On Being a Boarder For the First Time

Katharine Gutkoski, Brooks School
February 3rd, 2021

For the past two years, I have been a day student.  I live two minutes away from the campus, so it made sense.  It was the best of two worlds; I could be on campus as much as I needed or wanted to, but at the end of the day, I got to go home and see my family.  However, when COVID-19 hit, I knew that would likely change.  Over the past summer, our Head of School, Mr. Packard, sent out many emails, updating the Brooks community on what plans for the next school year were looking like. One such email described the decision to have only boarders and virtual students for the coming fall semester. I remember reading it and wanting to cry. I love Brooks, but my family is so important to me. I have three younger siblings and I am so close with them and my parents.  I was so used to being with them constantly.  If I became a boarder, I would not be able to leave campus and see or hug my family for three months.  I knew that was going to be really hard for me. 

It took me weeks to come to a decision.  My parents thought it was a good opportunity to see what it was like to live at Brooks.  Granted, it would be different because of all the new restrictions and protocols, but it was still living at school.  It was only twelve weeks, and if I decided that I needed to come home, I could.  It would be difficult and I would be homesick, but my parents thought I could--and should--do it.  So I did.

All of a sudden, I had to buy all kinds of things that I hadn’t needed before, like a shower caddy, more than enough plastic bins, and a hanging shoe rack.  My friends must have gotten so sick of answering all my questions about what I would need while at school.  While I was excited to be going back to the school that I love, I was really nervous and couldn’t think about leaving.  I just focused on the task at hand, deciding that was the easiest way to get through it.  

Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I have had to do in a long time.  For someone who is so close to their family, this drastic change was very nerve wracking and difficult.  I don’t think my family has given me harder hugs in my entire life.  

For the first few weeks at Brooks, I was incredibly homesick.  In-person classes hadn’t started yet, so I was in my room all day and I missed my family terribly.  I knew they were missing me too, but that didn’t help. However, I knew that the first few weeks were going to be the hardest and I needed to give boarding a real chance before I wrote it off entirely.  Finally, in-person classes began and as soon as I went to my first class, I knew I made the right choice.  I immediately called my mother and told her that even though I missed everyone at home, I was happy with the decision I had made.  I could get through the next few months because it would feel a little more normal than 2020 had felt all year.  We had to wear masks and sanitize everything, only four people were allowed to a table in the dining hall, and we had to socially distance ourselves, but suddenly I was walking to my classes rather than just sitting in my dining room at home taking classes via Google Meet and Zoom.  

I was still homesick from time to time, but it got better.  I settled into a routine and found myself focusing on my family less and less. Now, instead of walking downstairs to the kitchen, I walked across campus to the dining hall.  I took dance classes via Zoom in the black box theater and hung out with friends over the weekend instead of going to the dance studio and watching movies with my siblings.  

Before I knew it, Halloween had come and gone and I had three weeks left.  It turns out that time travels fast when you aren’t focused on when it is going to end.  Transitions are hard.  Change is hard.  2020 has been a very difficult year for everyone.  I am glad I became a boarder, even though I was so homesick at first.  And now, at least I’ll be ready for college! 

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