There are almost half a million foreign students in the UK — at boarding schools, universities and colleges. In independent schools alone, one in five new students are from abroad. And this creates a problem that no one really thinks about. What do these children do with all their belongings? Any parent who has sent their child off to school, boarding or not, will remember the seemingly endless school uniform list. ‘Two pairs of black, lace-up, polishable shoes, plus a pair of Sunday shoes.’ (What’s wrong with using Friday shoes on a Sunday?) Trunks, bath sheets, three pairs of pyjamas… and the games kit, of course. Tennis rackets, hockey sticks, football boots, and the helpful fact that the entire school uniform changes for one short term in summer.
More and more British-based students have parents who live on the other side of the world. Matron and the internet can help with the uniform-buying stages, but what happens when pupils are expected to move out of their dorms over the Christmas, Easter and — worst of all — long summer holidays? Some schools have basements they can use for storage, but often this space is limited. All the poor girls I was at school with whose parents were based in Hong Kong or the States had to find a kindly godparent or unknown third cousin to look after their piles of uniform until the next term. Friends at university had similar problems.
If you don’t have an amenable relative, what other options are there? Well, fortunately some enterprising individuals have come up with some solutions. ‘Storage for students’ (www.storage4students.com) has options for both university and boarding schools students, which can include collection of boxes and luggage from school or university, and storage for the summer. The School Trunk company (www.schooltrunk.org) goes a step further. Its ‘Silver Storage’ package simply involves collection, storage and delivery of your luggage. But with the ‘Gold Care’ option, the company will unpack your child’s luggage, check the contents against the uniform list, and then dry-clean, re-name-tape, repair and re-pack everything before next term. Perhaps not so useful for university students, but perfect for international boarders — or British-based parents who’d rather not have the hassle of doing it themselves. And luggage options are improving, too: Tuck Online (www.tuckonline.com) has a wide array of trunks and tuck boxes in more exciting colours than the navy blue that was standard when I was a teen. If packing up at the end of term used to be a chore, these days there’s no need for it to be anything like as stressful.