Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Boarding School experience in Outlook, Saskatchewan

Justine Jorgensen

My name is Justine. I have lived in Pincher Creek for eleven years; I enrolled in the French immersion program at Saint Michael's School in grade one and stayed until grade ten, minus the year I spent homeschooling in fourth grade and the half year I spent in New Brunswick in sixth grade. Then for the 2013-2014 school year - my grade eleven year - I packed my bags and headed off to small town Outlook in Saskatchewan for boarding school.

I didn't leave because I was unhappy. It was quite the opposite actually; I was enjoying school and sports, liked my teachers, had good friends. I was comfortable with my life - when I pictured graduating in a couple years, I'd envisioned myself graduating from Saint Michael's without a second thought. But somewhere in the back of my head, I'd always wanted to try boarding school. Furthermore, I'd heard about Lutheran Collegiate Bible Institute - after all, it was the school my father attended when he was in grade eleven and twelve. And he loved it. It was there that he grew exponentially as a person, where he began the process of being shaped into an adult. However, although I'd heard good stories about the school, I never expected to actually attend it. I brushed the idea off: I was already invested in my education in Pincher Creek.

It was extremely difficult to make the decision to leave. I began seriously considering it as summer progressed after my tenth grade year. Did I want to leave everything nice and familiar? I had researched the school to get a feel for what it would be like. I would be completely starting over: new teachers, new classmates, new sports teams. I would be living away from my family of six, in a dorm of unknown girls. I remember several times over the summer weeks when I would "make" a decision: 'Nope, I'm going to stay in Pincher. I'm happy.' A couple days later doubts would resurface: 'But what if I regret not going?'. The process was a cycle.

Finally, about two and a half weeks before school started (no, I still hadn't made a decision), my family went to visit the school. We were given a tour of the grounds; we saw my father's old dorm, the separate cafeteria and chapel, the bright classrooms and the large gym. I liked what I saw. My parents and I sat down in the study hall and talked for several minutes; eventually, I decided I would like to try this out. We signed the papers that afternoon: it was official.

The next couple weeks were hectic. When I left LCBI, I had to go to a camp for a week in Cypress Hills - that left me with a week to pack for school. My room became a disaster zone that actually didn't get cleaned until months later. The night before I left I was sitting on my floor doing some last-minute packing when my little sister (three years old at the time) came in to say goodbye. I knew she didn't really understand what was happening, but she gave me a long hug anyways. I think it was then it hit me that I was leaving. I wouldn't get to see this little girl, as well as the rest of my family, for months.

The next day, after goodbyes to my siblings and father, my mother and I drove the eight hours to Outlook. I was arriving a couple days early for a volleyball camp - this way, I'd get to know some girls beforehand and get settled in. When we pulled up to the school, there were a couple people there already moving in. Right away, some came and offered to help me lug my bags and supplies up to the third floor of the dorm, where I would be living for the year.

The volleyball camp was the best thing I could have done. I was able to get to know a smaller group of people that loved a sport, same as I. There were also two other camps that were happening that weekend: soccer and football camp. I familiarized with, and became a part of, a group of people also passionate about sports. The only blip during the couple of days was when my mother left - that was hard, for both of us.

At first, I was slightly lonely. I hadn't received a roommate and I didn't really want to go anywhere by myself. I didn't talk that much in class. And it was hard being away from my family - it's strange going from six people to one. Everything was still enjoyable though - I engrossed myself in studies and volleyball, and eventually made some really good friends. By the time a month or two passed, I was loving having my own room, a separate place where I could go if I needed some space. My life was busy, busy, busy - sports, classes, piano lessons, tournaments almost every weekend.

I loved my year at LCBI. I developed close bonds with friends and peers, for one because I lived in close quarters with them. I was closer to the teachers as well because I spent so much extra time in school, either to study or for sports practices, and many of the teachers were also coaches. Classes were good, and the fact that the school was thirty seconds from my room made it easy if I wanted a quiet place to study, to practice the piano, or hang out in the gym. The fact that sports practices were every day made it so I improved greatly.

Choosing to leave behind everything safe and known turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made. I had a fantastic experience. I also think I'll be a bit more prepared when heading off to post-secondary in a year. A lot of the individuals I met at LCBI are very genuine and I'm glad I got to know them. Soon I'll be starting my last year of school, and I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be than Lutheran Collegiate Bible Institute.      

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