Kareema and Mojola from Nigeria, A-Levels at boarding school
Kareema and Mojola Lawal are 17-year-old twin sisters from Nigeria. They moved to the UK for sixth form (the final two years of secondary school in the UK), and are studying for their A-levels at Prior’s Field School, a girls’ boarding school in Godalming, Surrey.
Here, they give an insight into their lives as international boarding school students, their university ambitions, and what it’s like to share a birthday!
Kareema: ‘Boarding at Prior’s Field has turned out to be an interesting experience for me. I’d never boarded in a school for a whole year, so the thought of doing so in a new school in a different country scared me. I’ve always hated new places and I remember how much I missed my friends and my family. I admit that on my first night, I was thinking I’d made a mistake moving away from home.
‘That quickly went out the window when I realised how friendly everyone is here! They are always so quick to try to make new boarders feel comfortable, welcome and happy. We had bonding experiences such as a scavenger hunt, chocolate making and a trip to Thorpe Park one weekend. After all that I remember thinking, "Well, this might be a good thing after all."
‘Though it took a while to adjust to the differences in culture (especially the food) I eventually got the hang of how everything worked – with some help from my teachers and peers. I really appreciate how the boarding house has a day study for us to work in to help us stay focused. The one-on-one time spent with my teachers also really helps me in my classes.
‘I am studying English, Psychology and Business Studies, and all the academic support I’ve received will help me to gain the results I am capable of. I now have an offer from Warwick University to study Law with Business Studies, which I am passionate about.
‘The staff also supported me through the UCAS university application process, guiding me with my personal statement and course choices. Their experience has kept me calm and enabled me to make the right decisions.
‘In between activities, friends, trips to town and themed dinners there’s rarely a dull moment. The teachers are always there for you when you have a problem and push you when they feel like you can do better (I owe most of my success to them!) and friends are always there for you when you need a shoulder to cry on.’
The essential guide to UK boarding schools
‘Being in boarding has also helped me become independent – it has enabled me to speak my mind without fear, to care less about what other people think and to stand up for what I believe in. In doing so I have made friends that I hope will stay with me even after school who share my common interests.
‘We have "boarding buddies" which essentially means that the upper sixth boarders look after lower sixth girls and act as a big sister. I found out that my boarding buddy, along with a few others, had the same obsession with anime, comics and fandom as I do, which led me to form a school Fandoms United club – a club where anyone can come to talk about things they feel passionate about. It has been quite successful and the school has been very supportive.
‘Extracurricular activities give us a chance to learn new skills and improve ourselves as individuals. I’ve taken LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) classes and singing lessons. I also like how much the boarding staff make you feel at home here (they even have pets running around!) to remind you that they are always there for you.’
Mojola: ‘Sixth form boarding at Prior’s Field has given me the increased confidence and independence I need. I have been able to make my own decisions on key issues and help educate others.
‘Small classes within my A-level subjects have really encouraged me to ask questions and the individual attention is helping me to achieve my full potential. Teachers understand how I work, and we are all offered the chance to attend subject-specific workshops and one-to-one tutorials in all subjects.
‘In the future I would like to go into politics as I want to make a difference to people’s lives and be a voice for change. I have been offered a place at Liverpool University to study Law, which I know will provide many opportunities to explore the subjects that interest me.
‘I really enjoy the weekends too. My boarding friends and I use the opportunity to catch up on our favourite TV shows or sometimes get lots of work done without distractions. On other weekends, we go to town to see a movie or have dinner.
‘I have to say that birthdays are the best at Prior’s Field! You get your own message on the electronic noticeboard wishing you a happy birthday, alongside your own cake with candles – unless you’re a twin like me, then you have to share the day!
‘Although living away from home has its ups and downs, I’ve made friends that I think I’ll have for life!’