Q: Mr. Russell, from your extensive experience with boarding schools, how is boarding at ISSH similar and different from Hogwarts in Harry Potter?
A: Well, I think first of all, it’s worth knowing that there’s no house elves here, doing everything for the students, like preparing dinners and cleaning. Here at ISSH, students are responsible. They’re working together with the staff to prepare meals, and they help tidy up. In this respect it is a little bit different. I think, like Harry Potter, it is a second home to most if our students. To some of them it’s even a first home, like Harry himself. Hogwarts becomes his primary residence, and everywhere else is secondary and sometimes this does happen with some of our students. I think a key difference that you have with Hogwarts, and many real boarding schools around the world, is that they are so distant or separate from the rest of reality. Boarding students often live in these isolated grounds, and even going to the local town is a big thing. Here at ISSH, students really are living in the centre of the city, and take part in activities in and around the city as part of their everyday life.
Q: What do the boarding students do after school and on the weekends?
A: I think if you ask many of our students what they’re up to outside of school, their answer would be the same as a day student. Our boarding house is like a family. They go to birthday parties with their friends or meet up with them in the city. Sometimes they go further to Zurich, or to some activity such as bowling or ice skating. That said, there are also activities that the boarders boarding students do altogether. We regularly arrange weekend visits, such as: visits to the nearby cities, to museums, the Opera, or the local climbing center. It really depends on what students want to do, like a regular family and we make the decision together.
Q: What are the advantages of being a boarding student as opposed to a day student?
A: I think in terms of language, it certainly helps them in developing their English as an additional language as they are immersed in an English speaking environment. I think it’s also worth noting that some boarding schools would have fixed study times of three hours a night, and we don’t have that at ISSH. As a result, students develop more independence as they organise their responsibilities, both at school and in the house. They learn how to cooking dinner together, cleaning and do their own washing. This provides an opportunity to develop skills which are much more transferable into university life and into life outside of school. I therefore think they’re much more prepared going into university than many other students would be.
Q:Why do students choose to study at a boarding school?
A: One reason is to have the chance to live apart from their parents. That’s partly in jest and partly true because for some students, moving away from their parents is a difficult thing. I do think being separate from their parents and family can really help students to mature as individuals and help them develop in a more responsible manner. They deal with problems and with adults in the boarding house in a much more professional manner, rather than the emotional manner in which sometimes they can have with their own parents. I also think that many parents will send their kids to boarding school for the international education experience; that diversity that they get and prepares them to enter an international workplace. I think the final reason that they choose boarding schools, particularly in Switzerland, is the sense of security and safety, and the sense of freedom that students get because it’s such a safe country. Our students can travel independently to the city, meet up with their friends and go to other cities. In many countries, that’s simply not possible. Therefore, they just develop so much more responsibility, independence and self-worth as a result of being given the freedom to really become who they are.
Q: What qualities does a boarding student develop that a day student doesn’t?
A: I think boarding students develop this independence that I mentioned before and a sense of responsibility. Our students live with so many other people in a small environment, and you really have to develop people skills. If you live with someone for a long time, so intensively, it really develops into a relationship that needs work all of the time. As they develop people skills, a sense of humour often comes with it. For this to work, they have to develop an understanding of who they are themselves in order to understand who everyone else is. I think, as a life skill, that’s priceless, either in the workplace and in their future families. There’s so much depth in that environment that’s simply can’t really be counted unless you’ve experienced it yourself.