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As boarders we are in some of the defining years of our pre-adult lives and it is easy to overlook the lessons we learn and life skills we develop while in boarding.

11 June 2020

This is evident now more than ever for those boarders who have had little option but to remain in boarding during the current pandemic-related School closure.

It is an important time for boarders to acknowledge the personal value of their unique boarding experience, especially those of us that face 22 weeks of separation from our homes. It is true for most character-building experiences that the long-term benefits are difficult to see at the time. But taking the time to reflect amid the chaos can make these experiences ever more meaningful later in life.

The boarding lifestyle is at times a difficult one. During this period when people all over the world are urged to stay at home, to spend time among their families and to distance themselves from others, boarders find themselves in a strange position. Relying on the only people who truly share their experiences, fellow boarders support one another, and although the numbers of those physically residing in the Boarding House have reduced, the identity that boarders share between each other has a new strength to it.

This identity is one that former resident in the Pembroke Boarding House and current Director and CEO of the Adelaide Fringe Festival Heather Croall (1983) knows all too well. I had the opportunity to speak to Heather about her time at Pembroke and what I found most impressive was not her many incredible accomplishments but rather her inspiring attitude.

It was evident from the beginning of my conversation with Heather that she is still strongly connected to her identity as a boarder. When asked about her time at Pembroke she gave me an in-depth description of her time in boarding. The description was a fond one and contained recounts of the times that she shared with her lifelong friends as well as the ever-evolving dynamic between students and staff. She even remembered the Deputy Principal at the time: ‘Dr Possingham was really, really strict but she always pushed us to be better and bring out the best in ourselves’.

Heather possessed the attitude required by artists, the resilience to be rejected again and again for funding opportunities yet never to let her hunger for success die. I was amazed by how familiar I was with the values that Heather lived by. The conversation resonated strongly with my first day in boarding, when Mr Shillabeer explained the fundamentals of successfully taking advantage of the new opportunities we were about to encounter.

Heather’s time in boarding taught her another simple yet invaluable lesson—collaborative creation. Throughout my interview Heather reinforced that the ability to work together in a team was an absolutely essential aspect of achieving success. I’m sure that many of us can sympathise that working in a team is not always enjoyable but, having lived in a boarding environment, Heather was well equipped to collaborate effectively with the diverse people she would encounter throughout her career.

When asked if she had any advice for anyone who would be reading this article she answered that ‘the most important thing to remember is that innovation is born from adversity’. Such an answer shows Heather’s appreciation for her values of resilience and adaptability, traits that those of us who reside in boarding share.

If Heather’s prevailing character traits are not evidence enough of the importance of the values we developed during our time in boarding, then let the attitude of boarders during these current times speak for itself, to which Mr Evan Shillabeer (Head of Campbell House) can attest. ‘It really is quite impressive how resilient boarders are, dealing with the additional constraints that COVID-19 has placed upon them, in particular considering the great distance boarders are from home. The Boarding House has a fine community of mature and respectful young adults!’

I hope Mr Shillabeer’s comment and Heather’s story encourage those of us in the boarding community to take some time to reflect on our experiences. Hopefully, in this reflection, your purpose in this community will become a little clearer and you may start asking yourself how you can truly take advantage of such a unique opportunity.

Alexander Sukacz
(Yr 12)

Alexander S

About the author
Alexander is a multinational Year 12 boarding student at Pembroke who has been in boarding for 2 years and is the Head Boy of the Boys Boarding House. He is very passionate about preserving the strong community within the Boarding House during these challenging times. After Alexander graduates he plans to study interstate at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, in the hopes of pursuing a career that will challenge him in all aspects of his life as well as allow him to travel and experience new cultures.