Whenever anyone anywhere recounts their high school experience it always seems disappointing, scarring, traumatic, with worst-night-ever proms, clique wars, and rampant zits.
Well, despite my rampant zits, I loved my high school experience.
Sure, I had teenage angst too. Way more than was normal for most people my age. I suffered bullying and exclusion and betrayal, and I was guilty of these things as well. This, coupled with my sometimes low self-esteem and extreme anxiety problem, made life unbearable at times. But as corny and clichéd as this sounds, I don’t regret any of that pain. It taught me lessons that would ordinarily take years to learn, and it made me so much stronger.
And I had the best friends anyone could ask for. We all hung out at the our couch area on the third floor. It started with two couches in junior year, and by the end of senior year, we had four couches, one large rectangular table, and one small round table for piling our junk on. We dominated that place. It was our go-to area, our home away from home, a familiar place amongst the all the hostile deadlines flying by. School started for my underclassmen friends yesterday, and I hear the new freshmen have taken over our spot. At least it wasn’t hijacked by those pesky juniors, now seniors (sorry seniors).
A couple months ago during an interview with LittleStar Magazine (a magazine for international schools in China) I was asked if I enjoyed the international school experience. I did wholeheartedly. Despite the hour-long commute each morning and afternoon, I was going to a school with students from all over the world and cultured teachers that were passionate about their subjects. I had so many more opportunities than I would have had in an American public school. I took IB as well as AP classes. I went to Spain on a school trip in freshman year. I represented my school in competition against other international schools in Asia in sports, and I invited them into my home when our school hosted. I played clarinet with select musicians from my school in Beijing, Seoul, and Dubai.
But apart from the additional opportunities I had an amazing high school experience. I participated in three Relays for Life and helped organize one of them. I fell asleep in class. I helped our girls’ table tennis team win the first APAC championship. I both failed and aced tests. I blatantly flaunted dress code on a daily basis. I made a fool of myself in swimming class. I dedicated myself to my school band all four years despite others’ jeers and negative attitudes, and sat in first chair for two of those years. I inappropriately used the soundproof practice room as a movie theater. I crammed for exams only to end up falling asleep at eleven. I plotted with my math class over Skype to bribe our teacher to postpone the test. I acted both drunk and hyper when I was sleep-deprived, which was pretty much all the time. I walked down those hallways countless times alone and with friends. I cried and laughed and facepalmed and headdesked. I learned so much both inside and outside of the classroom, and I kept learning right up until the point I graduated.
I miss it so much, but high school has served its purpose—to help me grow and create wonderful memories that I’ll cherish forever.
Shanghai American School Pudong, thank you for everything.