Handling a high school transfer overseas
Near the end of my junior year of high school, I received news that shook my 17-year-old world. Despite seemingly unbreakable promises made to me when I began high school in the States, my family was slapped with a new set of orders. We were moving right before the start of my senior year. I was devastated. Little did I know, senior year in Germany would be a gift in disguise. Transferring to a DODEA school so late in my high school career was hard in unexpected ways but I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.
One of the best parts of attending a DODEA school is the copious opportunity presented by extracurricular activities. DODEA schools have honor societies, sports teams, clubs and interest groups that tend to be quite comprehensive because of the variation in the student body. What makes the extracurricular activities in DODEA schools special are the traveling opportunities that are presented with them. In the single year I spent at Patch High School (now Stuttgart High), I went on roughly 15 school sponsored trips. I studied languages at the Defense Language Institute in Wiesbaden, traveled to Prague with Model United Nations, and went all over the DODEA system of schools for football games and track meets. On top of that, I was the senior editor at the school’s yearbook and in the music program as well. Those were only some of the trips I could take advantage of. A highlight of my senior year was travelling with all of my school friends and experiencing Europe in an unparalleled way.
Training holidays? More like family vacation.
Living in Europe has an obvious advantage. Everything is so close together; traveling internationally is super accessible in a way that travel in the States logistically isn’t. Cheap airlines are plentiful and easily accessible from large cities near military hubs. Not only that, day trips are doable as well. StripesEurope.com has plenty of articles about great things that are happening in your local area released every week. You can also look at some of our magazines to see other exciting opportunities available continent wide. My family happens to be particularly fond of Space Available (lovingly referred to as Space-A) travel for more expensive flights.
Understanding teachers, similar students
An understated advantage presented by DODEA is the similar backgrounds most of the students share. In the States, it’s not uncommon for there to only be a few military families per high school. DODEA is quite the opposite. Seemingly everyone understands things that are intertwined in only military life. Jargon, the struggle of PCS season, and pride in our armed forces are just some of the things that hold DODEA student bodies together. Everyone makes fast friends because they understand what it’s like to move often in a way most non-military affiliated civilians do. Additionally, teachers understand military struggles as well. My first high school had different graduation requirements than my DODEA school did, and my teachers and faculty helped me graduate on time without questioning anything. It was wonderful to have the support of the school and because of them, I — along with many in my graduating class — attend school at a top-tier college now. I couldn’t have done it without them.
It’s just high school
The most important thing to remember about transferring to a DODEA high school is simply that it’s only high school. Although it may feel like the entire world right now, high school is four years that fly by in retrospect. You can do this! High school won’t be the highlight of your life; there’s always tomorrow to look forward to.