Boarding Case Studies

Hear from our Boarders

Explore a selection of case studies from our IB Diploma and Boarding students on what it is like to live and learn at Westbourne School.

Anthony, a Homestay student

Anthony, a Homestay student

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Anthony and I’m from Vietnam. I want to be a researcher in Biochemistry. I’ve been at Westbourne for two years.

How has your experience in Home Stay been?

I haven’t been back to Vietnam for more than a year. I’ve been in homestay for about 10 months with Mr Mike and Mrs Cath. It has been a wonderful opportunity and I couldn’t ask for more. They are really like a second family to me and the home environment they’ve created is so cosy. Every evening I can go down and have a chat with them, sit on the sofa and watch television and release any stress from the day. What is more important is that they are willing to share stories and advice about schools, university and life experience, and that’s the best thing I can ask for. It feels like a family, I feel like their own child.

What’s the best thing about Boarding?

The boarding environment has made me grow. Since starting at Westbourne, thanks to my homestay parents I’ve learnt a lot about culture in the UK. They’ve guided me through everything – from the food, to history, even entertainment.

What are the benefits of attending a small school?

In small communities, everyone knows each other. That’s really great, as teachers understand you so well. Because of that, you can talk with them in the office or tell them what is occupying your mind and they are willing to help.

I used to attend a public school in Vietnam, it was quite large, and I was in a class of 45 students! In that context, only when you’re the best of the best will the teacher recognise you. In Westbourne, the teachers give great care to every student, making sure that everyone reaches the high standard that they are hoping for.

How do you think the IB compares to A-levels? What would you say to a student considering both?

Before I joined Westbourne, I was actually looking at both A-levels and the IB. In scientific subjects, which is my main focus, Physics, Chemistry or Biology, the content is basically the same for both curricula. But the fact that in the IB you have to study a compulsory humanity and the core subjects like TOK and EE, I think that really helps with preparing you for university. I have to be honest, although they are really stressful with deadlines, once you go to university you know it’s really benefited you. The skills of being able to analyse, make controls in your experiment… it’s compulsory at university. So the IB gives you the opportunity to expose yourself to this way of learning first-hand. That’s really meaningful for us in the long term.

What academic achievements have you had outside the classroom?

I have always been an Olympiad student. I took the Vietnamese Olympiad in High School and that fire is still burning now, even after relocating across the world to the UK. I came to Westbourne and one my main objectives was to enter the Biology Olympiad in my first year in IB1. Recently I’ve also competed in the Chemistry Olympiad and other competitions. I’m really glad that the teachers, Dr Francis and Mr Tucker, gave me the opportunity to register for these competitions and I’m so happy they’ve been willing to help and mentor me. We all know that it’s beyond the current IB curriculum, and self-study is completely mandatory. It’s safe to say for scientific students like me, these competitions come in handy when applying for the top universities.

How have you found the flexibility of online learning?

I’ve liked it a lot! Partly because you can flexibly manage your timetable. You can work at your own pace, at home if you’re stressed or exhausted, you can have a 15-minute nap and then wake up and continue doing work. There’s more flexibility in the whole pace. I really enjoyed that.

How have you been prepared for the future by studying at Westbourne?

Science in the future is definitely going to be harder. It’s going to be a notch more difficult than what we study in high school. Before coming to Westbourne, I wasn’t really good at Maths. When you go to university, Maths becomes a universal tool for any science student. When I came here, I got a lot of help from Mr Morrison with honing my Maths skills, starting from zero and going up and up, improving my skills and being able to utilise and implement those concepts into scientific contexts. This enabled me to be able to do statistics and the more analytical side of Maths in science, like in Chemistry or Physics. Westbourne honed my mathematical skills and made me feel more comfortable with my decision to engage in a STEM career.

When you look back at your time at Westbourne, what do you think will stay with you throughout life?

