How boarding schools help international students settle into school life

Choosing to board offers unrivalled opportunities for international students to enjoy the best of all the UK has to offer.

Image of Stephen Perse Cambridge Sixth Form building
At Stephen Perse in Cambridge, our boarding students benefit from a city-centre experience outside of a traditional campus, that still offers the safety and security of a well-managed boarding house. Cambridge is home to world class education, technology and culture and every year we welcome students from a wide range of countries including Singapore, Japan, Mongolia and Hong Kong, to Poland, Portugal, Canada and the US. To help our international students settle into school life, we implement a carefully curated series of inductions and policies to ease their transition.

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Fostering student independence

Living away from family for the first time is often a completely new experience for students, but we have found one of the best ways to ease the transition for students is to empower them to foster their own identity, responsibility and sense of independence. At Stephen Perse, Cambridge, our boarding house is designed specifically for Sixth Form students and we create an environment where trust and mutual respect are encouraged between boarding staff and students. Students are supported to manage their own studies and develop their independence as young adults, learning valuable life skills in preparation for university and beyond while still benefiting from the supervision and support of experienced boarding teachers.  We encourage the students to take on responsibilities such as their own social lives and the logistics around them, their own laundry and maintaining their own space. At Stephen Perse, Cambridge, students also have the freedom to go into Cambridge, meet up with friends, or go to the gym, under the agreement that they maintain a method of contacting their supervisors. This grants our students more independence and flexibility, which supports them to become more responsible.Image of Stephen Perse Cambridge boarding room

Helping students to settle in

In the summer months ahead of the new academic year, it is recommended that all new boarders and their families attend any virtual meetings with the school’s Head of Boarding – this offers a good opportunity to ask questions and calm any pre-term nerves students may have.Many boarding schools encourage students to arrive a few days ahead of the start of term in order help them settle in. For example, within the first week, all boarders at Stephen Perse, Cambridge will be registered with an NHS doctor, as well as being given the support needed to open their own UK bank account. Schools will always offer a variety of induction activities, from orientation tours to team building days with the rest of the year group, to ease students into school life. Boarding houses in particular provide a friendly and safe environment for young adults to study and grow, with knowledgeable, caring and trained adults always on hand for pastoral support.

Having fun at the weekend

Weekends at the boarding house aren’t just for studying – exploring and socialising are just as important! This year, our boarding students at Stephen Perse, Cambridge had the unmissable opportunity to join hundreds of others to watch the live-stream of King Charles’ coronation ceremony on a huge screen in Ely cathedral. Other unique weekend activities for our students have included punting and walks along the River Cam to Grantchester, before stopping for afternoon tea at the renowned Orchard Tea Garden.Fun weekend activities for boarders can range from Murder Mystery nights, karaoke, table football competitions, to film nights and escape rooms. In addition to weekly sports activities, at Stephen Perse, Cambridge, our students can participate in even more varied sports at the weekend, such as climbing, archery and paddle boarding.

Factors to consider when choosing a boarding school

The size of boarding houses can have a big impact on a student’s experience in the UK. For example, boarders at Stephen Perse, Cambridge benefit from smaller boarding houses to ensure that each and every individual can receive the support or attention they need. It also means that students are able to form long lasting friendships and enjoy being part of a close-knit group.When choosing a boarding school, families will need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of a city vs a campus rural location. Studying in a connected city brings many benefits to students: for example, in Cambridge, boarders are able to live at the heart of a vibrant and multi-cultural student city, with the opportunity to access a variety of experiences on the doorstep. Campus locations provide limited access to life outside of school grounds and can be a limiting experience for personal development and growth. Cambridge offers the best of both worlds, with green spaces which offer a wonderfully unique and relaxing atmosphere where students can unwind during the weekends. Students are also able to visit the many museums, galleries and theatres on their doorstep, in addition to the public talks, lectures and concerts hosted by the university.Living on a school campus can be convenient, however, being located a short walk or bike ride away from the main school buildings can have a positive impact on student welfare, as boarders are able to enjoy their own space and separate the school day from their own relaxation and study time.Image of students in boarding house common room

Top tips for first-time boarders relocating to the UK

It is entirely natural to feel nervous before starting at a new school and navigating a new environment abroad. Here are a few top tips for students moving to the UK:
  • Read your school’s Boarding Handbook carefully as it will contain most of the information that you require.
  • Always take advantage of any virtual opportunities to meet with the Head of Boarding ahead of the start of term – this will offer the chance to talk with a member of staff and ask any questions.
  • Meeting new people can be daunting for everyone but the great thing about this is that everyone feels the same way. By the end of the first week, you will have started to get to know your fellow boarders and feel more at home.
  • Do not bring too many belongings with you as many find that their room is full of things that are never used – there is always the opportunity to add to your belongings overtime should you find something missing.

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