As an international boarding school in England, Saint Michael’s takes great pride in the growing number of nationalities of students that come to study here each year. Currently there are 28 different nationalities from just over 100 students who represent a wide range of countries from every continent. Significantly, where many boarding schools in the UK have a large number of day pupils, every student at Saint Michael’s is a full-boarder, which means that these 28 nationalities are present in the boarding houses during the evenings and on weekends.
In recent years a decline in the number of British students attending boarding schools in England has prompted many traditional British independent schools to look to the overseas market to fill their spaces. In many cases, these schools have focussed their efforts on one or two countries where it is fairly simple to recruit a large number of students in a short space of time. This stop-gap tactic has resulted in many boarding schools in the UK filling their boarding houses with a predominant nationality.
At Saint Michael’s – a school with over 20 years’ experience as an international boarding school in England – students are taught that they have a duty to be accepting of all cultures and creeds and that they are all facing the same new experience together. Naturally, a school with so many nationalities faces many challenges as each student’s expectations differ, as do the things they like and dislike. Food, for example, causes constant debate amongst students as some want potatoes every day whilst others want rice; some students can’t eat pork, whilst others can’t eat beef. Providing a balanced and nutritional meal for young people three times a day can be difficult enough, but when you have to cater for the tastes and preference of 28 different nationalities, finding something for everybody to agree on is near impossible! Although fussy eaters can be found at every boarding school in the UK, traditional boarding schools with a mainly British student cohort can at least fall back on the various British classics that most of our international students find bland and tasteless.
With so many different cultures at Saint Michael’s, you are bound to find many things that would not be present in most boarding schools in England. For example, the school has a prayer room which is open to students of all faiths and is frequented daily by a number of Muslim and Christian students. There is also a Japanese and Chinese club which are led by members of staff.
“It is not uncommon to come across a group of four or five students walking along the corridor all chatting away in English. As you get closer, you realise that each student comes from a different country and after only a short time they have all found a common interest in which they can relate to one another. I grew up in a boarding school in England as my dad was vice-principal and we lived on campus. Although they had a few international students there, during the evenings when many of the British students went home each nationality would splinter off into their own small groups and chat to one another in their native language. I think this is where international boarding schools in England have an advantage in educating foreign students, as ultimately, it is during the evenings and on weekends that students do most of their communicating”
As a member of the marketing team I travel around the world a lot, and together we visit around 20 countries a year in order to keep our nationality mix as diverse as possible. When I attend education fairs in cities like Beijing, Lagos and Moscow there are always plenty of boarding schools in the UK in attendance. It’s when you start to visit the fifth or sixth biggest city in Kazakhstan, or take a 2 week marketing trip across the Middle East that you find the international schools and colleges who are really committed to building as diverse a community as possible.”
Adam Smallwood, Marketing Officer