Starting high school overseas

by Ruth Ploeger, Army Region School Liaison Officer/Transition Support Specialist
Family and MWR CYS Services

Here it is!! The big day. You may be really excited about this or really nervous. Just remember – there is a whole group of new people, not just you, so you don’t need to feel like they are all staring at you. If you don’t know anyone, try speaking to someone from your class — imagine how much you would appreciate it if someone spoke to you. This could ease the tension and give you someone to share the new experiences with.

Changes at high school

Probably the most significant change is that when you were in middle school you were at the top of the school and probably felt very valued and important — you may even have been given special responsibilities — but it all changes in your first year at high school. All of a sudden, you have become one of the youngest students at the school. Some of the older students may even tease you about this,  or at least let you know that you are the youngest.

New stresses

Although all of these new challenges can be exciting and a lot of fun, you may feel a little stressed at times. Here are some of the things you may be feeling:

  • lost and confused, until you are familiar with the new situation.
  • sad that you are not with your old friends, and missing hanging out with them.
  • lonely and unhappy, waiting to make new friends.
  • anxious or afraid that you will not be able to cope with the new lessons and stuff you are learning.
  • worried that you will not fit into any group to hang around with.
  • concerned that your parents will have expectations that you can’t meet.
  • a bit tired and worn out from all this energy involved with starting a new school.

How to cope

Don’t panic! Remember that you are not the only person who is starting high school and that nearly every student starting high school is feeling like you. Even some of the upperclassmen are new! Here are some ideas that may help to ease the stress:

  • Stay in contact with your "old" school friends, particularly while you haven’t made close friends at high school.
  • Give it time. Everybody starts off with no friends, but soon you will have a new group of friends that you hang out and have fun with.
  • Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. He/she will probably appreciate it, and then you will know someone.
  • Ask a student counselor or one of the teachers to help you if you are struggling with school in any way. Maybe you can’t manage the workload to start with, or can’t find your way around the new school. Help will be there if you ask.You SLO is also available to help. 
  • Get involved in school activities (music, sport, debate), and you will meet new people with the same interests.
  • Look at the positives of being at high school: new school facilities, more independence, more variety in classes, some choice in what you want to study and more activities.

If you feel like you are being harassed by anyone at your new school, go to an adult you trust and talk about it. Many schools also have online reporting tools for bullying incidents. Of all the students who go to high school each year, a few may have problems settling down, getting themselves organized, or making friends, but most take full advantage of everything their school has to offer. With a positive attitude, you’ll be OK and on your way to graduation before you know it!

For more to help your student PCS, visit Europe Family and MWR's website for an Inbound Student Handbook.  

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