SPECIAL REPORT: Living in Multicultural Environments

Boarding schools are often a melting pot of multiculturalism and ethnic diversity. Students from around Australia and the world come together to learn and co-habit in surroundings that are sometimes unfamiliar and daunting. This often results in a period of adjustment and transition. Assimilating to boarding school can be a difficult time, especially for students whose home environments may be vastly different to their new surroundings. While most boarding schools have traditionally created and celebrated their own special culture, there is increasing recognition that they also have to reflect the values of the families who send their children to live and study there. When students meet other students of different cultures and places, they develop an appreciation for new environments.

Living away from home presents many challenges. Some are much greater than just a longing to be back with family and friends. Missing your culture, language and community can also play an intrinsic part. The concept of “being between two worlds” is often used to describe the two sets of social and cultural norms a boarding student feels comfortable living and existing within to compensate for their loss of connection and belonging.

Feeling that sense of belonging is a fundamental human need that can affect a child’s long-term academic and health outcomes. Therefore, creating and sustaining a sense of belonging for all students is integral to creating an inclusive and equitable environment where students feel supported to be their most authentic self and be more accepting of others. This teaches children cultural competency. They learn how to engage in spaces with other students from diverse backgrounds and how to understand the social and emotional reactions and experiences of their peers.

 

 

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