Boarding school offers different experience for former SAS students

Rigorous. Expensive. Extremely different.

These are the words that come into mind when we think of boarding schools.

Each year a few SAS students transfer to boarding schools. Former SAS students Sydney Kim, Olivia Chuang, Thomas Choi and Sarah Choi share their impressions on the advantages and disadvantages of their boarding school experiences.

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The Eye: What boarding school do you attend?

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Boarding schools that Sydney Kim, Olivia Chuang, Sarah Choi and Thomas Choi attend.

Sydney Kim, class of 2017:”Williston Northampton School” in Boston, Massachusetts 

Olivia Chuang, class of 2019: “Saint Paul’s School” in New Hampshire 

Thomas Choi, class of 2016:“Philips Academy Andover” in Boston, Massachussetts

Sarah Choi, class of 2018: “Phillips Academy Andover” in Boston, Massachusetts

The Eye: What were you expecting at your boarding school?

Many students head to their boarding schools with high expectations. Junior Sydney Kim said she was expecting “more freedom and craziness, fun, best friend-like roommates.”

Similarly, sophomore Sarah Choi said that she was expecting “opportunities that they offered in terms of classes, sports and extracurriculars.”

Sophomore Olivia Chuang also added that she was expecting “very passionate people, and more work academically.”

Senior Thomas Choi had a slightly different expectation: “Just a regular school where I can sleep.”

The Eye: How is boarding school different from SAS?

Sydney said, “It’s different because classes are one hour long, and people are only into sports here. Also, the food is more western here. I miss Mr. Hoe’s food.”

Olivia added that “boarding school is different from SAS in a lot of ways. For one, everything is on campus (music, athletics, academic, clubs, etc.), and I am constantly around people since we are all boarders at St. Paul’s School. Another thing that is really special about boarding school is that our teachers are just a walk away and are usually always available to help us.”

Thomas said, “It’s different because it is expected for us to know American culture since we attended an American School, but there are small nuances that I can’t quite put into words. Also, in terms of academics, it was a lot harder than I expected because most of the learning is done through discussion.”

Sarah added that “the community is pretty similar to that of SAS; however, the freedom and opportunity that is given by the school is a lot different from SAS. At boarding school, they emphasize on building who you are as a person. They encourage you to try out a wide range of different subjects and extracurriculars.” 

The Eye: How does the workload and extracurriculars differ from SAS?

The most frequently asked question by students at SAS is “How does the workload differ at boarding schools?” Sydney said, “Phones are taken away so I get work done, unlike when I am back at home in Singapore and procrastinating.”

Sydney was not the only one who felt that they get their work done faster at their boarding school. Olivia said, “While the workload may be larger, there is always a lot more time if you learn to manage it well. Having all this extra time also means that I can spend more time on the things that I am passionate about.”

Sarah also added, “The workload is about the same as SAS, an hour for each class, but at my school, every student is required to do a sport and participate in community engagement (community service).”

The Eye: What do you miss most about SAS?

I miss the loud and chaotic vibe at SAS because in my boarding school, everyone seems to be very boring and antisocial. Everyone is nice but it’s really superficial – there is nothing deeper than that,” said Sydney.

“Having gone to SAS for nine years, I definitely miss my friends and the vibes of SAS the most,” responded Olivia. 

Olivia and Sydney are not the only ones who miss their friends and the vibes of SAS. Thomas also responded, “One of the things I miss the most is my friendship that lasted more than nine years. I also miss having an opportunity as a delegate for IASAS swimming.”

Sarah agreed with Thomas. “Something that I miss most about SAS is the people. I attended SAS for 10 years, and the relationships that I had built were and are very special to me. It is definitely difficult being away from my family, but having friends that understand my situation is comforting.”

The Eye: Is it difficult being apart from your family?

“It is definitely difficult to be away from family. I thought I was not going to miss them, but I was proved wrong. I cried for three straight days because I was so homesick and especially needed my mom,” said Sydney.

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TBT picture of Olivia Chuang having her family time. Photo courtesy of Olivia Chuang

“It is difficult being apart from my family, but I try to talk to them as often as I can over Facebook and Messenger. Going to boarding school means that I have longer breaks, so I get to come back to Singapore to visit quite often,” Olivia said.

The Eye: What are the pros and cons of attending your boarding school?

Olivia said that the “pros include having a lot more time, endless resources, making amazing friendships, and having crazy amounts of school pride. The cons include being away from home.”

Sarah responded, “Boarding school has many pros and cons. Being away from family is a big thing. Also, because everyone is intelligent and talented, students start to find themselves comparing themselves to others. Balancing friends, academics, extracurriculars and family independently is challenging. But in the end, the challenges seem worth it. I’ve only been at school for four months now, but I have made unforgettable memories. I find boarding school a fast-paced school, which is what I find really nice.”

The Eye: Any final thoughts on boarding school?

“On an end note, one of the reasons why I can definitively say that I will never regret going to boarding school is that it made me appreciate home. There are times when I long for the comforting touch of my parents. While I went to SAS, home was where family was and where I did my homework. Home, after boarding school, becomes a safe haven where my family is  – a solid support system that will always be there for me. When I go back to Singapore, it’s great to go out and meet my friends from back in middle school, but nine times out of 10 I will much rather stay home and hang out with my family,” Thomas said.

Olivia said, “Boarding School isn’t the place for everyone…I love SAS and SPS for different reasons, and I’m glad that I have gotten to learn and grow at both schools.”

Author: Jenny Kim

Jenny Kim is a senior, and this is her second year as a reporter of the Eye. She was born in Korea, but she came to Singapore at the age of nine. She enjoys playing tennis/golf, listening to music, hanging out with friends and family during her free time. She can be contacted at

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