Life in the IC

September is always an odd time for the IC. Beneath its red-brick exterior are 28 new boys from all over the world, replacing those whose only remains are name tags on the world maps across the house. We’re total strangers initially, and this is compounded by how different we seem at first. There are obvious signs, like somebody’s accent or tendency to swap into a different language with no warning, but also details like how jetlagged somebody seems after half term ends, how they like their eggs done, or even how often they make instant noodles. Yet we quickly become inseparable. Our bond manifests in the chants we shout at inter-house events, the colour schemes of our clothes and in the conversations and laughter that make our days a little brighter.

Sometimes, our days need brightening as we deal with the rigours of the IB together. Most of us came from IGCSEs, and the jump to IB is like being flushed down and out of an airplane toilet. The material gets a lot more complex, and time becomes a precious resource as coursework deadlines tighten. Most people do similar subject combinations, so we go through the difficult parts of our course together. Subjects like SL English tend to agitate everyone in the house – the moments of deepest regret for choosing the IB seems to coincide with the return of fated English essays with 4s and 5s. Yet the best part about living in a boarding house is our ability to collaborate on work and go to our friends when we need them. Midnight discussions on German Unification can sometimes be more productive than lesson time. Problem sets get handed around, and the doors of our resident Maths geniuses get streams of uninterrupted visits around exam period. I have my friends to thank as much as my teachers for any good results I get.

My personal favourite aspect of boarding life is how deeply involved you can be in school life, just because you can walk to every club you want to join. Most people get involved deeply in co-curricular life – in music, community service or entrepreneurship ventures. I personally took the opportunity when I joined to try as many things as possible, from joining our Politics Society to teaching local primary school children how to play the Indonesian Gamelan. After a while, I found my niche. My days are brimming with what seems like an uninterrupted stream of basketball and debating. It gets tiring, but I feel satisfied when I go to bed exhausted, because it meant the day was worth it – I tried my hardest to do my best for the activities that meant the most to me.

It’s not all stress and coursework though. We go on trips for an inter-year paintball war and go-karting. We cheer our house on vigorously in inter-house events. We have inside jokes, musical evenings and cooking clubs. Saturday afternoons are spent laughing and joking in the kitchen with great food cooked by the iridescent Mrs Owen. I might be an optimist, but one great thing about gloomy British weather is how much you appreciate it when the weather is nice. The big windows in IC are perfect for watching the sky shade a million different types of turquoise, rose and amethyst as the sun sets.

There have been a few constants throughout my IC experience. Our power-couple in Doc O and Mrs Owen is one of them. We’re normal teenage boys – we have problems all the time, and they’ve always been willing to listen and be there for us when we need them. There are very few people I trust as much as my parents, and I count my housemaster and housemistress among them.

I’ve only been here for a year and a half, but it’s funny to think how routine Doctor Owen’s wake-ups have become, or how ‘Morning guys! All ok?’ was the everyday experience of generations of IC boarders. I can almost imagine him popping his head around the corner, wearing a V-neck jumper and a novelty chemistry tie. Soon, it won’t be part of my morning routine anymore, and I’m not sure my alarm clocks will ever be a proper substitute. Usually, when your children leave, parents suffer from a little bit of empty nest syndrome, but I know Doc O will be busy with 28 new strangers from all over the world. I also know that if I ever missed my time in boarding life, I could always go through the tunnel, up the hill and across the field to that (really big) red-brick house that I will always call my home.

Yuan Wong, Upper Sixth