I will really miss Mrs Page. I still remember that she said right at the start of the course. I didn’t believe in it at first, but now I do. She taught us “how to read!”. I actually know how to read now, in a literal and emotional context. That will stay with me for the rest of my life. Even as a science student. That capability to write reports, or having that emotion, it’s all thanks to Mrs Page. I feel really grateful, it’s a relief that I now understand what she meant.

What are you looking forward to most about going to university?

The challenge, obviously! And the opportunities… and research! That encompasses the whole career of science. You have opportunities to meet a lot of people, you have the hardship of research, the ability to balance your bookworm life with meeting and hanging out with people, an important aspect of uni life too.

What’s the one thing you’d say to a student deciding whether or not to come to Westbourne?

Enjoy the challenge! Obviously the IB is a big challenge, but along the way just enjoy it, enjoy the community aspect, the time with your friends, the support from the teachers. Make your two years at Westbourne a memorable experience in your high school career.


Anthony has since graduated from Westbourne. He achieved the maximum IB point score of 45 and achieved his dream of achieving a place at the University of Cambridge.

Dharani, a No.5 student

Dharani, a No.5 student

What’s it like living at No.5?

I really enjoy living with Ms Phillips. You get to know all the teachers at school and that’s nice to have that connection, but for a teacher to understand how you live and the things that you do on a daily basis… Ms Phillips is really lovely about how she does that. She really tries to make our lives better at home as well. It’s really really great living with her.

What’s the best thing about being a boarder?

I think it’s living with your friends. Living with friends really gives you a different perspective. You all have the same experiences, you’re studying together, you’re all stressed about the same things. Getting to share that is really nice, and not to be lonely especially during the pandemic.

What are the benefits of attending a small school?

I went to a very large school previously. My parents would never want to go to parents’ evenings, because in a class of 40 students the teacher wouldn’t know who you were or have anything to talk to them about. However, when they met Ms Phillips, it was really different because she was able to talk about my strengths, my weaknesses, how I am doing. It’s so important, and only something you get at a small school like Westbourne.

Is there a member of staff who has inspired you?

All the teachers are really inspiring and they’re great at their jobs. The best thing about Westbourne and boarding is you have people like Ms Janette who are really really inspiring, just to listen to you when you come and cry about your problems. She gives you that tiny boost to just keep going and she’s a huge inspiration.

Where are you going for university?

I chose to study Law and I’ve always had an affinity for it. I like debating in school and enjoy History, so Law seemed like a natural fit. I chose to apply to Cambridge because they have a very different, anchored Law programme and I knew that was something I wanted to do. So I took the shot and I applied and I hope to be heading there in September if all goes well with my results!

Tell us about the application process…

For an application to Law, Cambridge surprisingly is one of the few schools that does not require you to sit for an external law exam, the LMAT. So all you need is a personal statement, a reference and your grades. The school was so helpful with how they coached me to write my personal statement, what to write, what not to write. The reference Ms Phillips wrote was absolutely beautiful and I’m sure played a huge role in me getting in. For the interview, Westbourne got me a tutor to help prepare me for that interview because otherwise I would have been absolutely blindsided on that day, so I’m really grateful that I got that support. Ms Phillips, Dr Griffiths and Mrs Barber also hold mock interviews, to give you that extra boost. So you’re continuously prepped and helped throughout the process until you make it.

What’s the one thing you’d say to a student deciding whether or not to come to Westbourne?

I would say take the leap! The world here is far better than anything you could imagine. You have to take the leap to find out for yourself!


Dharani has since graduated Westbourne and achieved her dream of a place at the University of Cambridge to study Law.

Kinga, a boarding & No.5 student

Kinga, a boarding & No.5 student

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Kinga and I’m from Hungary. I’m 17 years old. I would like to become an engineer. This is my second year at Westbourne. Math HL and Physics HL are both important to me for future study.

What’s it like living in Boarding?

