister” programme, and students regularly receive support from their carefully assigned peers.

Boarding school: The John Hall Venice Course is being offered as a summer course for the first time this year
The John Hall Venice Course is being offered as a summer course for the first time this year


The John Hall Summer Course

Imagine spending three weeks in Venice, Italy, experiencing the best of the art world, with tours of the great churches and galleries lead by international art experts; it sounds like a dream trip for most of us. For university students who are interested in the art world, the John Hall Venice Course – available in a summer version for the first time this year – makes this once-in-a-lifetime trip a reality.

Over the three weeks, participants have the opportunity to learn about Italian cinema, modern art and sculpture, Italian cookery, photography, painting classes, and take part in the feast of the Redentore festival.

Helena Barham, who is studying biochemistry at the University of Exeter, took part in the John Hall Venice Course in 2016. “Two things really stand out from this experience for me; being in such an extraordinary city, and the amazing, crazy friends I made,” she says.

Helena had been focusing on science subjects at school, and this course opened her eyes to a newworld she’d never discovered. “The John Hall Venice Course pushed me to explore completely different subjects, from architecture to portraiture to the Renaissance. We had some fantastic lecturers specialising in a whole range of subjects,” she adds.

When asked for a favourite memory from the experience, Helena finds it difficult to choose just one. “I have so many memories that I will cherish forever, from the notorious trips to Piccolo Mondo (Venice’s only nightclub), to the private tour of San Marco, to the endless parties. One of my favourite memories was a weekly tradition I had with a friend, wandering for hours around the city alone with our cameras (and often getting lost) before meeting up for a glass of wine and cicchetti (snacks) to compare our photos, sketches and stories.”

Helena says she feels privileged to have had the opportunity. So, would she recommend it to others? “Absolutely!”

The John Hall Summer Course will run from 9 to 30 July 2017 |

This article first appeared in the Feb/Mar edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!

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