Embracing Lifelong Connections: The Bonds Formed at Boarding School

Boarding schools hold a special place in the hearts of many alumni. They provided a nurturing environment where young women not only received an exceptional education but also forged deep and lasting connections with their peers. The experience of living and learning together fosters an unbreakable bond that often extends far beyond graduation. In this article, we delve into the unique connections made at boarding school and explore how these relationships positively shape the lives of those who attend.

Living in a boarding environment creates an intimate setting where girls develop enduring friendships. The shared experiences of navigating adolescence, academic challenges, extracurricular activities, and personal growth form a strong foundation for these connections. The support and understanding that fellow boarders provide create a network of unwavering companionship, fostering an environment where girls can thrive both academically and personally.

The bonds formed during the time at boarding school often transcend the boundaries of time and distance. The close-knit communities cultivate friendships that can last a lifetime. As alumni move on to different paths in life, these connections continue to provide support, encouragement, and a sense of belonging. Whether it’s celebrating milestones, navigating career choices, or simply offering a listening ear, these friendships serve as an anchor throughout the ups and downs of life.

For many, this connection continues throughout their adult lives. We invited two past students, Claire and Sue, from the Class of 1986, who are still friends forty years later, to share their experiences.

Claire Meiklejohn

The connections I made in boarding school are special because I had to rely on them from the age of 13. Before planes were affordable, and coming from Esperance, we could not go home on long weekends. Mum and Dad had a farm they were establishing and other siblings at home, so they could not get to Perth very often. I was so grateful to the boarding families (and later, day bugs) who opened their homes and shared their bit of WA with me. 

Those friendships were also leaned on when, as a kid from the bush, I was having a hard time navigating a return from being an exchange student overseas and starting university without mum and dad around. Together with my siblings, they continued to be my extended family and housemates during my 20s.

Some special friendships I made have stuck with me over the years.  We have had so many shared experiences and mischief to laugh over. Maybe the values we grew up with and led our families to seek out Santa Maria mean we speak with a shorthand that becomes more precious as the years go on.

Ebbing and flowing over the years, and depending on our stage of life, my friendships with old girls, which were formally nurtured by sport, beach and partying are now enjoyed with drinks or coffees, walks and chats. After living away from Perth for many years, it was a joy to reconnect with old girls as my own children went through Santa Maria and Aquinas. I am consistently in awe of the way those old girls navigate their personal and professional worlds with thoughtful compassion and integrity.

Sue Steed (Cummings)

Boarding friendships are often lifelong friendships as they are developed in a different way – you live together 24/7, you cannot hide away, so all those emotions you experience, the highs and lows of life are shared, you get to know your friends very well – their good and not so good bits! Whilst I loved being a boarder at Santa Maria and truly appreciate the sacrifices my parents made to send me to such a great school, being away from your family is difficult. Homesickness is real. I was truly blessed to have my friends in boarding that helped me with my homesickness, we all had to be there for each other. Your boarding friends are your second family!

After nearly four decades of friendship, we have been through so much together, careers, marriage, kids, grief and joy. I now live on a farm in Esperance, so I don’t get to see everyone as much as I would like. Life gets busy when you have families of your own. But it is comforting to know that just one phone call or a catch-up whenever we are in the same city or town, and the conversation just starts again as if no time has passed. As an adult, I have had the security of knowing that whatever I do or wherever I go, I have a group of friends that will be there for me when I need them.

In conclusion

Boarding Schools offer a transformative educational experience that extends far beyond the classroom. The connections made during this time are truly special, forming the bedrock of lifelong friendships and networks of empowered women. The supportive communities and shared experiences shape the lives of those who attend. As alumni continue to navigate life’s journey, the connections made during their boarding school years remain a constant source of support, friendship, and inspiration.

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