King’s Academy opened its doors last weekend to greet new and returning Upper School students for its 13th orientation. Of the 627 total students, 171 fresh faces have joined the Middle and Upper Schools, along with 25 new teachers from across the world and the new head of school, Peter Nilsson.
The 2019–2020 student body is the most international yet, with 48 percent of students hailing from outside Jordan. Two new flags were added to the Hess Family Dining Hall, welcoming the first students from Ireland and Australia. The number of female students continues to grow, reaching 45 percent this year. Among Upper School students, 75 percent are boarders — the highest percentage yet. At the helm of this changing community, Nilsson joined new members in celebrating the start of a shared journey.
Addressing new students and their parents on Saturday, Nilsson recalled his own formative experience as a boarding student at Deerfield Academy. “Boarding school was a period of discovery: of who I wanted to be, of what I wanted to do, of how I could do it,” he said. “Being on my own in an environment of choice was an awakening to opportunity, an awakening and an opening of new and different possible futures.”
This experience is not without challenges, however, as Nilsson made clear in his opening address to all Upper School students on Sunday. He differentiated between stimulus-driven attention, in which people react and respond to the circumstances around them, and goal-oriented attention, in which they set and define their own intention.
“Today as you begin your classes, invite yourself into each class with a goal: to learn something, about your subject, about your teacher, about yourself,” advised Nilsson. “There is no place like King’s Academy anywhere else in the world… It is an opportunity for us to have goals, and not only be driven by the stimulus around us.”
Already ahead of the curve is Tamer Tash ’24, who set King’s as his goal and took the initiative to apply by himself. “He did everything,” says his father. “He filled out all the applications alone and he got accepted.”
Jiahui Yan ’24, on the other hand, is beginning her journey at King’s through a stroke of luck. She came across the Academy’s website by chance while researching boarding schools in Switzerland. “I thought — wow, a school in the Middle East!” she laughs. “I know that I will go to the United States finally, but before that I want to learn another culture, and I can do that at King’s.”
The Upper School orientation spread out over August 25 and 26, with the Madaba Games uniting new and returning students in athletic, artistic and fun competitions. The Games concluded with enthusiastic performances of the house skits, leaving students in eager anticipation for the announcement on Thursday of the winner. While all Houses displayed admirable efforts and teamwork, Atair took home the gold with an impressive 520 points. In second place was Nihal, with 465 points, and pulling in a close third was Mizan, with 460 points.
On Tuesday afternoon, the fourth Middle School orientation welcomed the 50 new students and their parents to campus where they attended a simple but heart-warming ceremony. Nilsson thanked the parents for entrusting their “most prized possessions and people” to the Middle School, which “places special emphasis on care for students, celebrating childhood and play, and self-directed learning.”
The young Lions were escorted through a “welcome tunnel” of cheering faculty by their Big Brothers and Sisters — mentor students from the Upper School, many of whom had themselves gone through the Middle School. Together they walked into the HRH Sheikh Jabir Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah Building, and the start of their King’s Academy journey.
- Head of School