The Shared resilience of Falklands and military children
Do Falklands children and Military children share a resilience and pragmatism which offers useful insights in these times of COVID? In an article for Penguin News Phoebe Aldridge – daughter of a military family posted to the Falklands 2011-2013, and now a recent graduate examines an issue close to the hearts of both communities.
There were high hopes for 2020: a new decade welcomed in by Gatsby parties at New Year as if to relive the ‘roaring twenties’.
For me, in my final year of university, 2020 was supposed to be late-night library sessions surrounded by course-mates peering over piles of books, walking home from lectures guided by the familiar illuminated cathedral, and confetti-covered celebratory happiness on emerging, relieved, from the exam-room.
There were places to visit and parties to plan. Instead, this year for me and many other students has been one of disrupted dissertations, online exams, virtual graduations and cancelled summer dreams.
While this year has not played out as we had thought, it has made me think about how students, in particular, have been impacted and how we have coped. I remember being struck by the resilience of Falkland students, both boarding weekly in Stanley and termly across the world and back in the UK, with no other option for higher education.
Boarding can be a difficult transition, yet it was this opportunity and experience, coupled with military life, which provided me with the mindset and skills to deal with what has been a strange, anxious and frustrating year.
Having lived abroad, when I went to school in England for the first time aged ten, my parents needed to explain to me what British money looked like, and I was pleased to learn that swimming lessons would not be conducted in a foreign language.
Then, when I was 12, we moved to the Falklands and I started to full-board in the UK for the first time with my parents 8,000 miles away. My holidays for the next couple of years, filled with off-road adventures, island-hopping and lots of penguins, were the most amazing adventure; I remember the Falklands as a place I came to love and feel a part of.
Boarding in the UK may have substituted term-time weekend trips to remote beaches and albatross watching for Thorpe Park and paintballing, but it gave me invaluable independence, resilience and friendships that are just as strong today as they were ten years ago.
During lockdown, I have found that as well as my close university friends, it has been those friends from boarding school who I shared every experience with for seven years, who I have turned to and appreciated most.
After all, at boarding school you don’t simply have friends who are around for a few hours each day in Maths lessons or in the playground for 20 minutes. Instead, you share and experience everything together, from evening toast and hot chocolate in dorms to making a real igloo on the sports pitch on a snow-day: in the space of a year I went from an only child to a family of 30 sisters!
Being so far away from home can be daunting, but I met people with a vast array of stories, built a web of friends who knew me inside-out, learned to get on with just about everyone and see the world in a new, more open-minded way. I think Falkland students have had many of these experiences and learned many of the same lessons: we are perhaps more accustomed to uncertainty and change than most, and the skills we have learned and the mindset we adopt in testing times may as a result have allowed us to manage the rollercoaster of COVID better than many.
Boarding taught me to embrace opportunities, to value friendship and not to be resistant to change; in recent months and particularly during lockdown, I have found these coping mechanisms to be invaluable. In light of this, in this age of mental health awareness, it should be highlighted that perhaps it is building strength and resilience in teenage years which provides the answer to making life-long foundations.