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The ultimate second home for student-athletes

Duana Lama was just six years old when she began her journey as a competitive swimmer in her home country of Nepal. When she turned twelve, her family decided it was time to choose a more favorable environment for her dual pursuits: studying and swimming. Almost immediately, British International School, Phuket (BISP) stood out. Being a boarder here would allow her to train all year round. “In Nepal, swimming pools are closed in winter,” she explains. “Additionally, being in Thailand meant I could continue to compete in South East Asia.

Navigating new waters

Her transition to BISP was not without obstacles. Entering a multicultural environment and adapting to a new curriculum presented initial challenges. However, the warmth of the boarding school community and support from her peers made it easy for her to adapt. Lama was assigned a buddy to help her transition and supported by supportive teachers, and she quickly found her footing, both academically and athletically.

Centrally located the entry experience at BISP are the house parents who are entrusted with the care and well-being of the students in their care. They provide guidance, support and supervision, creating a warm and nurturing environment in which students can thrive. “Whether students are facing academic challenges, personal issues, or simply need someone to talk to, our advisors are ready to provide guidance and assistance,” confirms Head of Boarding, Magali Margo.

Margo and her team never fail to go the extra mile for the student-athletes who proudly represent their school. BISP offers specialized support services for them, tailored to their needs. A team of dedicated nurses care for the health and wellbeing of all residents, providing medical assistance and support when required.

Unlimited access to first class facilities

Lama’s transition from practicing in an 60-foot hotel pool in Nepal to training in BISP’s Olympic pool marked a major turning point in her athletic journey. “Now I have access to facilities for both short and long courses, depending on the competition I am preparing for,” she says.

Gone are the days of grueling commutes and limited training hours. As a boarding student and member of the BISP Sea Eagles Swim teamLama enjoys easy access to the gym, pool and other facilities, allowing her to seamlessly navigate between her training sessions and academic commitments. Unlike her past experiences of having to run home late into the night after training, she now thrives in an environment where all tools are at her fingertips.

“Easy access to facilities was great, and it’s nice to be surrounded by similar people who are trying to achieve not only their academic goals, but also their sporting goals,” says the student. “Being a top athlete and a Nepalese national swimmer, I am often under a lot of pressure, so it is fun to live with students in similar situations. It helps me get through when things get challenging or overwhelming.”

The impact of BISP’s facilities often extends beyond infrastructure and interaction with colleagues. Lama credits her coaches for their continued support and dedication to her development as an athlete. Unlike her previous experiences, where coaching resources were limited, BISP provides an enabling environment where coaches are responsive to feedback and committed to nurturing talent. And in a sport where mental toughness is just as crucial as physical prowess, having female coaches who understand the unique challenges female athletes face is a game changer. “It was nice to have them there,” says Lama.

The best of both worlds

Meeting the demands of strict training schedules in addition to academic responsibilities is no easy feat. Still, as a student-athlete living on campus, Lama has found a rhythm that works for her. Early morning training sessions at 5am are followed by a full day of International Baccalaureate (IB) classes and additional swimming sessions in the afternoon.

“Being a boarder has definitely helped build a sense of discipline, establish routines and be organised,” she says. “It helped me grow as a person in terms of how I can carry myself and how I can handle situations.”

Looking ahead, Lama – who has represented Nepal at the world championships in Budapest, Peru, Japan and Doha – envisions a future where she continues to pursue her passion for swimming while exploring opportunities in animal conservation or the arts. With dreams of competing in the 2028 Olympics in LA, possibly pursuing higher education in the United States and eventually breaking national records, she hopes her story inspires female Nepali swimmers to take up a sport.

“I believe that you have to have people around you who are invested in your success, and I noticed that when I got in,” says the student, who recently qualified for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

In addition to grooming high-quality swimmers, BISP also organizes a series of Sports academies, including football, tennis and golf. Yet the benefits of boarding at BISP extend beyond just sport. It is a gateway to academic success and personal growth for all students, regardless of their sporting pursuits. Away from the fields and courts, boarders have easy access to state-of-the-art facilities including laboratories, art studios and libraries. With every minute they spend on campus, they get closer to discovering their true potential.

“Living away from home in a boarding school environment teaches students and athletes independence and responsibility,” Margo explains. “They learn to take care of themselves, manage their own schedules and make responsible decisions, preparing them for the transition to college and life beyond.”

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