Excerpts from speeches given by Boarders Kate Lunau and Risa Iiyama at Boarder Prayers on November 25, 2016.
“Do you even like Boarding?” is a question that day students ask me often. My answer: I love Boarding! Hi, I’m Kate Lunau and this is my third year Boarding at Havergal. Before Boarding my life was very different. I grew up on an apple orchard where it was just my dad, my brother and I. Two goofball boys, with nothing to do but sit around and watch the apple season come and go. None of my friends lived in walking distance, so I did not see them often or sleep over at their houses much. The town that I am from, Caledon, isn’t exactly a diverse place either. I wasn’t exposed to much culture other than my mostly Scottish family. So when I found out I would be boarding at Havergal, I was beyond scared. I was very afraid that I would not fit in; I was also scared that my roommate would dislike me.
Speaking of how much I loved my friends, Boarding gifted me with a whole new understanding of friendship. For new Boarders, this might be something that’s hard to see, but towards the end of the year you will understand what I’m talking about. Sharing the same space with someone unfamiliar is the ultimate test of friendship. You have to know exactly what the other person is like in order to get along with them. For example, I’m a messy person. My roommate is not. She likes to stay up. I like to sleep early. I’m very outgoing, she is much quieter than I am.
So yes at the start, there was a lot of awkward talks and unspoken feelings. But after a while you begin to notice things. Boarding friendship isn’t something that happens by sitting together at lunchtime and slowly getting to know someone. Boarding friendship is something on a much deeper level. Because in Boarding, you spend more time with the people who live with you than anyone else. It’s an unspoken bond that you can always count and lean on. A bond that you miss overtime and will find yourself looking back on often. Boarding friendship is something that I know I will carry with me for the rest of my life. And I hope the rest of my Boarding family will carry it with them too.
It’s really challenging to leave a nest called home. Whether it seems like paradise or torture to you, it’s what every Boarder experiences. It’s been more than three years since I first stepped into Boarding and parted with my family. You might think it’s easier to live away from my family now, but it’s still painful for me to wave “good-bye” to home. In fact, it gets harder to part because our family bond strengthens each year. However, by living at Havergal and away from home, I’ve learned more than I’d ever imagined.
Hi, I’m Risa. I was raised in Japan, and this is my fourth year in Boarding. Today, I’d like to share the most important lesson I’ve learned by coming here. I’ve learned how to say “thank you”. Now you might think I’m crazy, but it’s true. I didn’t understand what it meant to be thankful. When I first came here, I was a complete outsider to Canadian culture. It’s not like I couldn’t speak English at all; I’ve known English my whole life. However, speaking English all the time was tough because at home I use both Japanese and English to talk to my friends and family. Furthermore, North American TV shows, infrastructure, style of communication, food, snacks, even small everyday materials like toothpaste and binders… they were all unfamiliar to me. I felt completely misplaced and my whole body ached for home.
One day, I suddenly thought of my parents’ feelings when I first said that I wanted to leave them. I am only here at Havergal because I begged to them for education abroad. I realized how courageous they were to let me, their only child, leave them earlier than they had ever imagined. I am only here because they sacrificed their desire to live and spend time with me. This was when I truly appreciated my parents. Now I know how to say “thank you”. I appreciate others from my heart.
Boarding is where I first learned to appreciate, and I truly appreciate everyone in this community. My life for the past three years away from home would not have been possible without Boarding. Recently, I have struggled through an identity crisis. Those times were tough; I didn’t know who I was at all because I wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to be. I still struggle with low self-esteem, stress and anxiety and they affect my mental and physical health. However, here I am today sharing my story with you. I am only here because of the support I receive. We only exist because we help each other. At Boarding, no one is ever alone. There is always someone to rely on. All you need to do when you need help is to reach out.
In my case, reaching out to others was really hard, but I’ve learned why it’s so important to do so. When you need help, you must ask for it. Yet, the most amazing part of this community is that someone helps you before you ask for it. There is always someone to hug, cuddle, and talk to 24/7 when you’re emotional or even when you just have a bad day. I am truly thankful for the help I receive and have learned to help others too. After all, we all need help. No one is able to live without it. My thoughts on independence have changed by life in Boarding. Previously, I believed being independent meant that you can do everything by yourself, but no, I was totally wrong. Independence is only possible because of love and support. The abundance of compassion in Boarding and Havergal is a miracle. I am thankful to be a part of this warm community.
Living in Boarding has taught me to appreciate life in a way I never did before. This is what I learned, but I’m sure that each and every Boarder learns and that and many other different life lessons. After all, Boarding is a part of Havergal and living in this environment lets us gain new knowledge every day. Boarding is also where unique memories are made. I have interesting memories that wouldn’t have been possible if I were a day student. Some of my memories are dressing up just to visit Yogurty’s down Avenue road, dominating the fitness centre, crashing the Grade 11 and 12 semi-formal dance in pajamas, altering my voice with helium balloons and late night talks with my roommate Katrina on weekday nights. I’ve made many more memories and they will all stay with me throughout my lifetime. Thank you for letting me share my story and memories today. Now you are about to see what life looks like in Boarding. We’ve put a video together which explains why it’s such a special place. I hope you enjoy it and thank you!