I’ve been in the boarding house, homestay and now just moved to No. 5 four weeks ago. It’s been really interesting, a good test of resilience, compassion, it teaches you how to be flexible. What I learned from this flexibility, through co-living, was that I could apply these skills in extreme situations in life, if ever I have to react quickly. It’s a mature environment mainly for IB2s – we are treated as adults. And there’s another adult, Ms Phillips, who ultimately has authority over us! But we are treated as equals and I really like and respect that.

What’s the best thing about living in Boarding?

It makes you grow up! As students living together, you shape each other, and that’s really amazing.

What are the benefits of attending a small school?

We get special attention from the teachers, the staff and from our classmates. You know everyone and you know each other’s skills so you can always go and ask for help.

You know a lot of people in Penarth, you feel this really interlinked, warm bond that the whole community embraces you. When you go to the Boarding House, a big benefit is being able to talk and form such a close relationship with the staff, especially Ms Janette! Everyone really embraces you.

How do you think the IB compares to A-levels? What would you say to a student considering both?

I’m really STEM focused. Doing the IB, I had the opportunity to study English Literature. This was really hard for me as I’m non-native. You don’t have that opportunity at A-level. The IB opens up a new world for you. All the subjects you take at Standard Level make you grow as a person, with different perspectives and you have the opportunity to develop yourself. Those subjects might not be your future profession, but I think it’s really important to have a broad perspective.

What do you like to do outside of school?

I’ve gotten into running. It fluctuates, and if we have exams then I don’t do it so frequently. I take pictures of the scenery and it’s always different. The sea is really beautiful in both the morning and the afternoon. It adds to this whole image of being here, it’s such a wonderful place that I love. I did a bit of rowing, once they took us out in the morning during the sunrise. The water was really cold, but it was a really empowering experience. Even through lockdown, my experience this year has been really nice. The pandemic made us appreciate everything, and I can see that in all parts of our lives. We can go running, or even just for a walk, and there’s a sense of freedom.

Is there a member of staff in particular who has inspired you?

When some of us applied to INSEAD, Mark Peters, the Chairman of the school, sat with us to work on our personal statements. Really everybody knows each other! Everyone contributes, and they’re unique and admirable because they compose us as whole.

Where are you going to university?

Last year I wanted to be a doctor, but now my first choice is Imperial College London to study Material Science and Engineering. It’s a small university and is STEM oriented mainly, but it has a business department and I was always passionate about Economics and Business. I could never choose between Business and Engineering, but this school helped me to continue with both. The course still contains a bit of Chemistry as well, so I can have the opportunity to broaden my views.

How was your experience at INSEAD Business School and do you think the opportunity helped your university application?

INSEAD focused on us getting to know each other, we were encouraged to have personal contact with each other even after the classes. That was really nice and I got to know amazing people even though it was online. It helped me with my university application and it supported a new perspective of what I would like to achieve in the future. People always think that Engineering is mainly for Maths, and Physics. I think it’s more about creating something to help the world, and business also helps with that to promote that science and business are a force for good.

When you look back at your time at Westbourne, what do you think will stay with you throughout life?

In our HL subjects, our teachers upported us both academically and personally. We get a lot of personal support. But my SL subjects especially have had a great impact on me. I’m going to remember Mrs Page’s English lessons that’s for sure, even if I’m becoming an engineer! She opened up a new window, which I thought I would never have.

What are you looking forward to most about going to university?

The thing I like about Imperial is you can take up short courses not related to your studies. So I might sign up for a Jane Austen lecture or a new language, who knows! So that will be interesting. I’m looking forward to experiencing London. Being independent. Getting out into the world on our own, nobody is going to take care of us. So I’m interested in how I will manage on our own!

What’s the one thing you’d say to a student deciding whether or not to come to Westbourne?

Dealing with failure is resoluteness… Westbourne teaches you that! When you go out, you’re gonna be ready!

Footnote: Kinga has since graduated Westbourne and successfully achieved her place at Imperial College to study Material Science & Engineering.

