Looking back on his first day at Upper Canada College, Ben van Meggelen has nothing but fond memories. As a self-described "very shy" newcomer, the Swiss student received a warm and immediate welcome to boarding and the broader UCC community.
"Our head of house made sure that I was actively involved in boarding and made sure I was included in every great event and possibility," recalls Ben, now in his second year at the College. "He helped me to quickly make friends in both Seaton’s and Wedd’s," the two boarding houses. In addition, Ben soon learned that UCC’s day students were "amazing, extremely friendly and appreciative of boarders."
Faculty, of course, also ensured Ben’s smooth transition to studies in Canada. "Every teacher at UCC is unbelievable and manages to make every subject interesting and engaging," says the Year 11 (Grade 11) student, whose favourite subject is currently history. "Before coming to UCC, I did not enjoy maths and chemistry," he admits. "But now I always look forward to those classes as well as others. It really speaks to the quality of the teachers and how much UCC cares about their students," Ben adds.
"Every individual at UCC has the potential to influence your life for the better, and they will go out of their way to make sure that everyone is happy and included in the community."
Back when Ben was researching international schools from his home in Switzerland, UCC was his first — and only — choice. "I wanted to explore a different country away from home while also being able to challenge myself academically to set myself up for success in the future," he explains. "UCC was just the perfect option to do all of this, and after being here for almost two years now, I can say that UCC does so much more than that for you."
Ben treasures opportunities to get to know fellow boarders from diverse backgrounds. "Spending time with them, learning about different countries and cultures, and having friends all around the world is the greatest experience any school could ever offer," he says. "It helps tremendously with your development as a person."
Ben tries to seize all opportunities that come his way, including co-curriculars and weekend events and experiences "in all fields imaginable, including sports, arts and more." For example, before attending UCC, Ben had lost his enthusiasm for soccer. "But boarding, in particular, re-ignited my passion for soccer, and I am very involved in sports now."
Through the boarding program, students explore aspects of the world "that can’t be taught in a classroom," he observes. "And it feels great if a friend convinces you to go to some event — such as the recent van Gogh exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario — that you think you won’t enjoy and it turns out to be amazing and absolutely worth experiencing," Ben adds. "The boarding students are unbelievable and they will motivate you to be your best self."
Ben offers some tips to future boarding students, particularly those who might be a little shy, as he was in his early days at the school: "Try to talk to people and get involved in the community. It may seem hard and frightening at first, but everyone is really nice and you won’t regret stepping out of your comfort zone and getting to know the amazing individuals we have in UCC boarding," he urges.
"UCC turned out to be everything I expected and more." In fact, "Canada and UCC boarding have become a second home to me. And I’m sure that most of the friendships I get to enjoy on a daily basis will be lifelong."