'Are you posh?' The 7 things people always ask me about going to boarding school.

For some young women, moving away from home at 14 to attend boarding school might seem a little scary.

For me, the opportunity to leave my country town behind and move to the bright lights of Sydney was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Boarding school is often portrayed as either a last resort for misbehaving children or a rich kid’s paradise complete with pony rides and ski trips.

My school was neither of these, fitting into the nice-but-not-too-fancy middle ground. All boarders had to be from the country, so there was a mix of girls with very different backgrounds.

Many of the girls came from farms, so there was a lot of talk about mustering and harvesting that I expect the day-girls didn’t quite understand.

My boarding school life was more than 20 years ago now, but I still get asked about what it was like. My five-year-old daughter especially finds it hard to wrap her head around. ‘So, there are NO parents there?

This is why I love showing her Alice-Miranda, the Aussie book, movie and TV series that’s set in a boarding school, and shows the fun side of what happens when parents aren’t around.

Alice-Miranda Friends Forever movie trailer, on Stan:

Video via Penguin Books

As for the adults, these are the main questions that pop up.

1. Were you sent away for being naughty?

Ahhh, everyone wants this to be true, and for me to tell my tale of smoking near the bike sheds or skipping school. Alas, the truth is less exciting.

For my older siblings, moving away to board was the only way to complete years 11 and 12 of school as our local high school only went to year 10.

By the time I got to high school, the opportunity to finish year 12 was available at home. My parents gave me the option, and I snapped up the chance to move to Sydney like my brothers and sisters had.

They had filled me in on the fun that they’d had and I wanted IN. They all lived and worked in Sydney too, so I knew I would be able to stay with them on weekends if I wanted to.

 2. Did you get homesick?

I was lucky enough to attend a school where I knew a handful of girls already and made some great friends in my first weeks there.

Despite a few teary phone calls to mum, I was really just happy to be there and soak up everything that was offered to me (like catching a train – this was all new to me).

Having my siblings close by, and visits from my dad when he came to Sydney for work, definitely made me feel less alone.

3. Was the food awful?


I grew up in a meat and three veg household. Boarding school food was similar to this, just not cooked as nicely as my mum would do it. Nobody cooks a roast like your mum, am I right?

Despite turning our noses up at dinner most nights, we would all be there lining up the next day for leftovers at lunch. A girl’s gotta eat!

I still remember the sad day that the cook told us he wasn’t allowed to make his famous marble cake for our recess anymore. Due to a new health focus we were to be given fresh fruit instead. Cue the tears.

4. Are you posh?

I love this one! My school wasn’t one of the exclusive, super expensive boarding schools at the time, so it tended to attract families that were from the land, business owners, public servants and teachers.

Having said that, we did have two daughters of an ex-Prime Minister attend the school, which caused a flurry of excitement at first. The day the boarding mistress was so flustered that she actually curtsied to him was one of the highlights of my year.

5. Did you get up to mischief?

Living with your friends as you discover the joys of boys, parties and alcohol made adventures pretty much inevitable.

Sneaking out, people sneaking in, fake ID, hiding contraband, we did it all and it was great. I don’t want my kids getting up to even one third of the things that I did!

6. What was the best part?

You really can’t top the friendships that are forged when you spend every minute of the day and night with your friends. The memories that we share to this day still have the capacity to make us laugh or cry.

The sense of independence that we felt made us self-reliant, as we got through the tricky teenage years without parents by our side.

Some of my favourite memories are calling boys from the payphone with friends close by, ordering in pizza on a Saturday night, having all of your friends’ wardrobes at your disposal when getting ready to go to a school dance (with boys!), watching Friends each week in the common room with 30 other girls, dancing to the Spice Girls before school, stealing ice cream from the kitchen for a midnight feast, singing Alanis Morissette songs in unison with friends in the next shower cubicle, and the weeks stuck indoors when we were all grounded (for getting caught doing something that people under 18 aren’t meant to do).

You don’t realise you’re having the time of your life until you look back.

7. Would you send your kids?

This is a tricky one. At my 20-year reunion when I was offered a brochure, I politely declined. I have so many amazing memories, and I’m certain that my years away at school made me the person I am today.

Yet the idea of my two children going off to live somewhere else fills me with sadness.

Besides the fact that it’s not really in our budget, I am lucky enough to live somewhere with great high schools on our doorstep.

So that means I’ll be around to keep an eye on my two kids and make sure they have their own (safe, monitored, legal, G-rated) adventures at home.

Did you go to boarding school or do you have kids in boarding school?

00:00 / ???