New Kid on the Block

November 6, 2020

Moving is hard. I’m sure most people at ISL understand that – we are an international school, after all. I’ve moved five different times to five different countries in the last 15 years. I’ve gone to international schools my entire life and most people I know have as well. I’m so accustomed to people telling me that they’ve just moved from somewhere halfway across the world, and then the next time I hear from them, they’re living somewhere completely different. Since I was born here in Lausanne, my feelings were mixed when I found out I was coming back. On one hand, it was the place of my birth. Somewhere I’ve always wanted to return to, to experience. On the other hand, having lived in Asia for the majority of my life, I wasn’t sure how much I’d like it here. If at all. China and Switzerland are very different. 


And so there I was, patiently waiting in front of the North campus, smiling underneath my mask at a few familiar faces. Inside, I was panicking. I’d done this a million times before, but somehow, it felt different. I was worried. Worried about making friends, about drifting from my old friends. Worried about the smallest things, like where the bathrooms were or what to eat for lunch. Who to sit with for lunch. What my outfit looked like. Wait, did I remember to shave my legs? These concerns may sound trivial, and in all likelihood, no one even noticed. But the truth is, first impressions matter. Anyone who’s constantly introduced to new situations knows this. People don’t forget first impressions. I certainly haven’t forgotten my first impressions of ISL.


To be frank, the first thing I thought when I sat down in homeroom was that it was almost exclusively white. I felt like an outsider, but of course, that’s the reality of going to an expensive “international school”. The second thing I noticed was how many friend groups were already rigidly established. This intimidated me because it was something that I was familiar with but not looking forward to. I suppose everyone feels this way about cliques at first, at least up until they join one. I’d met some ISL students during the summer, and they told me about the slightly cliquish nature of the school. In all honesty, I wasn’t glad to hear that, and I even googled pointless things like ‘how to join a friend group’ or ‘tips for being the new girl’. Given that I have been new 6 times, I understand what it’s like to seek validation and comfort in one way or another. .


I’m not trying to vilify the school – there are a couple of things I really do like about it. The teachers are welcoming, the academics are challenging, and the people are kind. It was particularly reassuring how many people reached out to me over the summer. Whether it was to meet up, to talk, or just to introduce themselves, that sense of familiarity on the first day was comforting. 


Having said that, my first week at ISL was not the best. I came home exhausted and constantly on edge. Trying to juggle a new curriculum, new friends, and a new country is harder than it looks. My brother, however, didn’t seem to be having such a hard time adjusting. He announced that he was running for student council president while I was overthinking every conversation. I was venting to my parents about how my day sucked, while he would simply shrug when asked how his was. Perhaps it’s to do with age – maybe the younger you are the more easily you adjust.


For new students at ISL this year, or even for leaving students, I have a word of advice. Don’t rush. You might be tempted to scout out potential friend groups on your first day, but friendships can’t be forced. If you just learn to let go a little, a couple of months down the line, it’ll be worth it when you have people you can be your authentic self around. 


Honestly speaking, the first few weeks at ISL were a little rough, but nothing I’m not used to – maybe my feelings towards the school will change as time goes on. As of right now, I’m hopeful about what my time here will look like. 

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