Stuart Hall School - Review #1
About the Author:
|Years Attended Boarding School:||2014-2017|
|Sports and Activities:||I did not participate in most after school activities like sport teams, music, or theater. I run long distance individually and attend boxing classes at a local gym near the school on Mondays-Wednesdays by senior year. I was the treasurer of our honor society ELA which supports the library. Such in-school activities are available however in more limited in number compared to other boarding schools due to our small population. We do have enrichments or clubs that are incorporated into the daily schedule. So students get a long period (eighty-five minutes) every four days for activities within the club of their choosing.|
|College Enrolled:||None (gap year)|
|Home Town, State:||Ho Chi Minh City|
1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
Unlike most boarding schools in the United States which tend to have large campuses in rather rural or otherwise secluded areas, Stuart Hall School has a rather small campus located inside a small town and is five minutes of walking away from the culturally diverse downtown Staunton. This allows students without a car to have easy access to all the festivities around town. Despite being a small town, we have a multinational environment with restaurants of many cuisines like Mexican, Thai, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, El Salvadoran, Italian, American, Vietnamese, etc. We have a variety of coffee shops as well as the best homemade gelato house around. Staunton is voted one of the best small towns in America by the Smithsonian. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the school. Another unique, or at least special, feature of Stuart Hall is that it offers students the chance to enroll in either the Math-Science Emphasis program (with Math, STEM,Engineering, and Pre-Med) and Arts Emphasis program (Visual/Studio art, Theater, or Music). Students do have to pay an extra fee, and they may not get that much extra support from the faculty but the program does set aside a budget for them to conduct a capstone project of their choice by their graduation.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
I know this sounds cliche but I probably met some of the smartest and best people I could not have met anywhere else. It was not all good but all the stuff that happened was necessary for me to grow. I have definitely come a long way since I left home for school three years ago. Being away opens your eyes, although what you do when you are away determines how much you can learn. I just got very lucky that I got to do and learn so much, not all the international kids that came here did the same. I am now much more open to new ideas, and I am more inclined to putting myself in the other side's shoes and argue from their perspective in order to enlighten myself. I have matured and become more peaceful inside, and realized many important things that some people will not for a long time.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I think I would have spent a little less money on dining out, even though the experiences and relationships I have made when I did were well worth it. I did the right thing of not having too many preconceptions from people before I stepped on the plane. I would strongly recommend kids to seek out for information but take it all with a grain of salt because every one is a little different and our experience will not resemble that of the people whom you ask for advice. Stay true to yourself and do not succumb to pressure or temptation, but at the same time keep an open mind because this might change what you think about yourself and your definition of "self".
4.) What did you like most about your school?
I really appreciated the small class size where I rarely felt like I could not interrupt a teacher to pose a question and then go on to talk about that subject, knowing that they would keep responding to me. I also enjoyed being super close to most dining places and other attractions in the town that I did not have to have a car to get access to.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Be nice to the kitchen staff and only take enough food that you will eat. We still waste a lot of food with our current lifestyle and if one person starts being more aware of it, it will make a difference. Also I have gotten to know the kitchen staff at the school on a more personal level, and they are all incredibly and nice and wonderful people. The better you treat them, the more you will realize how hard they work and how much more you need to appreciate them and their work.
1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Because we have a small school, the administration is generally flexible about making their schedule in a way that pleases the most students. They look at interest for classes before they make the official schedule, giving priorities to seniors. I really appreciated the small class size (especially AP classes) because it gave me so many more opportunities to seek out teachers as well as knowing them personally. I also think we set the bar high here because our AP classes are often much harder than the actual AP exams. Not only are we well-prepared but we know much more than the minimum. The workload depends on the class, most will require good time management. We switched to the new block schedule this year so that students can get used to the college schedule.
1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
We have mandatory graduation requirements at our school that differ for students (new freshmen and new juniors have to fulfill different numbers of credits, for example). Sports count as one-third of a credit. In the fall we have coed varsity cross country both upper and middle school, boys varsity soccer for upper and middle school, girls varsity volleyball upper and middle school. In the winter we have girls and boys varsity and middle school basketball, and cheer leading. In the spring we have girls varsity and middle school soccer and boys middle school soccer, golf, and tennis (newly added this year). I did not participate in any of the sport seasons but I believe we have home and away games against other private and church schools (e.g. Grace Christian, Massanutten, UCA, etc).
