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My Boarding School Journey

Posted By Yaseen Ahmed '15, Sunday, October 2, 2016

When I was in Lower School at ACS, I remember hearing classmates’ conversations about boarding school and being perplexed. I couldn’t grasp why anybody would ever willingly leave home before they had to and was looking forward to attending my local high school, Naperville North, with my cousins and family friends. While a few extended family members had gone to boarding school, it really didn’t seem like something my immediate family would ever even consider.

As the end of Sixth Group approached, I started receiving mailings from various high schools both nearby and from all over the country, and would casually leaf through them when I was cleaning off my desk, although I never actually considered applying anywhere. But when I received a packet of information from Phillips Exeter, I perked up when I read how socioeconomically diverse its student body was, and read the catchphrase “Imagine a school where it’s cool to be smart” as an indicator that it would be a natural progression from ACS. Included in the packet was a personalized invitation to an intimate reception at a Chicago public library. After wolfing down the school’s brochures instead of working on homework, I brought the reception up to my parents and asked if we could attend and learn more about this foreign world, although the three of us acknowledged that it wasn’t necessarily a serious consideration. When we got to the reception, we were lucky to be among only five prospective students and their parents, all of whom seemed rather new to the boarding school bubble. As we chatted, the admissions officer painted a vivid picture of the school’s environment and the education I could potentially receive, answering any questions we could dream up. In the two hours that we were there, I drew closer and closer to the idea that one day it was possible, although likely improbable, for me to experience a school like this for myself.

One grueling application process and two visits to the Exeter campus made going to school there seem that much more of a reality, although I still was unsure of whether or not I’d even get in when I clicked the “Submit” button on my application. I’d decided to not let myself get my hopes up, so I was ecstatic to find an email on my phone two months later as we drove past a Portillo’s on a Teacher Institute Monday. My finger hovered over my phone for a second in hesitation before taking a nosedive onto my screen. Upon seeing a big red “Congratulations,” a “Mom” formed through my grin.

Six months later, I finally stepped out of the car on Elliot Street, right behind Webster Hall, where I would be spending the next four years. That day was filled with waves of new faces, names, and jargon being thrown my way. Looming over me was a tsunami of uncertainty. Uncertainty as to how I’d do in class, uncertainty as to whether I’d make friends, but above all, uncertainty as to whether I should even be there. My thoughts on boarding school reverted to what they had been when I was a little kid. I missed my teachers and classmates from ACS, I missed the environment of a small school, but above all, I missed my family. While overcoming apprehension and striking up conversations with classmates, however, I started to make friends through my dorm, classes, and mutual acquaintances. As the year passed, the friendships I’d made strengthened exponentially, and I gradually started to get to know more of the campus’s population. By the end of a month, I felt more confident than ever and was psyched for the rest of the year.

As I start my 10th Grade year and see my younger siblings off to their respective schools, I am looking forward to another great year at Exeter. It has been an amazing journey!

~ Yaseen Ahmed, ACS Class of 2015



Tags:  boarding school  secondary school placement 

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