There’s nothing like two years away from ones parents to learn many valuable life lessons. Living in a boarding school helped hone me into the adult that I am today and taught me some basic urban survival skills. Some of these things I learned from firsthand experience, and others from observation.
So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are ten things I learned in boarding school:
1. Don’t put the can in the microwave.
In my defence, I was NOT the person to put the can in the microwave. Many of the girls in my school were from fairly rich homes and did not know the basics of using home appliances. This was such a common occurrence that we actually had a “Microcan” drill in place.
One evening while a bunch of us were in the common room watching TV, a year 11 student walked in and started using the microwave. After a few moments, there was a distinct smell of something burning. Within seconds, we tipped the couch over and everyone huddled behind it as the can in the microwave started to spark and deform. I watched in slight horror as the can turned the microwave’s interior into one of those plasma balls, then the entire thing exploded, blowing the door off the microwave and showering the room in boiling soup and semi-molten tin.
I think it’s a testament to the commonness of this occurrence that almost immediately after the explosion, the oldest boarding school veteran simply walked out from behind the couch, picked up the fire extinguisher and calmly put all the fires out while the rest of us ran about screaming our heads off.
Nobody was hurt, but everybody took that lesson to heart.
2. Instructions are there for a reason: Read them and follow them.
I cannot stress this highly enough.
We had a rail toaster in the dining room. This rail toaster was covered, COVERED in signs that read “Do not put cheese in the toaster” and “Do not put cheese on your toast and then put it in the toaster”. The table that this toaster sat on was covered in these signs. The wall behind this toaster was covered in these signs. Yet, once a semester, one doozy girl would somehow manage to ignore all these signs and stick cheese in the toaster, which would fall off her bread and into the toaster’s heating element, where it would not only gum up the inner mechanisms of the toaster, but would also cause the dormitory above to smell of rotting cheese for a month.
ALWAYS read and follow the instructions within good reason, which brings me to my next point…
3. Just because the box has a label on it doesn’t mean it contains what you think it contains.
Nutella bottle, vegemite filling. ‘Nuff said.
4. Tea tree oil cleans EVERYTHING.
This was something that I learned from my roommate in year 12. Her room was always spotless during spot checks. Her secret weapon? Tea tree oil.
This stuff cleans everything and I mean EVERYTHING. Got a stubborn stain on your wall? Add a dash of tea tree oil and it’s gone! Want to bleach out some clothes? Tea tree oil. It kills the mould. Want to get rid of acne? Tea tree oil. It’s great for sterilizing the bacteria in them. The applications are endless and simply dependent on the level of dilution.
5. How to shower in 5 minutes flat in boiling hot water.
Since the school I went to was a single sex school, the school board did not see fit to provide us with much by way of privacy in the showers. Individual shower stalls were separated from each other by low walls and curtains. We did not have ensuite bathrooms or lockable stalls. One of the girls made a killing on the teenage soft-core pornography market by selling videos of the other boarders in the shower.
To prevent myself from ending up on “Girls Gone Wild”, I developed a method of preventing myself from ever being caught on camera. First, I would ensure that whatever water I was bathing in was boiling hot, which meant tons and tons of steam. I never stepped into the showers without ensuring that there was plenty of steam in the cubicle. Then, it’s just a matter of stepping into the shower, washing and soaping up quickly and stepping out. There’s a specific method to the madness, but I won’t go into much detail there.
Suffice to say, I got cleaned and the only time this girl tried getting a video of me in the shower, there was so much steam that it knocked her camera for a loop.
6. Always hide your chocolates in your sombrero.
I love chocolate. I adore chocolate, which is why I always have a stash of chocolate in my room. Always. (It’s currently in the underwear drawer next to the socks). That being said, when I was in boarding school, hiding chocolate was a little bit more difficult given the close quarters that we were all sharing. No matter where I hid the stuff, my stash was always raided. Until I discovered the ultimate way to hide it.
For some reason, the girls in the boarding school had gifted me with a green sombrero. This hideous hat was never worn except to certain school events. The rest of the time, it hung on the wall of my dormitory. Seeing as my chocolate stash was raided reqularly, I decided that the best place for it was inside the sombrero. That way, when anyone asked where my stash was, I could honestly reply, “In the sombrero.”
Nobody believed me.
7. Red Bull gives you wings; Red Cordial just makes you insane
On a dare, I spent an entire semester drinking nothing but red cordial. I do not remember a thing about that semester. Any memories I do have about that semester seem to be obscured by a pastel haze of hyperactivity and weird exaggeration.
I have never touched the stuff since.
8. If you’re going to eat it. Eat it.
This applies to all foodstuffs, whether you’re in a dormitory, a share house or even in the office. It doesn’t matter if you label the container in big red letters or stick your sandwich in a lock box. If it’s in the common fridge, someone is going to assume it’s abandoned and eat it.
So, if you’re going to eat it, eat it. If not, you can stick it in the common fridge, but there will always be a chance it won’t be there when you get back.
9. If you leave the lamp on your seedlings, you’re going to fry your seedlings.
I like gardening. One of the things I did when staying in the dorm was attempt to raise a herb garden, however, I wasn’t allowed to use the school grounds to store my plants. I had to put them in my room. There wasn’t much by way of natural light in the dormitory during the day. The windows were very small (and barred with nails down the bottom to prevent escapees), and the lights were turned off while the girls were at school.
I thought to give my seedlings some light by using my desk lamp. I put them under for 12 hours. And they fried to a crisp. It was not exactly a triumphant moment of gardening.
10. If all else fails, pretend to vomit
For a reason that I cannot recall, we were celebrating the Australian team getting into the World Cup Final by spraying shaving cream all over the place.
No. It wasn’t my idea.
In any case, around the time the common room floor was covered in shaving cream, we heard the familiar clop clop of the House Mistress walking up the stairs. Since we would most certainly be in trouble for messing up the common room, we decided to fix the problem by creating MORE mess. Specifically, one girl solved the problem by pouring milk over the shaving cream, then getting on her hands and knees and going…
It actually worked.