The privilege of attending an international school is usually reserved for children whose parents work jobs in an embassy, military or international business. International schools are typically classified as private institutions that are designed for expat children to be in an academic environment that is organized with strong influences of the Western school system and fosters a culturally diverse atmosphere.
The curriculum at these schools is usually based on the International Baccalaureate, Edexcel or Cambridge International Examinations, but can also be simply based on the curriculum form another country other the country that the school has established residency.
As an international school alum, I thrived in the constant shift of fellow students, of the multitude of languages, how everyone, even the teachers were all different, so no one could truly feel left out, all the different kinds of lunches kids would bring to school and the stories they would share of the other places they had lived. The interesting thing about my international school experience was that I attended the same one for several years, whereas other kids have a tendency to move around the international school circuit.
I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was, I thrived on change and travel, but this was different, this was leaving my home and moving to a place where I was going to be the new kid for a change. Would there be someone like me to welcome me, as I had done for so many other kids?
When we finally arrived in our new country, a country that I had been to several times, it was not the country and it’s culture that threw me off so much- but the fact that I was now going to a public school.
On my first day of school most of the kids didn't even know where my previous country was located on a map. I soon learned that there were only a few kids who had ever left the country, which was absolutely mind blowing when I learned that meant that most kids didn't have passports. They assumed I lived in trees or huts, and couldn't believe that I spoke English.
The transition into this new environment was beyond difficult because there was no one that I felt I could be friends with, no one who would understand me, and there was no one I felt who was even remotely like me.
I have been purposely vague about the country where I came from, the country I moved to, and my own ethnicity because every country and respective community have their own unique traits but these tips are applicable to almost any international to public transition.
- Be open. Learn how to make the most of the culture of public school, rather than highlighting your differences and alienating yourself.
- Focus on school. Public schools differ from international schools because of their curriculum, which most might think is easier than the international school curriculum, but they are just different. If you continue to compare your old school to your new school, you will only frustrate yourself and get distracted from potential success in your classes. If you’re having trouble making friends, try focusing on your class work.
- Get involved! Remember how you used to have spirit week at your old school where the whole class would get dressed up and go to pep rallies and cheer as one unified student body? They do that here too! I barely had any friends at my new school until I joined Art Club and met a girl who not only had the same name as me, but was also ethnically mixed like me and loved art! We are still best friends to this day.
- Learn from your differences. The thing that I noticed most about the kids who went to public school was they all came from this same home town, whereas I didn't really feel as though I had a home because although I had grown up in my previous country for the majority of my life, I wasn't born there and my family didn't live there anymore. These kids had grown up in this same town, with the same kids, since kindergarten- and that was an entirely new perspective that I had very little experience with.
- Understanding their perspective. The kids that go to public school might recognize you as some sort of exotic, snobby, rich kid who thinks you are better than everyone else and that’s why you aren't making friends with anyone. You know that you didn't have a choice to come here and although you may wish to go back to your old school because change is difficult, rather than let their perspective bring you down and make you feel even more outcast, prove them wrong! Show interest in being their friend and show them that you are just as much a humble, fun kid to be around.
- Grow from the experience. You may only attend public school for one year, or maybe you have the rest of your middle and high school years to finish up, no matter what the circumstances, this is an opportunity for you to observe the social differences between private and public schools, local and international communities and most importantly the way that you handle adversity.