Among the many international schools in Beijing, there is only one boarding school: Saint Paul American School (SPAS). Students at SPAS live in dormitories, where they spend about 13 hours a day, and they live with one or two other roommates who have different cultural backgrounds. Because we live at school, students enjoy relative independence and freedom from his or her parents, but living at school can be bittersweet.
You have really close “neighbors” who are literally right next door, and the room you live in with your roommates is your home. The hardest thing about dorm life is the absence of your family. Living away from your family can feel lonely at times, and you may feel desperate to go back to your real home. Things that you were insensitive to when you lived in your house are now crucial in your new accommodations. You have to respect people around you all the time. This means basic manners like wearing earphones when listening to music, turning the lights off when your roommates are sleeping, buying internet cards which last for a month at a time, and keeping your bed and desk clean. If you are one of the unique people who wake up early in the morning, everyone in your wing will love your morning call at 7:00 every day, too…seriously. Every day, you will see people brushing their teeth, pouring hot water in cup noodles, practicing dancing in the corner, and working on group projects in the lounge. Your fellow students are always there.
Roommates play a vital role in dorm life. They are your family, the ones who you can rely on the most. Before you go to bed, talking with your roommates about ongoing school issues, how your day was, and even about your concerns really helps you to feel that you are not alone, and that you have people who support and care about you.
I live with another senior who is currently working on college applications. We often talk about how we feel both anxious and excited about leaving high school and going into a completely new university environment. These conversations have developed a bond of sympathy between us, and I feel much more relaxed about the emotional burden and apprehensions. We laugh together, cry together, and sometimes, we all go crazy together. Living in a dorm with your roommates has the ability to leave a warm, everlasting companionship in your heart.
In a boarding school, everyone stays very connected with one another. In China, where Facebook and Twitter are blocked, students at SPAS are all connected by online or mobile messengers such as Skype, MSN, and Kakaotalk. Kakaotalk is a started as a common network among Korean students but soon became a boom among other international students. Due to such close relationships, even a petty matter becomes gossip. It’s just a matter of time before the entire school knows if you break up, fight with your friends, or say something stupid. You should only divulge your top-secrets to friends who are 100 percent reliable. If not, your secret will be a widely known fact in school. But that connectedness has a positive side, too: Take something like birthdays, for example. In band, students play a surprise birthday song as soon as our conductor holds the baton. At night after study hall, they hold a surprise birthday party in an empty classroom. They also design a card board with little birthday comments and pictures from every student.
Sally, 17, is the beijingkids student correspondent for Saint Paul American School. She is in her senior year and has attended Saint Paul for five years. Currently, she is the co-editor of the student newsletter, the president of the volunteer club, and a girls’ basketball player. Through her blog posts, she hopes to share unique and exciting experiences at Saint Paul!
The beijingkids student correspondent program gives high school students with an interest in writing and journalism a resource for guidance, feedback, and real-life training. If you are a student interested in becoming a beijingkids student correspondent, or you know a student who is, please contact email@example.com
Photo by Sally Kang