Our International Community - Clongowes Wood College

We have a well-established community of Irish ex-pat boys who have joined us from all over the world. Below, you will find interviews with 2 of the boys who joined us from the Cayman Islands. Tom and John are current students, and they give you the real scoop on life as a boarder!

Tom Byrne, 17, joined us from Cayman Prep 

Tom is currently in Fifth Year at Clongowes, having started at Clongowes when he was 14 years old. 

What is the best thing about being at boarding school?

“I’ve loved the variety of sports, sports facilities and team competition.  I’m keen on most sports, particularly rugby and matches come often and can be very competitive. Coming from a much smaller country it was a bit strange for me to begin with not to know some or all of the players on the opposition team. It’s been great to play against so many different teams and to travel far and wide for games (Belfast, Limerick, Dublin). I also enjoyed playing basketball and cross-country running as well as playing football for fun. The sports facilities in the school are also very modern and we get to use them as often as we like outside of class times.

It’s also been great for me to make new friends in Ireland. I was made to feel welcome from the start and really enjoyed the fun and banter during the year.”

What is the hardest thing about boarding?

“The hardest thing about being at boarding school is probably the obvious one of missing your friends and family at home, but it didn’t take long for me to get over that change, although it did feel weird at the start as I didn’t really know anybody. Homesickness has never really bothered me too much and I believe as long as you make an effort to get involved and meet new people, homesickness shouldn’t be a problem.

The Irish weather through November, December and January was also new to me. I learned to wrap up well and keep dry and got used to it fairly quickly to be honest.”

What advice would you give a student about to start boarding school?

“I’d advise them to relax and take their time. Make an effort to get involved in as many school activities as possible. Ask questions. It can be tough not knowing anyone at the start but that changes.” 

Did you experience any homesickness?

“Not too much to be honest. I tried not to think about the past but just about the new life and new experiences I was having. There’s generally so much going on that I didn’t have time to think about it too much.”

What is the most important thing you’ve learned at boarding school?

“The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that I need to look after myself, my clothes, my books, my sports gear. I’m responsible for a lot of stuff my parents would have done previously. That has made me far more independent than before.”

I was made to feel welcome from the start

John Fleming, 17, joined us from St Ignatius Catholic School

John from Grand Cayman joined us in First Year when he was 12 years old, when he came from St Ignatius Catholic School in George Town.  John is an active member of the school community, is a member of Senior Choir, the Schola Church Choir, plays the saxophone in the Orchestra, enjoys playing rugby and is a competitive swimmer. 

What is the best thing about being at boarding school?

Being in Clongowes is so different from the Caribbean.  There are lots more experiences here and more opportunities for learning.   My Mum is from Ireland and I had visited a lot during my summers growing up so I was pretty familiar with the country before I started boarding at Clongowes.  Moving from a different country, I found it really easy to make friends and it is really great that I can spend so much time with my friends when I’m here.

What is the hardest thing about the boarding school experience?

I first found the daily schedule a little overwhelming.  It is a very busy school with lots happening every day.  It can take some time to get used to the pace!  I must admit that there are times when I miss my Mum, Dad and sisters.

What advice would you give a student about to start boarding school?

My advice would be, just be yourself.  Everyone is different here so you will make really good friends.  I’d also say don’t be afraid to ask for help – there are lots of people to help you out so don’t keep your questions to yourself.  Finally, it’s really important to give everything a try – there is so much to do, especially new activities and sports that you might not have at home so it is really good fun.

What is your favourite extracurricular activity and why?

Rugby would be my favourite thing to do.  I play in the front row for Clongowes.   I learned my rugby in the Cayman Islands Rugby Club.  Sports are a great way to make friends and meet people.   We do our training during the week and have matches with other schools on Wednesdays and Saturdays.   I really like music too and take part in 2 choirs and play the saxophone in the orchestra.  The orchestra here is pretty big; there are almost eighty of us from all different year groups and we practice during the week together.

Did you experience any homesickness?

Honestly not really.  I chose to come here and I knew my parents supported me and made the right decision to allow me to come.  I call my parents three to four times a week.  We can email from school too but I prefer to call.  If anyone is homesick in the dorms we try to comfort them and talk them through it as we all get a touch of it from time to time.  It does pass though, and there are lots of people on staff to help us through it.

 What is the most important thing you’ve learned at boarding school?

I’ve really learned how to organise myself and how to work independently for my school work and study.  I’ve also learned how to get on with lots of different types of people.  Very importantly, I’ve learned how to enjoy playing sports in the rain! 

What countries are your closest school friends from?

There are boys at Clongowes from all over Ireland, the UK and other parts of the world.  My best friends are from the United States, Ireland and Mexico.


To find out more about your son joining Clongowes Wood College as an international student, please click here. 

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