Brook Hill Prepares: Brigida Walken

The most memorable time I had at Brook Hill did not come from an awesome trip to the mall, winning an award in academics or even being a sports star. The most memorable aspect of my life at Brook Hill was the relational experiences I gained there. From the boarding house family to the day students and staff, they made living abroad feel a little more like home.

Coming from the Turks and Caicos Islands at that time, we were a small nation not known by many. Arriving at a brand new campus in a brand new state and country away from the people I knew and loved into an environment that knew nothing of my country or little ‘ole me was difficult as an international student.

There were many nights where I would stay up on the phone for hours talking with family wondering if my decision at 13 to leave the island – which came true at the age of 15 – was really the best thing for me. After all, I came from a private high school with a caring staff and multicultural student base, what more could I experience from going to another institute that was, in my perspective, similar?

Little did I know that it was the greatest and most rewarding choice made. To have the opportunity to go abroad, develop myself and my skills as a counselor, and then return home and give back to my community was my dream. And at that time, it was a dream that felt more like I was in limbo as it was difficult and emotionally draining at times. However, I stayed and pressed forward. Brook Hill was part of that reason. My boarding parents, at the time Mr. and Mrs. Smith and little Olivia, were so caring, loving and inviting.

The boarding students I met on that first tailgate party visitation day became some of my closest friends, and we have shared wonderful memories with one another of our time at Brook Hill. Even long after my time at Brook Hill, I am still in contact with the staff there and want to show my gratitude to such a remarkable school that became my home away from home and essentially guided me, academically and spiritually, to become who I am today.

My time at Brook Hill taught me so much about life and even played an intricate part in my ability to be an effective mental health counselor to people, primarily the youth, as growing up can be hard enough, but doing so in a foreign or new environment, essentially starting a-new, can pose even more daunting challenges.

One of the most important skills that a counselor needs is his or her ability to empathize with people across cultural beliefs, heritage, and at times boundaries, and provide real, authentic support in times where many people may naturally shy away from due to a lack of understanding, empathy and energy.

Brook Hill was one of the places where real understanding of others and their beliefs, various cultural differences, strengths and weaknesses influenced me and encouraged me to continue my path to developing into the best counselor, and eventually the best version of myself that I could muster. Brook Hill also taught me my own strengths and weaknesses, renewed my faith and allowed for the right friendships and relationships to form.

I am grateful to God, my family, friends and the many opportunities given to me to have had the opportunity to grow, to live and to experience in wonderful places throughout my life. The Brook Hill School was and is still one of the most memorable places for me. Seeing people able to get along with one another regardless of ethnicity, beliefs, nationality, and being, is a beautiful and a wonderful representation of what heaven looks like.