Imagine living on an island with lush greenery, waterfalls at your doorstep, the wide open sea as your daily view, and a friendly, supportive community of peers to greet you every morning. This is just a glimpse into the everyday lives of boarding and day students at North London Collegiate School Jeju (NLCS Jeju).
Located in the UNESCO World Heritage island of Jeju, South Korea, NLCS Jeju is a British International School for girls and boys aged four to 18. It has an excellent academic reputation and is renowned as an institution that raises all-rounded, high-achieving students who go on to find great levels of success after graduation. It’s this that has won the institution the title of Independent School of the Year 2021, and has recently been shortlisted for an International Schools Award (ISA) 2022.
At NLCS Jeju, the student experience is prioritised above all else — reflected in its calibre of facilities. “When I first arrived at the school, the overwhelming size and array of facilities were the first things that I noticed,” shares Daniel Gondorf, a German student at NLCS Jeju. “The multiple sports fields, the swimming pool, the gym and sports hall, the number of science labs, the huge library — everything you could ever need in a boarding school is here.”
Gondorf is one of many international students who have chosen to call NLCS Jeju their home. It’s certainly a long way away from home, but more than makes up for this with everything on offer. “It is certainly a beautiful paradise sort of island, with natural wonders everywhere,” he says.
Life at NLCS Jeju is never dull. From its almost 150 differing co-curricular activities and societies to the wealth of student support at bay, every week at NLCS Jeju is different — providing for a fulfilling and unique experience. There are further opportunities available to boarding students during the evenings and weekends too, creating a unique experience away from home.
“I have the best job as I get to know students on a personal level and describe it as a mix of being their Mother and their Teacher,” shares Claire Washington, a boarding house mistress at NLCS Jeju. “At different times during their boarding lives, they need a bit of both. We have a wonderful team, and together we supervise, nurture, and guide them when they are not at school.”
With the extra time saved from a daily commute to school, boarding students are given all the more opportunities to pursue — and thrive — in their interests. For example, Gondorf — who trains as a boxer — found that his friends were eager to learn the basics of his craft. With this, he ran NLCS’s first boxing club for half a year in 2022, where he taught his friends simple training twice a week.
Such student-led initiatives are not uncommon at NLCS Jeju — and much of this has to do with the level of independence and responsibility they naturally adopt by being away from home. with all activities guided by residential boarding staff.
“There is no one to wake me up in the morning, no one to nag me to do any homework and chores,” shares Korean student Chaeyun (Elena). “By living as a boarder, students can feel the necessity of self-independence, and therefore it impacts our school life with positive effects.” Students are trusted to follow the set routines regarding waking and bedtimes, as well as prep times to support those who are new to boarding and becoming more independent learners.
Weekends are mostly spent relaxing but are no less fun-filled. Students can choose how to spend them — whether they prefer to explore the area around school during lunch hour and wind down with a deck of card games like Gondorf or practice the piano and exercise like Elena.
This doesn’t take away from the high standard of academic excellence practised at NLCS Jeju. 17-year-old Gondorf is currently pursuing his IB diploma, a curriculum that is particularly known for its demanding schedule and rigour. It requires a level of commitment and focus from each student — and in this, NLCS Jeju’s location offers the perfect mix of peaceful tranquillity and quiet solitude. During the evenings, boarding students have access to an Academic Support Programme, where teachers spend time in boarding homes to support prep time.
None of this, however, sacrifices the level of care and commitment placed into every student’s individual journey towards success. “My chemistry teacher, Dr. Raj, is perhaps the best teacher I have ever met,” says Gondorf. “He has provided study material, stayed late after school reteaching classes that I missed due to medical issues and has also been a great source of conversation. He has assisted and helped me in more ways than I could thank him for.”
Of course, such support trickles across all levels of study at NLCS Jeju — as well as in personal matters. Here, Emotional Guidance Counsellors such as Washington step in.
“My style of counselling is embedded within a solution-focused modality, which is a positive, future-orientated practice that focuses on solutions to behaviour change rather than the problem that brought them to seek help,” she explains. “Through this theory, we believe that our students are the experts in their own lives, and we as counsellors use techniques to ‘unlock’ this knowledge and help them become agents in their own lives again.”
Ultimately, students graduate from NLCS Jeju happy, healthy, and determined to make their marks on the world. It’s a product of their boarding experience — which Washington says is instrumental in developing students who are resilient and adaptable in an ever-changing society.
“The correlation between a student who can cope with the never-ending changes and adaptations they need to make in a boarding home, but also the skills required living with many other teenagers, helps them foster patience, and an understanding of others that can’t be taught as a day student,” she says. “These are skills they will not only take through to university but will also be vital for the workplace and utilised frequently in their personal lives.”