Monday, March 30, 2015

On the Topic Of...My High School Experience

Though I’ve been blogging for close to 5 years now, I don’t often find myself getting particularly personal on the blog. Sure, if you’ve been following my reviews for a while or if you follow me on Twitter you probably know some things about me outside of what I like to read and what I like to watch in terms of TV shows and movies. But I haven’t necessarily shared that much beyond that. Not because I have anything to hide or I want to protect my identity. Considering my name is quite easy to find on the Internet because of the blog or my job, that ship sailed a long time ago. 

But I thought I would do something a little different today, share a little more about me that might give you more insight into why I read the books I do or why I react to things the way I do. This is not going to get overly dramatic or dark. At all. So here’s the thing, at some point over the course of the last almost five years, you might have seen me mention going home and that typically involves planes. That’s because compared to most people, I didn’t exactly have a typical middle/high school experience. I say that in the sense that from the age of 11 onwards, I went to an international school because my parents’ jobs led to us moving overseas. 

So what does that actually mean? Well for starters, I went to the same school from grade 6 until I graduated high school. But even though I went to the same school for 7 years, I didn’t even come close to graduating with people who I had known since grade 6. Because that’s the nature of an international school, people come and go, often never staying for longer than 3 or 4 years. So I got really good at saying goodbye to friends and making new ones. So the idea of having grown up with someone, of meeting someone in kindergarten and still being friends with them when high school graduation? Completely lost on me. I would be hard pressed to tell you the name of even one person I went to kindergarten with. But it’s not just the constant rotation of people that made my high school so different from what is considered to be “typical” or like the ones I see in book. My high school was basically this little bubble. Everyone knew each other because there were barely over 100 people in my graduating class, barely over 400 people in grades 10 through 12. And sure there were different “groups,” I had my group of friends I hung out with most of the time, but everyone was pretty much friends with everyone. It might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s really not. 

On my surface, my high school looked like any other, but when you dig a little deeper, it really wasn’t. I was on the track and cross-country teas and I had meets every weekend. But instead of competing against schools in our region/district/county/etc., my meets involved travelling to other countries for the day. And instead of having state championships at the end of each season, I had European championships where I competed against other international schools in Europe. The same thing applies about the field trips I went on. I would go on weeklong field trips to other countries, often related to what we were studying. When we were studying the Renaissance we went to Italy, when studying the World Wars we went to Normandy. It was definitely a different experience than what I would have gotten if my family had stayed in Canada.

And as you might have guessed, going to an international school meant going to school with people from all over the world. Sure there was an large American population at my school, but there were people from all over Europe and many from Asia thrown in for good measure. Just within my main group of friends, there were people of 13 different nationalities and those people are now spread out all over the world. Literally. Luckily my best friend ended up going to school about 5 hours away from me, but for the most part people are now all over the world. Most of them I haven’t seen since we graduated six years ago. Not because I haven’t wanted to see them, but because it’s just not feasible because of geography. 

Whenever I read books, and this is especially true of contemporary, I see these events the characters go to, or the relationships that some of the characters have and they’re often things I’ve never experienced. I thought about that when I read Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You. The relationship that Paige has with her three best friends is something I’ve never had. Of course I have friends. And being in my twenties, some of those friends are ones I’ve had for a long time now. But I can’t say that I have the kind of friendship with my friends that Paige has with her’s. That feeling of knowing everything about your friends because you’ve lived through it with them, of having someone who knows exactly what you’re talking about because they were right there with you for it. I have some of that, but never to the extent that I often see in books.

And then there are the books about sports. I’m drawn to those to begin with because I consider myself to be a pretty athletic person and I was involved with sports in school, but there’s more to it than that. It’s always interesting for me to see how into sports and school spirit students and their community can get. My school had a football team. And they had games that people went to. But to be completely honest, the bleachers were often pretty sparse and for most of my time in middle and high school, our football team wasn’t exactly the greatest. So seeing a whole town go all out for a football game the way you see in Catching Jordan or for a baseball game like in Play On is completely foreign. My school’s understanding of Homecoming was that all the sports team had home games that weekend. There was no dance involved, no huge football game (just a regular one that drew a slightly bigger crowd). For the most part, it was just a weekend like any other. 

So what’s the real point of this post, you might be wondering. My experience doesn’t even come close to what I read in most YA books, which is why I can find them so interesting. And my background probably affects my reviews of those books. I can relate to some aspects, but for the most part what I read is so completely different from what I experienced. There aren’t really any books out there that reflect my experience. Or at least I haven’t found them. Anna and the French Kiss and Isla and the Happily Ever After sort of come close, but my school wasn’t a boarding school and it wasn’t open to people of just one nationality. So even then, it’s still not really the same. To my knowledge, there aren’t really any YA books that accurately represent going to high school overseas the way I did. If you know of any, please let me know because I would love to read them!

Hopefully this post wasn’t too long and rambly, and hopefully you learned a little more about me! I am curious though, have you been able to find books that are pretty representative of your own high school experience?

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