Admit it, you’ve watched Hollywood movies or American TV series with a high school setting, haven’t you?
Well, you might wonder how is it like to be one of those students. I went to Benton Community High School in Van Horne, Iowa, United States and it felt like I lived in an American teen movie. All the things you watch in movies and TV series about American high school are most likely true and not exaggerated.
My exchange year seemed very colorful when I started attending Benton Community High School, a rural high school with population more than 500 students and 80 teachers and staff, integrated with the middle school. My school is situated right beside the cornfields, so I can get a pleasant scenic yellow- orange view daily when I visit my school.
Studying here earned me many invaluable experience – academic and non-academic. Here are some important values I learned through studying in a US high school:
1. School is a place where you can express yourself. American schools encourage you to be what you want to be, as long as it is positive. You can wear fashionable wardrobe to school, you can join clubs and maybe make your own club. There are so many things you can choose to do here, you can even hold a dance party at school. Teachers will facilitate you and help you to know more about yourself and act as a friend to whom we can share stories with. If you don’t say it to people, if you don’t express it to people, they won’t know.
2. Learn to direct yourself. High school in America starts from the 9th grade, and from that time onwards you can start choosing what you really like and want to study. Although through the high school years, you still have to take some mandatory classes for the graduation requirements, most of your classes are of your choices – things that you want to do in the future. This way, you can start directing yourself to your ambition and your future line.
3. Independence and self-reliance. Being independent and self reliant in high school doesn’t mean you won’t have friends. It’s about how to be respectful towards others and minding your own business without being troublesome. With this value, you can maintain a good GPA and decide the kind of activity that you are keen on joining.
4. Tough matters. There will be mischievous students in every school, but in America, even bad students can respect one another because they want to be respected in return. I was once bullied by some students for being a Muslim and also for being an Indonesian, but when you respectfully explain, with good attitude, most of them will understand and respect you in return as well.
5. Tolerance, tolerance, tolerance. Being in an international student means that you ought to bring something new to the school. Your unique personality will fascinate other people, but I can feel the culture of appreciation in my school. Students here will ask you things about Indonesia and many things regarding your cultural background.
An advice from me, you have to stay calm and try to be modest in answering those questions. I learned that, if you want to be tolerated by people, you have to tolerate people.
You will learn a lot and gain inexplicable experiences through studying abroad. So, are you ready to learn in a different atmosphere and setting?
This article originally appeared in Indonesia Mengglobal, a site where Indonesian students and alumni from US top schools such as Stanford, MIT, Harvard and UC Berkeley share their study-abroad tips and experience. The site aspires to make high-quality global education more accessible for Indonesian students.
Gladhys Elliona Syahutari attended Benton Community High School in Van Horne, Iowa, United States. She currently works for KBR68H, a private radio news station in Jakarta as an announcer for youth news program.