Finishing School Interview: Nina shares with us about her experience attending finishing school. Nina has a rich cultural family history,
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of Finishing schools, here is Wikipedia’s definition.
“Finishing school is a private school for men or women that emphasizes training in cultural and social activities.”
When did you attend finishing school? What was the duration?
I attended a private Southern school, Norfolk Academy, in the United States since I was six years old, entering the First Grade. I am about to start my Twelfth Year there. It is just a normal private prep school in the United States, where we learn languages, mathematics, the sciences, political science and government, economics, literature, history, and music. The school was founded in 1728 and one thing very distinct about the school is that it is an old-money Southern school. The students come from good families and after school, many students enter the finishing school program because, as is the custom of the school, the students must grow up to be distinguished and refined ladies and gentlemen. I attended it after school for an hour, every weekday, for four months when I was sixteen years old.
Tell me your experience of finishing school? Did you enjoy it? Did you feel it was beneficial to you? How do you think it will help you in your life?
My experience of finishing school was positive and I enjoyed it.
I enjoyed sitting in class all day long with boys who slouch in their chairs and have their ties loosening up, and then entering the room with them and watching them become distinguished and elegant gentlemen who hold out their arms for the ladies and always stand up straight and tall.
I feel that finishing school helped me a lot because what I noticed a difference in the way I held myself outside of that classroom and I noticed it in the other students as well.
Years later, the boys still open the car doors for their girlfriend and offer her their arm to help her in heels, and the girls still use the proper utensils and use appropriate manners when dining.
All of those who entered the class and passed still hold themselves in a wonderful way, and in a time when teenagers end to be slacking when it comes to the way they hold themselves, it’s refreshing to see teenage boys who offer girls their arm and have their other arm behind their back and girls who dress appropriately and know how to walk and have a formal conversation and be elegant in public.
We have lost a lot of the formality and refinement once used for being in the company of others, and it is nice to know that is is not yet dying out entirely among the new generation. This will definitely help me in my life, because I can make a good impression on my professor in college and maybe get more academic opportunities. I will be more poised on job interviews and maybe get internships for furthering my education and also getting jobs to support myself and my family. I will be elegant and refined in public, which will attract good people… good people for friendship and for dating.
Why did you attend finishing school? You mentioned your mom went to finishing school. Did your mom stress on sending you there or was it more like part of family tradition?
I attended finishing school for a mix of many reasons.
First of all, it is a tradition at my school: almost all of the students go through it and, unfortunately, there is a lot of social pressure to attend because the other students will talk. Secondly, I knew that it would be enjoyable: I had friends who had already attended it, I liked the material, and I liked the instructors.Thirdly, I saw the improvements in those who passed the class. I saw the grace and respect that the students gave to others, even those they did not get along with. I saw how before when the couples would just run to the car together, the boys would now run to the girls’ side to get them out of the cold. I knew that this would make me more elegant and more courteous to others, and I knew that that was something worth having. My mother stressed on sending me there, thinking that it was very important, but she didn’t force me because in her view, you have to want to go there because if you don’t truly want to learn everything that they have to tell you, you are not going to make those lessons a part of your lifestyle, and you might not even pass.
What was the difference between your finishing school and your mothers? (want to draw if there are differences between then and now, and differences in finishing schools).
My mother attended finishing school in Europe and I attended finishing school in the South of the USA. My mother’s experience was a lot more formal due to the culture of the place where she attended and also the time period. Even today, the relationships between students and teachers are a lot more strict in Europe than in the USA. In the USA, students can be almost friends with their teachers because they feel free to speak about things unrelated to the subject. In France, students don’t socialize with the teachers. Also, the South of the USA is known for being very gentle, friendly, and courteous. The teachers were much more gentle with students who did not understand the subject matter or who were struggling.
What was the course structure like in finishing school? What was your day like in finishing school? What did you study everyday? Were you allowed to pick and choose your subjects? What was your favorite subjects?
In the school, all of the students learned dining skills, dancing, and posture. But many times throughout, the boys and girls were split up because things would be a little different for them. For example, although both groups learned how to stand up straight, the boys would be taught to have their hands behind their backs or one hand behind their back and the other resting on a table nearby, and they tended to have their feet spread out flat on the floor to make their presence seem grander, while the girls learned to never have both hands on their hips because it made them look stern, to have their hands together in front of them if standing still, and they always kept both feet together. Most of the sessions we had together, we would spend the afternoon after school, or maybe an afternoon on the weekend. Everyday, we learned posture, we learned how to train one’s voice to get a polite and soothing tone, we learned how to keep a polite conversation, we learned proper table manners, the boys learned how to treat women properly, and the girls learned cooking and how to walk in a flowing elegant way.
Did you enjoy it? Would you recommend it to other girls?
I enjoyed it because I feel like it helped me very much and I now feel that I have become more confident. My only complaint was that I feel like a lot of the information we learned was very traditional, leaving out modern topics such as email etiquette. Perhaps this is because the whole idea of finishing school is a very old and traditional idea, so they expected that this is what teenagers of classic families would like to learn? But overall, I enjoyed it and being someone who embraces a lot of traditional ideas, I found those “old” topics to be very pleasing. I would recommend it to girls who embrace traditional old-fashioned concepts and who want to be elegant and classic, because those who don’t won’t enjoy the class and would probably be negative about it and wouldn’t learn anything.
Then the ending, I’ll short conclusion and end it with a link to your blog.
Read more about Finishing School here. On elegantwoman.org, whenever we refer to finishing school, they will mean schools catered for women.