Nikolay, a boarding student

Nikolay, a boarding student

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Nikolay and I joined Westbourne for Pre-IB. I come from Moscow in Russia, well… my original town is in the middle of nowhere so I tell people I am from Moscow!

What is being a boarding student like?

It was really nice for me to gain independence. I miss my parents, but I also feel more in control of my life. I decide what I do before and after school, it’s my responsibility to get up and go to school, to keep my place clean and other things like that.

The boarding house is great! Every house parent has been great too. There is a community in the house – watching films, studying together. I have my own room and I get to have peace and quiet for studying.

Any advice for students considering joining?

Westbourne is an international school and my advice would be to not be afraid to make new connections and new friends. It’s amazing when you dive into all these new cultures and everyone is from somewhere interesting. Don’t hesitate, go make new friends and speak about things that you care about.

Thanks Nikolay!

Thanks Nikolay for sharing your experience. Nikolay has been offered a place to read Economics at top UK Russell Group, Warwick University and is undergoing the interview process for several Ivy League universities in the US. We wish him the very best of luck!

Matilde, a boarding & Homestay student

Matilde, a boarding & Homestay student

Could you start by introducing yourself and telling me a little bit about your experience with Westbourne?

My name is Mathilde Gallia and I’m Italian. I joined Westbourne in Pre-IB.

Why did you decide to come to Westbourne?

I was studying in Italy and really felt like I needed a change. I wanted to learn English and I was also influenced by my sister’s education path – she went to study in America. I didn’t want to travel as far so I chose the UK.

With the help of an Italian agency, we found a few schools and I was advised Westbourne was the best one. I came to visit and I really liked it. I thought that my English wasn’t great and also I was scared of going to a big school; I was afraid of being around a lot of people who already spoke English perfectly.

When I came to visit here, everyone was so friendly. I visited another school afterwards, but I didn’t like it as much so I chose Westbourne.

You have been in both the Boarding House and Home Stay, can you explain why?

When I first joined Westburne I chose to stay at the Boarding House because I really like being surrounded by people. I think it was the best way for me to meet a lot of new people and make friends.

I became friends with everyone so quickly and my English improved a lot. When I first came, I was the only Italian student so I was kind of forced to speak English. I also really enjoyed how close the boarding house is to the school, the train station and the gym.

For my second year, I decided to move into Home Stay. I loved my room at the boarding house, it was exactly what I’d expected. The only reason I decided to move was to have more personal space to focus on my last year of the IB Diploma.

I like my Home Stay, the room is big and the house is close to everything. The food is good and the House Parents are super flexible. It’s not a problem if my lesson finishes at 8.30pm and I need to have dinner then. Also, Del is a really good cook. She likes baking and I love eating cakes, it’s the perfect match!

I also really enjoy being in the same Home Stay as my classmates Macy and Michelle. I love being together with them. We spend a lot of time together and I know that they are there to help me if I ever need it and vice versa.

If you had to give a piece of advice to someone considering applying to Westbourne, what would you say?

I would tell them to just apply. I’m a really shy person and even when I didn’t know anyone at first, I found the experience of being here and staying at the boarding house absolutely fantastic.

I love the fact that this is a smaller school because when I had to learn English everyone was willing to help me, everyone was there for me and all the teachers were just really great!

Esther, a boarding house student

Esther, a boarding house student

Please can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Esther and although my family are from Hong Kong, I was actually born in Birmingham, as my parents moved to the UK themselves for University.

I had considered going to Manchester or Solihull, where I was born, but then I went to an exhibition and I met Westbourne School and I was like … yes!

Before you came to Westbourne, did you have any worries about fitting in?

I was worried initially about fitting in… my doubt was that I won’t fit in because there are only so many people you could fit in with. But then I reassured myself that when it is a smaller school you get more attention from teachers.

Although actually when I arrived, In terms of fitting in .. I was in a class with all new people so it was pretty easy.

Can your share with us about how you settled and if you ever experienced home sickness?

