As the latest academic year draws to a close, pupils – and staff – share their secrets on successfully settling in their new surroundings. Here, The Leys students Charlotte and Millie tell us how they have been getting on.

How have you found your first year at the school?
Millie and I are both in Dale House, which is a girls only boarding house for Y9 to Y13 and we joined the school from the very beginning in Y7 into Moulton House which is the house for juniors. Moulton is a house with around sixty girls and boys and is a very intimate and supportive environment to settle new and younger students into the School. Looking back we felt that it was daunting at first, however, everyone is thrown into this new experience together so it is very easy to settle in.

Millie has moved up to Y9 and is settling into Dale House and I am in Y12. She was the only one from Moulton and was joined by eleven other girls from different schools. We were paired up as part of the ‘Big sister/Little sister’ programme which Millie has found very useful as it matches her with a Sixth Former who acts as a supporting role; someone with experience who can help with any small problem or is just there for a general chat.

Millie and I have had coffee dates at our school cafe, Balgarnie’s, to talk about life at the school; at first we discussed how she was settling into her new environment but more importantly life (gossip) in the Y9 Dorm!

What have you enjoyed the most?
What I have enjoyed the most about Leys life is being a boarder because you become so close to everyone you live with and they feel like sisters who are always there for you no matter what, this is a great experience for me as I am an only child.

Millie has told me that she most enjoyed the Brecon Beacons School trip to Wales in Y8 as she got to explore all sorts of activities such as caving, gorge-walking, mountain-climbing, abseiling and rock-climbing. Millie loves being active and her  sport is swimming.

What new skills or hobbies have you picked up?
The Leys has opened my eyes to so many new cultural activities and societies: I was involved in the Senior Drama production this year playing the character of Dorine in Moliere’s Tartuffe. It was amazing fun to get involved with and the plays are incredibly professional looking.

The choir, which allows you to travel to so many places to sing such as the Great Albert Hall in The Armed Man concert and recording a CD for the school, and joining the school swim team which allowed me to take my competitive swimming to the next level. Millie is also in the school swim team and trains 6 times a week (don’t worry you don’t have to be that dedicated!) and takes part in the street dance activity.

What did you find was the biggest challenge?
In my opinion the biggest challenge is learning to live alongside other people, and trying not be the dominant person in the group; everyone should be equal in order to work efficiently together, it takes a while to understand this and get used to everyone’s different ways of thinking, but when you do, I can assure you that you are inseparable as a year group.

The Y9 Dorm helps the bonding process as they are in one amazing room together. Millie’s biggest challenge was overcoming her homesickness as she lives in Hong Kong and as she has to travel by plane to and from School by herself and, whilst she doesn’t get to see her family for months on end, she is lucky to have her sister in Y7 so they can support each other through the hard times. My aunt lives in Cambridge so I can see her at the week-ends if I wanted to, which is a nice comfort to have.

What advice would you give to someone starting at the school in the next academic year?
The most useful piece of advice that I would give to a new pupil would be to join with an open mind to the people you meet; a new timetable and schedule can be tough and learning the way that the new school operates. Do I shower at night or before breakfast? Do I get changed into home clothes before prep or after supper? Will I find a best friend?

We have new students join us in the Y12 and a positive attitude always makes new situations easier and more fun; the school provides a number of activities to join up and connect; and, the Y12 camping trip made sure we were out of our comfort zone. Millie’s top piece of advice is to simply be yourself (a cliché, I know) but it’s true, it is great to do this from the outset as getting to know your peers, teachers and members of house staff is so useful and to have a chat with them in the evening is a great way to unwind after prep.

Overall, I have found The Leys to be a great school showing me what independent life is like but with still the right amount of support for when you need it, especially if you have never boarded before like Millie and me.

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