A new international school in Thailand, just outside Bangkok, presents a myriad of exciting challenges and opportunities not just for the initial cohort of boarding house students but for staff too. In the lead-up to the opening of KIS International School Reignwood Park for the 2024/25 school year, we meet the Director of Boarding, ELIZABETH HAMMOND.
Where are you from originally? What do you miss about it?
I’m from Cambridge in the UK, yet for the past two decades I’ve called Asia home. There are moments I find myself missing the crisp, chilly weather of England and, of course, family gatherings as well as classic British dishes like “Toad in the Hole”!
What prompted your move to Thailand?
Having spent a considerable amount of time working within the traditional boarding school environment in the UK, I found myself intrigued by the prospect of experiencing life in a foreign country. It was at that time I was presented with the offer to assist Harrow School in establishing their first boarding house in the vibrant city of Bangkok in 2003. It was an enticing proposition, and it prompted me to embark on this new chapter in my professional journey.
How has your experience been working in boarding houses in Asia?
Running a boarding house is just like having a large family. There are celebrations and happenings every day. Having so many teenagers under my care can of course be challenging but it’s always rewarding.
What has helped you connect with kids and create a home away from home for them?
Just time, and living through the varying experiences within boarding. I would never say that I’ve experienced every situation in boarding, but over 24 years of living with teenagers I have covered a lot of happenings – the good, the bad and the ugly.
I run a boarding house like a big family house; the only difference is that we have many children! So my routine is similar to one of a parent at home: wake up, breakfast, find the lost sports kit, off to school, sort laundry, clean up, wash dishes, prepare dinner, collect junior students from school, play some table tennis, serve supper, complete homework and into the bedtime routine. Creating a home away from home is easy because the students and the routine make it a home.
Living in boarding is not a job but a lifestyle; like all mums and dads, I’m on call at every hour. And just like mum or dad, I get to know the students very well – if they prefer football over badminton, or cornflakes over omelettes, and if they’ll get on with their homework alone or they need me to encourage them!
What do you enjoy most about working with boarding students?
Having students around me keeps me young – not young looking, but up to date with what’s what. I’m continually updated on technology, and the students teach me the word on the street about music, language, fashion, which social media is cool to follow and so on. Students have a wealth of knowledge that most adults just don’t know.
I love to help and guide students through their school years and wave them out the door onto their next chapter. Many keep in touch with me after boarding school; I get calls from them at uni – it might be about a boyfriend problem, or a student asking where to buy a rice cooker in Manchester! Or just a phone call saying they miss their school life. And I get emails from former students telling me they’re now choosing a school for their own children. Some boarders never let go of their boarding parents – I always feel happy to be part of their lives.
What are some common concerns you hear from prospective boarding families?
Many parents like the idea of boarding school – giving their children the best opportunities that they can – but of course there are concerns. “Who will remind my child to brush their teeth?” “My child doesn’t like doing homework.” “How do you encourage sleep when two or three are in the same room?” There are many questions from parents, and I want the parents to ask them, not sit at home and worry. No question is too small! I’m on hand at all hours; parents can email, message or talk to me at any time.
About KIS International School Reignwood Park
Set on 60 acres in the northeast of Bangkok, KIS Reignwood Park is 40 minutes from the city’s two international airports. This new international school in Thailand will open in August 2024 for students aged three and above, with boarding for Grade 4 and above. It will be the only full IB day and boarding school in the Thai capital.
How does KIS Reignwood Park differ from the KIS Bangkok campus?
We are building on 25 years of academic success at KIS Bangkok, which offers a full IB Programme – it will be the same for KIS Reignwood Park. However, with our new 60-acre campus being just outside the city centre, we have more space. We’ll be offering world-class facilities across every activity and subject, ensuring children have huge opportunities to discover their future passions as well as hone current talents.
Tell us a bit about the neighbourhood around this new international school in Thailand.
We’re one hour from downtown Bangkok so we have the benefit of no traffic, green space and clean fresh air, while still being on the doorstep of the city. We have everything we need on campus, and also Reignwood Park, which has a 10km cycling and running track, the park itself, and a shopping centre and sports complex being built.
The greater Lam Luk Ka area offers more shops and fun activities like horse riding, fishing, go-karting and much more.
What countries do the boarding students come from?
We’ve been busy travelling and recruiting boarding students, and we have children from all over Asia including Thailand, Vietnam, China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Myanmar.
What are you excited about for the first year of KIS Reignwood Park?
Meeting the new boarding families, and getting to know the parents as well as the students – parents are just as important for me to love and nurture as the children; we welcome the whole family into our community. I’m looking forward to students achieving, and students trying their best – seeing them attempt new activities as well as sometimes seeing them struggle and then succeed. We will be celebrating successes every day, whether it’s a great Maths test result or celebrating little Joey not losing his school bag for a whole week!
KIS Boarding will be a happy house full of fun and thriving students. We are supported by all our teachers and the wider school community, and we’re setting up these new boarding houses for students to develop and be the best that they can be. They may have hiccups along the way… just as they would in a happy home! But if teenagers are happy, then they learn, they accept and they strive forward with enthusiasm. At KIS Reignwood Park, students’ happiness is our number-one priority.
Our doors are open, come and visit us!
KIS Reignwood Park offers weekly and full boarding for students from Grade 4 (age nine) and up – see kisrp.com/boarding-life for more details. The school is at 888/99 Lam Sai, Lam Luk Ka District, Pathum Thani, 12130.
Find out more about this new international school in Thailand by calling +66 (0) 94 235 3000 or visiting kisrp.com.
This article first appeared in the Winter 2023/2024 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.