There were a lot of new pupils when I joined so we all helped each other and we all stuck with each other so that made it much easier.

I was homesick only in the first one to two months because I was missing my parents and sibling and obviously friends from home. But then gradually you get used to it.

You can call your parents every day so that is good. After the first term I don’t even call that often because, like I said, I’m getting used to it. I call them like once a week.

Tell us a bit about how your lessons differ now?

In my previous school it was mostly just the teacher speaking and the students listening only.… you didn’t get to participate. That is why I wanted to go somewhere where the style of study is more interactive.

There is also the question of size. In my former school we were 40 pupils in a class. At Westbourne we might get split for some of the main subjects, however there is still no more than 20 people in class.

Last term I was with 10 people in a class. This term we are 12.

Can you share with us what co-curricular activities you take part in?

I do piano on Monday because I’ve been doing piano since I was 5. I really enjoy it, it’s very relaxing.

Tuesday I do Duke of Edinburgh and Thursday I do Mathematical Reasoning. I joined the last one because my friends do it and I figured I could always use some extra help with maths. But then I think it’s a lot more logical than normal maths like you can’t go straight to the answer. You have to think about it more. It’s like IQ questions.

Duke of Edinburgh is basically training your physical and leadership skills .. you have to do physical skill, activity and volunteering. A bit like CAS in IB. And you have to do the activities for three months. For physical I am planning to go to the gym with my friends. It’s a good motivation. For skills I’m doing piano and then for volunteering I’m teaching my friend piano. For the whole past term, she was asking me to teach her so this was a great opportunity to do that.

Now that you have been at Westbourne for one full term, do you feel that you made the right choice?


When I left Hong Kong, it was me and one of my friends who went off to boarding school together, except she boards at a different school. There it is much more strict, they can’t really leave the school unless it’s a Saturday or Sunday. Here it is much more friendly and relaxing.

We are near the town centre and that makes everything really easy. We also go to Cardiff nearly every week. For things like shopping and cinema we hop on the train and it’s easy because we live next to the train station.

Jay, boarding & homestay student

Jay, boarding & homestay student

Aspiring lawyer Jayendra, originally from Mauritius, discusses how boarding at Westbourne supported him to achieve his academic and personal best, and how the close-knit, warm, safe environment was a home-from-home. Watch Jay talking about his Westbourne boarding experience in Penarth by clicking below.

Anjola, boarding student

Anjola, boarding student

IB student, Anjola, explains how Westbourne’s smaller size has helped her feel at home and settle into boarding life more easily. She describes her passion for Engineering and her plans to study at a top US or UK university.

Marcus, boarding student

Marcus, boarding student

IB student Markus, from Hong Kong, describes the benefits of boarding life at Westbourne School – from forging amazing friendships and meeting new people, to the opportunity to try out new hobbies and develop new skills. Click below to learn more about his unique Westbourne journey – from Hong Kong to Wales.

Jakub, boarding house student

Jakub, boarding house student

Jakub, from Slovenia, joined Westbourne in PreIB. Watch him describe how he has settled into our friendly boarding house in Penarth, and how the Pre-IB prepared him for studying the IB Diploma in Sixth Form.

Marketa, boarding student

Marketa, boarding student

Marketa, originally from the Czech Republic, joined Westbourne School as an international boarder in Year 10. She explains why she chose to apply to Westbourne over other UK schools and what made the school stand out for her. She also shares her experiences of settling into boarding life, as well as the wide range of extra-curricular activities in Cardiff and the local area – from shopping to walks, basketball, picnics and more.

Elizaveta, boarding student

Elizaveta, boarding student

International student Elizaveta describes how easily she has settled into Westbourne life for Pre-IB, and talks about the amazing support networks that are helping her to flourish.

‘Take the leap! The world here is far better than anything you could imagine. You have to take the leap to find out for yourself!’ Dharani, Westbourne graduate/Cambridge undergrad