I Thought I Would Fail ISL, I Was Wrong

My first year in ISL was the worst year of my life (so far). Arriving in Year 10, I moved away from my friends in the UK and felt deeply homesick. And due to my, although brief, time in the A-Level system, I was not achieving the grades I had usually managed to achieve in the much more rigorous and tougher IB system. My mental wellbeing was at an all-time low and I thought that I was doomed to never finish ISL. 

Uh…about that. I’m in Year 13 now, and five school days from now, I will be off on study leave for my exams. Year 13, for me, was the year where I finally was able to accept the community I was in. As a senior, I think I should give everyone in high school some advice and tips for overcoming not only academic challenges but life challenges in general that can apply to almost everyone. 


1. Use strategies and methods that work for YOU, and I mean WORK.

One of the big mistakes someone could make in school is expecting the face value guidance to work out eventually because if it helped other people succeed, then it should help them too. Here’s a slice of reality: That easy solution to your time management issues or lack of motivation or etc is not always true for every single student. When you continue to fall behind despite trying the standard methods like turning off your phone and working longer hours, you start thinking that you were just meant to fail, that you are the unsuccessful outlier among those that are just “better.” That’s called lying to yourself. 

Finding the right strategy for you is a process of trial and error, and the goal is to find a system you are comfortable with, that is manageable and most importantly, a system that genuinely helps and brings results. For example, if you think that rigorously working 3 or more hours straight with no to little breaks is helping you, yet you feel absolutely exhausted and your grades and self-esteem aren’t getting any better, then STOP THAT. Yes, we have to always push ourselves outside our comfort zones, but the whole goal of leaving the comfort zone is to expand it to new areas. Sometimes, certain risky areas will just not become part of our comfort zone, whether that is the idea of drinking alcohol or going skiing or the example I had presented. Make it work, and make it something you can adjust and become easily used to. 

Take breaks every once in a while, find your learning type and see where your strengths and where your limitations are. Sooner or later you will find that strategy which works for you and it will feel exhilarating.


2. Ask for help, even if it feels embarrassing or intimidating or inconvenient for you to do so.

Bottling up your questions and bewilderment about something is not the way! What is the way is asking someone else if they could aid you in whatever you feel you’re at a dead end at every turn. Whether you are asking your family members or your teachers, getting the help you need could make a huge difference. Nobody is dumb or weak for requiring assistance. 

And yes, certain teachers can feel really scary to approach, but their job is teaching you and helping you is certainly one of the main things they are specialised in. In the case where getting help and making your teachers understand your issues is an issue itself, the counselors are there to guide you in the right direction.

Subtopic, what I’m telling you even applies to your mental health. Your mental health is as much of a priority as your physical health. A lot of high schoolers experience difficulties with depression or anxiety. There are also disabilities like ADHD or Dyslexia that can also hinder your efforts in life and school. Learning support is here at ISL for a reason and accommodations are for those who really, really need them. Furthermore, if you are feeling suicidal and/or currently practicing self-harm upon yourself, please reach out to either the counselors and to those you trust. Also get outside help as well, many people get medicated or go to therapies to help treat their conditions and problems. There are people who care about you, even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you don’t feel like anything can help you at that point in life, seek aid anyway. What you are facing is temporary and can be overcome, even if it takes a long time. 


3. Learn to love and enjoy the small things among the stress. 

Highschool, especially the DP years, is one of the most overwhelming periods of life. It’s the “greatest period of your life” compared to what others might say. Truth be told, it can suck. Overflowing assignments and projects, exhausting extracurriculars and chaotic interpersonal affairs. That’s not even going into your personal life beyond school. It’s so easy to just bash on everything nowadays and I know everyone says this, but take pleasure in what you can.

Acknowledge that funny joke someone told.

Engage in class discussions which you enjoy.

Partake in your hobbies, the things you love (in moderation)! Be yourself, be fascinated by your niche interests, give yourself some leisurely alone time. 

Of course, not everything is this simple. There are a lot of other things I could not fit in here but those are some of the main things that helped me through ISL and especially throughout Year 13. And don’t take my work for granted, go to our school counsellors and ask them for any resources that suit your needs.

I know its going to be hard. It will continue to be like that after Year 13. I honestly am terrified of being an adult, I feel like I’m not ready and that’s a valid feeling. Take your time, care for your needs and remember the things you love and the people that love you for you. 

Farewell ISL and best regards to everybody!