1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
The school has a variety of options for each department, and the classes change depending on the number of interested students or the natural rotation of classes throughout the year. Most basic classes are offered every year. Music: Intro to music, Orchestra, Ensemble, Choir/Chorus, AP Theory (not every year), as well as a Choir/Chorus club; Theater: Intro to theater, Performance studio, Shakespeare (not every year), I might be leaving out some; Arts: Photography, Studio art, AP Photography and AP Art (not every year), etc. The programs are relatively small because we do not have that many students but overall the classes cater to the entire student body of all levels. I know music and theater classes have to perform a couple of times a year for a grade, and student's art works are always on display throughout the hallways depending on the current projects. I only took one music class during my time but it was a small class and my teacher tried her best to keep it at a level of difficulty that most of the kids in the class can follow, which I enjoyed. We have a really good theater teacher who also works and performs for Mary Baldwin University nearby as well the American Shakespeare Theater in town.
1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
We are not super diverse in our extra curricular activities because we are such a small school. We do have a Student Government Assembly that is elected at the end of every school year, an ELA honor society that supports the library, and the National Honor Society that does various projects once in a while. Other than that we mostly function on clubs/enrichments that are worked into our weekly schedule. The clubs change every year depending on who is sponsoring (usually a teacher). We have had Pep club, Fencing, Commitatus, Games, Multicultural culinary, Robotics, Origami, Paper modelling, etc throughout the years. The good thing about being a boarder here is probably the variety of weekend activities that they try to organize every week. There is always something going on around town and on campus both days of the weekend, with a teacher coming in and doing an activity of their choosing and boarders are encouraged to sign up to participate.
1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
Rooms are of appropriate size here if not bigger and nicer than most college dorm rooms you will see. Underclassmen are required to have one roommate unless they are a prefect (in which case they typically get their own room). Seniors have traditionally been given their own room, however with more boarders than there are single rooms this works by seniority, therefore new coming seniors usually no longer get their own room. A roommate selection sheet is given out before rooms are assigned, and they generally try to give kids the room they want. Students are required to sign out when they leave campus with at least one person before dark and two after dark, and can only be out for three hours at a time (check back in and then out again if they want to be out longer). Curfew is 6:30pm for underclassmen and 9:00pm for seniors during the week, 9:00pm for freshmen on the weekend and 10:00pm for everyone else. Food delivery is restricted to 7:00pm and before during the week. Evening study hall is at 7:30-8:30pm for 8th graders, freshmen, and new sophomores in the library, returning sophomores and juniors either do in-room or on-campus study, seniors are not required to do study hall but are expected to keep quiet during this time. I enjoyed the proximity to downtown, and the rooms are really nice especially when I got my own room senior year. I did not appreciate the three-hour at a time rule, however.
1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
The dining hall is used for breakfast, lunch, dinner by both boarders and day students. Breakfast is only for boarders, which goes from 7:15-7:45 (class starts at 8), dinner is also only for boarders and goes from 6-6:45. On the weekend there is only brunch which goes from 11:30-12:15 and dinner is at 5:30-6:15. There is no assigned seating, students typically choose to sit with their respective friend group at one of the six-seat round tables. The food is generally diverse and the kitchen staff tries to mix it up between cultures. There are inevitably days when the food is not overwhelmingly fantastic, but overall it is decent. Fruit is always available for grab. The kitchen also caters for gluten-free people, although some of my friends think they need to work on more/better vegetarian options.
1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
As mentioned above the school is a very short walk from the historic downtown Staunton and it is a really cool small town in my opinion. We have food from all over the world as well as other attractions. Some include game stores, antique malls, clothing shops, chocolate store, bookstores, a cinema, coffee shops, the American Shakespeare Theater (the only one in America), donut shops, florists, and many more. We have a farmers market every Saturday until noon. We have many parks, the closest one to the school is Gypsy Hill which I run at on an almost daily basis. Staunton Jams happens twice a year (late summer and late spring), Art in the Park once a year (early summer). There are martial art dojos, one of which I go to for boxing classes (Total Defense Martial Arts). It is a relatively small and quiet town until you take the effort to go and explore it. Festivities are always going on, it is the matter of looking.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
Because there are only around more than two hundred kids at the Staunton campus (upper and middle school), everyone generally knows almost everyone else in the school (this is either a huge advantage or disadvantage, depending on your preference). There are around thirty people in a graduating class so we know each other relatively well. The social life is a little weak especially when there are events like Homecoming or Prom because not many people go. I liked the fact that I got to be friends with a lot of local students (my closest friends while I was there were all local) that are willing to take me out for other nearby towns and road trips.
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