White Mountain has a wide variety of social events for boarding school students to help foster feelings of camaraderie & community. Rohan Barthelmy, student and Social Chair at White Mountain School discusses social events at WMS in this podcast.
John: Hi, I'm John Maher. I'm here today with Rohan Barthelmy, a student at White Mountain School, a private college-prep day and boarding school in New Hampshire. Today we're talking about boarding school social events. Welcome, Rohan.
Rohan: Thanks for having me, John.
Social Chair at WMS
John: Sure. Rohan, you're the Social Chair at The White Mountain School. Can you tell me a little bit about that role and what it means?
Rohan: Well, I'm Chair of the Social Committee. I'm responsible for student fun, basically whilst they're at WMS. Being a boarding school, students spend nearly all of their time on campus and that may be a little bit boring sometimes. Provided that we are in Northern New Hampshire in a relatively small town, sometimes there isn't just a lot to do and I'm responsible for the downtime, that students we have organize different events at the school. Coffee house being one of my favorite, like a little arts cafe that we have. Every now and then, a lot of students come and display whatever talent they may have to a small gathering. It's very cozy and in front of the fireplace. There's poetry, singing, music, and it's just very chill.
Boarding School Social Events
John: Yes, I guess the question that I would have and I think that maybe potential incoming students might have would be, like you said, you're up here in New Hampshire and you're at a boarding school which means you're living at the school, is it going to be school all the time and academics or do you have an opportunity for having some fun and kicking back and chilling like you said? What are some of the social events or activities that you help plan and how does that help to give time for students to do something other than academics?
Rohan: Well, there is a lot of academics, being in a boarding school, but there is also a lot of time to yourself. Living at a boarding school, when there is downtime there is tons of stuff to do. I help organize different dances and just some days an ice cream social for instance – [an] ice cream sundae bar. The big one at the end of the year is prom. There are different events that we have: capture the flag, predator and manhunt. They're just big events that we do at school within the school community.
John: Do you do it like the whole community?
Rohan: Yes, with the whole community. We do have community weekend where you get locked out of your dorms and you're forced to interact with the entire school. We're a school of a 150 people, so having a very light atmosphere is helpful to help negate cabin fever, especially during winter when a lot of times we're pretty shut in. My task is then, we don't have the sun and warmth, let's make this as fun as possible indoors. That's what I do, so we have things like predator - you run around looking for people, it gets very intense and people get very into it - laser tag and the thing is it's not just students who are involved. You'll see faculty [and] teachers running around right alongside you hunting for his student. There is that kind of atmosphere at WMS which helps to lessen on the impact of us being so far away from a big city that's what we're used to. There still is that feeling of camaraderie and togetherness at the school.
Movie Nights at WMS
John: Right. Do you have movie nights or something like that?
Rohan: Yes, we have movie nights. During Halloween, it's a week of horror movies in the great hall. But our movie nights also take on sometimes a deeper meaning during MLK Day for instance. There was a week of social activism-themed movies, which we played. There's movie night, there is that. There is also, one of my favorite things at WMS, is ice cream at ice cream socials. We gather around, we set up in the dining hall and we put on a spread of toppings, have some games out, a little bit of music's playing and there's ice cream. A lot of people show up, it's a lot of fun, just a very nice atmosphere.
Combating Isolation at a New Hampshire Boarding School
John: The White Mountain School camp is pretty small, like you said it's in this rural northern New Hampshire town, how does the social experience of the school really help to alleviate any feelings of isolation that you might have here?
Rohan: Well we have, like I said before, a fun-loving school. Everyone's always happy and chipper and very friendly. Us being so small, you see the same people every day for about nine months. It's a deeper connection that runs to the school. I believe anyone who walks through the campus while students or faculty are milling around get the sense that this isn't a student-teacher school. Teachers are more, like, they have information that they're just willing to share. It's more on a peer-by-peer basis as opposed to student-teacher, so it's very warm, a lot like a family. Students and teachers are on a first name basis. There's that to help with the whole atmosphere at the school as well. Just warm and family-oriented.
We have advisors who check up on us and advisors are like your parents whilst you're here. Your advisor will consist of about three or four people and you develop this bond with them throughout your life at WMS. I think it does help to alleviate the feelings of isolation and even when the feelings of isolation just really hit you, we do have the opportunity to go into Littleton, to take a weekend trip into Boston, which is about two hours from us. It's not as bad as it could be.
John: Right. Once a semester, you're doing these other projects that are outside of the school as well so you might be going on a trip to another state or even another country or something like that and obviously, those are good experiences as well, get you out of the town so that you are do experiencing other things.
Rohan: Yes, at the beginning of the year, which caught me off guard on my first year at WMS. You get in, say on Sunday, Monday you pack up a lot of clothes and just stuff you need to survive outdoors. You get put in a group of about seven people and you go on an orientation trip. No showers, no electricity, no Wi-Fi for three days with you and eight other people.
John: It might be your first experience ever doing something like that.
Rohan: Right, and two faculty members and they're really truly your first friends at WMS so it's not so much of a shock, the first day of school anxiety, because now you have a group of eight people that you know well after three days of not showering and no Wi-Fi. There is a lot of time that barriers that we put up when we enter a new place, they come down on or by your third day when there is no more need to pretend and to act a certain way. That's why WMS has the atmosphere that it does because we've seen each other at our worst, on our worst day, and we're still pretty good friends.
John: Right, yes. That sounds like a great community. Thanks for telling me more about it, Rohan.
Rohan: It's no problem.
John: For more information, you can visit the school's website at whitemountain.org or call (603) 444-2928.