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Rie Otani
Osaka, Japan

Attending boarding school was a great opportunity for me to prepare for the future. I spent four years at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts where I got many incredible and valuable experiences. Studying was very challenging because I had to learn to become independent and adjust to a new culture at a young age. Over my four years I learned many things that I could not have learned anywhere else in the world.

Living in the dorm, as well as being away from my parents, developed my sense of responsibility. Since no one controlled my life, I had much freedom, but in other words, I was the one who was responsible for my life and my studies. For example, during the weekend, I could go to Boston and have fun if I wished, but I often chose to stay at school to catch up on my work. If I did not push myself hard academically, my grades suffered, which worried my parents. Thus, I became more responsible for myself.

Boarding school also often provides a multi-cultural environment. During my stay at Cushing I interacted with many people from a number of different countries. It was extremely interesting to learn about their different cultures and points of view. I also learned to appreciate cultural differences and understand that people from all over the world have different customs.

The friendly relationship between a teacher and a student was one of the things that I enjoyed the most while in boarding school. It was something I never experienced in Japan. When I was home, I never felt comfortable talking to teachers, but in boarding school my teachers were like my parents. They listened to my problems as their own and gave me useful advice. In my senior year I had some anxiety about going to college, but my college counselor told me about her experiences and made me feel more comfortable. My teachers also lived on campus or in the dorms with the students, which made me feel safe. Every weekend they welcomed us to their apartments to watch movies and chat. I really enjoyed this harmonious atmosphere. Through these experiences, I do not feel uncomfortable interacting with teachers anymore. In college, professors can be intimidating, but after my boarding school experiences I do not feel uncomfortable going to them to ask questions.

Being responsible, having broad points of view, and getting encouragement from teachers changed my personality from passive to active and inquisitive. I also developed my independence and confidence. Now I am a student at Boston University and I am succeeding thanks to the lessons learned in boarding school.