As the latest academic year draws to a close, pupils – and staff – share their secrets on successfully settling in their new surroundings. Here, Ozo Mbanefo (12), who joined the Royal Alexandra and Albert School as a boarder in year seven having never boarded before, tells us how she has been getting on.

How have you found your first year at the school?
I’ve been enjoying my first year a lot. I think because I really like my Boarding House it’s made boarding even better. On my first day, I was nervous and afraid but there were people to help me. Now, every time I walk into my House, the smell makes me feel happy and safe. I love that I’m now part of a bigger family.

What have you enjoyed the most?
The best part of boarding is being with my friends. There is always something to talk about, always someone to talk with, and always someone who is fun and entertaining. I especially like when I come down in the mornings to the common room and everyone says good morning. Small things like that make it really enjoyable.

Ozo Mbanefo (12), who is in Elizabeth House, a junior boarding house for girls in years 7-9 at the Royal Alexandra & Albert School

What new skills or hobbies have you picked up?
I’m artistic and like scrapbooking. Since starting here, I’ve been going to scrapbooking club and properly learning the skills that I need to do it well.  But the best thing has been all the cooking clubs the School has. My all-time dream is to be a chef so I love that there are so many cooking clubs that I can choose from. During the first term, I joined Foods of the World with Chef Ricardo. He’s such an experienced chef and taught me a lot. This term, I’m doing Cookies & Cakes which is different but also fun. It’s great how the clubs are supporting me with my dream.

What did you find was the biggest challenge?
When I first started I wasn’t as organised as I should have been. I had to learn to write down my prep and keep on top of everything I needed to do. I never boarded before, and I struggled with home sickness and being away from my family, but that’s normal. Everyone was nice and helped me when I was upset. Someone said that I shouldn’t be upset because, although I was away from my real family, I was now part of a family in our Boarding House.

What advice would you give to someone starting at the school in the next academic year?
Don’t be afraid. I was really afraid but there’s no reason to be. People are nice. When I got lost during my first days, people were happy to help me and show me where I needed to go.  If you listen and follow instructions you’ll be fine. Listening to advice from friends in your Boarding House that have gone through the exact same thing as you is important too – it lets you know that you aren’t experiencing this alone and that what you’re feeling is normal.

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