Berkshire School - Review #1
About the Author:
|Years Attended Boarding School:||1992-1995|
|Sports and Activities:||I was involved in student government throughout my time at Berkshire. As class treasurer I worked closely with the administration and with the other student representatives. I was also the Co-President of the International Club, which organized various cultural symposia and presentations throughout the academic year. I also played soccer for three years, and the healthy atmosphere of competition at Berkshire allowed me to grow in numerous ways.|
|Home Town, State:||Los Angeles, CA|
1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
Berkshire School is nestled by a beautiful and picturesque mountain range that provides an incredible setting to explore Ibsen and Shakespeare as well as to question modern playwrights like A. Miller and T. Williams. Importantly, the school places an emphasis on "pro vita non pro schola" because the Berkshire experience is about learning not just for school, but for life. The pro vita mantra is effectively conveyed by requiring students to perform weekly responsibilities throughout the school. This program establishes an important sense of community service in the student body. The level of supervision increases with time and the payoff is subtle and grand at the same time. Another important characteristic of the Berkshire experience is the level of commitment that the faculty have towards the success of the students as individuals. The faculty at Berkshire is extremely concerned with the student's success on the field, in the classroom and in the hallway. At Berkshire, no student is left behind.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
The three years I spent in boarding school have shaped my life in many ways. I feel that the growth I experienced at Berkshrie cannot be quantified because it is always gaining interest. Berkshire is an investment that will never stop yielding. The Berkshire experience is the building block that has allowed to reach many of present goals and that is the foundation for those yet to come. As a graduate student in more than one Ivy League school, I know that Berkshire has played a significant role in my journey.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I would have been less timid at the start of my school year. During the first month, I spent some time feeling homesick and wanting to return to LA. Although those times were important in my personal growth, in retrospect I should have taken the plunge head on because the Berkshire community would have never let me sink. I know this because with their help I was able to swim and thrive.
4.) What would you never want to change about your school?
I would never want to change the intimate atmosphere and the faculty's commitment to each individual student.
5.) What things could be improved about your school?
The school should continue to rebuild and redevelop the facilities to keep up with the technological innovations of tomorrow.
6.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Any visit to Berkshire should include a walk through Buck Valley and up the steps of Berkshire Hall. The beauty of the school is delivered every morning when one climbs those steps.
1.) What did you like best about your schools academics?
I took several AP classes at Berkshire and was very impressed with the quality and the level of attention in all of them. In AP English, I remember how the class was co-taught by both a male and female. The tag-team approach contributed to a healthy and vibrant atmosphere throughout the year. Berkshire classes are about discussing, developing arguments, interacting and questioning everything. The process is exciting and frustrating, but at the end of the day, the student walks away with a better understanding of yesterday's world, today's reality, and tomorrow's challenges.
2.) What did you like least about the academics in your school?
Because classes at Berkshire are so nurturing and small, it is difficult to slack off as a student. As a student, your AP Calculus teacher sees you on the soccer field in the afternoon and your AP History professor has dinner with you in the evening. The level of attention is one of Berkshire's greatest assets, but sometimes students want to be invisible. At Berkshire, you will never be invisible. And now, as an Ivy League graduate student, I am thankful for that attention.
1.) What did you like best about your schools athletics?
Berkshire's athletics are about a healthy level of competition and a diversity of opportunities for all students. Even if you are not a sports-type, you will be surprised how much enjoyment you will derive from participating in an introductory tennis or soccer class. Berkshire's mandatory sports policy ensures that even non-jock types get a good exposure to athletic competition. Some of my favorite times were spent on the field competing and building a team identity with my classmates and friends.
2.) What did you like least about the athletics in your school?
Berkshire's athletic policies include a mandatory schedule that can be challenging for the non-jock students. But this requirement is healthy because in time, students learn to appreciate the time spent working on team building and exercise. But during the winter, the last thing anyone wants to do is run 3K miles!
1.) What did you like best about your schools art program?
At Berkshire, I took a drawing class that really helped me look at art in a different way. Berkshire art professors are great at making the average student connect with art by allowing the student to be part of the creation as well as the critical analysis. I also remember that the faculty were able to cater to different levels of ability, from the elementary to the advanced. This versatility in teaching allowed students of different abilities to grow in their own ways. One example is when a friend took an independent study class that culminated in his showing of his art in a private gallery setting at the school student center.
2.) What did you like least about your schools art program?
My only complaint about Berkshire's art program is that I was not able to enroll in a Ceramics course because it conflicted with an AP class. I wish that more classes were offered so that more students can enjoy them.
