Charlotte Sakmar Åberg is just 15 years old but as eloquent as anyone ten years her senior. The teenager, who was born and raised in New York, has been a boarding student at co-educational independent school SSHL for three years now.
Born to a Swedish mother and American father, Charlotte’s parents were keen for her to forge a connection to her Swedish roots. To accelerate her Swedish language skills, the family moved to Sweden for two years while Charlotte was in third grade, enrolling her at a school in Stockholm.
“That’s how I learned Swedish,” Charlotte recalls. “My mom thought it was important for me to have Swedish as part of my life.”
Unable to commit to living in Sweden full-time, but wanting Charlotte to continue with the language and develop Swedish connections, the family saw boarding school as the perfect solution.
Charlotte spent three days at SSHL, which is less than an hour’s drive from central Stockholm, so she could try boarding before committing to it. Provbo allows children to test life as a boarding student so they can make up their minds before taking the plunge.
Photo: Charlotte Sakmar Åberg
“I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it was a really good way to see how it actually was because I wouldn’t want to start boarding without trying it first,” Charlotte tells The Local.
She explains that during the three days, she lived with a current boarding student, attending lessons with them and getting to know other students. It was provbo that convinced Charlotte she would enjoy boarding.
“I thought it was pretty interesting. It’s such a different way of living compared to living at home. You do more studying and activities because it’s all right there.”
Photo: Boarding homes at Sigtunaskolan Humanistiska Läroverket
Three years later, Charlotte can’t imagine attending school anywhere else. The lush grounds, cosy accommodation and high standard of education at SSHL create the perfect environment for growth. It’s especially appreciated by students like Charlotte who grew up amid the hustle, bustle and concrete of a busy city.
“The environment is so relaxing, it allows you to focus more. I couldn’t imagine going to school in a big city anymore! We’re close to water so during summer we go swimming and in winter we go ice skating. It becomes like your home, not just the school but the whole town.”
It isn’t just the students who appreciate the majesty of SSHL. Charlotte’s house tutor Dr. Justin Schaefer, also from the USA, still has to pinch himself when he arrives at work each day.
“We try to avoid comparisons to Hogwarts but it’s kind of a fairytale! The school is nestled in an old forest on a mountain top overlooking this gorgeous lake. It’s just a fantastic location to live and work.”
Photo: Dr. Justin Schaefer
It’s Justin’s job to make sure the girls in his house get the most out of their education at SSHL. Boarding students at the school, which also accepts day pupils, get almost round-the-clock access to resources that can supplement their daily learning.
“I’m one of those resources,” explains Justin. “My job is to be there every afternoon and evening until 8pm to make sure they are doing their studies. If I can’t answer a question for them then my job switches from tutor to enabler and I put them in touch with another tutor with different expertise.”
He adds that boarding students don’t just receive extra help with their academics. They have an “embarrassment of riches” at their disposal, with athletics and artistic endeavours scheduled throughout the week.
Justin describes SSHL as “one package” and extremely convenient for parents who would normally have to ferry their children around to school, various clubs, tutors and social gatherings.
“You get an amazing education from some of the finest teachers you will find in secondary education in Sweden. You’ve got staff who are dedicated to making the experience not only easier but more productive. You’ve got the environment which no-one could complain about, as well as an incredible sports complex with dedicated athletic directors.”
Photo: Sigtunaskolan Humanistiska Läroverket
But more than that, both Justin and Charlotte agree, within the comfortable confines of their boarding houses, students become more like siblings. Charlotte is confident that the friendships she has made at SSHL will last her a lifetime.
“Your boarding house becomes a family. That’s one thing I really appreciate about the school. I know I’ll have all these friends I’ve made in the past three years for my entire life.”
Charlotte wholeheartedly encourages other children to provbo and confesses that she couldn’t imagine life without boarding.
“A lot of younger students might be scared to move away from home or of a new environment but I really encourage them to provbo. The combination of living at school, focusing on work and living with your friends is really nice when you're a teenager.”
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by SSHL.