1.) What did you like most about the extracurricular activities offered at your school?
Berkshire offered something for everyone, and if it was not available you were encouraged to make sure it happened. The administration was incredibly supportive of providing student sponsored entertainment on campus, from Star Wars movie festivals to 70s music inspired dances. The level of supervision allowed students to plan with the freedom they wanted, but with the safety they needed.
2.) What did you like least about the extracurricular activities offered at your school?
During the fall of 1993, several students suggested that the Counting Crows be invited to perform on campus during the school's annual spring festival. The activities director decided to go with an alternative band because at the time the Counting Crows were not well known enough. Needless to say, when the Crows hit it big the following spring, the activities director was sending resumes to other schools!
1.) What was the best thing about dorm life in your school?
The dorm parents at Berkshire are of the highest caliber. Ms. Dinsmore and the Meads at Buck dormitory were incredible! The level of supervision and the standard of care expressed by dorm parents at Berkshire is amazing. Although many of us were relocating from across the country and the world, places like Buck quickly became our second home. The facilities were well designed and the scheduling of study time was just right.
2.) What did you like least about dorm life?
Dorm life is a challenge to anyone that has never lived with 35 other people! Of course, this usually includes most 14 year olds who are starting their first year of boarding school. Dorm life is an opportunity to grow as a person in many ways. Tempers, friendships and even rivalries will be tested. But the process of learning how to share and to compromise are important components of the dorm life experience.
1.) What was the best thing about your dining arrangements?
The selection of food during breakfast, lunch and dinner is great. The cafeteria staff is always friendly and courteous to the student body. The staff always made an effort to introduce international and ethnic cuisine to the daily menu. More importantly, the facilities are modern and well maintained.
2.) What did you like least about your dining arrangements?
During the first year of boarding school, breakfast was required for the freshmen and sophomore students. The mandatory check-in at 7:15am was not fun.
1.) How welcome did you feel by the other students when you first arrived at the school
Berkshire students are very congenial and friendly. There is sense of community and camaraderie that develops during the first weeks of school. Of course, some students bond more with others, but overall there is a clear sense of unity.
2.) Describe the level of diversity and integration of students in your school:
In terms of geographic diversity, Berkshire attracts a significant number of West Coast and Midwestern students. Although the clear majority of students are New Yorkers and New Englanders, there are enough Southerners and Texans to add some mix. Importantly, the school has a significant student population from Asian countries like China, Japan, and South Korea. But the school also has students from Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In addition, the school has a very active minority community of Latinos and African-American students. Overall, the Berkshire community is a reflection of the world and the country.
3.) Describe typical fun activities you did on a weekend:
Saturday mornings always involve class. Following class, usually a sports match against another school is involved whether away or at home. Following the return from the game, the school has movies and dances available throughout the campus. A nice tradition at Berkshire is that faculty have open houses on Saturday nights where they feature particular movies and types of food. There's also a lot of frisbee throwing in Buck Valley.
4.) What was the town like?
Berkshire students had the opportunity to hike up the mountain, ride a bike into Sheffield, the local town, or take a school sponsored bus to the local mall. The school made an effort to allow students to venture out of the school whenever possible. Although southwestern MA is rural, the quality of life is very nice. The surrounding towns of Sheffield and Great Barrington offer the traditional amenities of any small New England towns.
|7:00 AM||Wake up, make sure there is no line to take a shower!|
|7:30 AM||Walk down to have breakfast.|
|8:00 AM||Start English class.|
|9:00 AM||Read some Latin.|
|10:00 AM||Enjoy 15 minute break.|
|10:15 AM||Start History class.|
|11:45 AM||Go to lunch and enjoy some quesadillas.|
|12:45 AM||Go to AP Calculus class.|
|1:45 PM||Go to Chemistry.|
|2:45 PM||Go to Chem lab.|
|3:45 PM||Start heading down to the soccer field.|
|5:45 PM||Return from soccer field and get ready for dinner.|
|6:30 PM||Enjoy dinner with friends and faculty.|
|8:30 PM||Study for 2.5 hours and then go to bed.|
|11:00 AM||Wake up and get ready for brunch.|
|12:00 AM||Enjoy brunch with friends, etc.|
|1:00 PM||Go on a hike up the mountain with friends.|
|2:00 PM||Enjoy scenic views of New England.|
|3:00 PM||Watch a movie.|
|5:00 PM||Play some frisbee or hackey sack in Buck Valley.|
|6:00 PM||Enjoy an outdoor BBQ.|
|7:00 PM||Relax with friends.|
|9:00 PM||Do some studying for Monday's classes.|
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