Why Should You Attend Semester School?

Why Should You Attend Semester School?

A extremely biased series of lessons learned by a semester school graduate.

To begin, what is a semester school, in the first place? These schools offer a semester-long educational experience for high school juniors, allowing them to return home with “academic credit, out-of-classroom experiences, and a whole new worldview” (Semester Schools Network). Ranging from backcountry training at the High Mountain Institute to ethical leadership experience at the School for Ethics and Global Leadership, these semester schools provide opportunities for students to hone in on what they are passionate about, as well as to develop those passions further.

But, as a junior in high school, the prospect of hopping on an airplane to spend the semester with a community of strangers, in a far away and unfamiliar place, is quite daunting. No, not just daunting: this prospect is terrifying. What if you don’t like your classmates? What if you miss your home? What if you are making a terrible mistake?

But, as frequently comes with leaps of faith, this one in particular—this leap to semester school—yields endless lessons to be learned, for those who are willing to go out on that limb.

Now, I present to you an extremely biased series of lessons, learned by a semester school graduate, who still misses her crazy mountain family of 46 each and every day; and is forever grateful for what they taught her.

You will learn to be independent, and to trust yourself.

The legend of the high school junior is a dreaded one. And although the monotony of high school, and the anxiety of increasingly pivotal grades, breaks the backs of many students during their junior year; there is undoubtedly a pressure to conform to this norm, and to succumb to the seemingly obligatory trend. Yet, this inclination is not mandatory; though breaking it takes immense independence, and trust in oneself. Thus, the very decision to abandon the all-important junior year—nonetheless for the unknown—is a lesson of independence and trust, in and of itself. But as your semester away progresses, you will learn how to live away from your family and friends; as you learn to take care of your own day-to-day needs, and to trust in your own decision-making skills. And whether your semester school challenges you in the classroom, challenges you to build a snow shelter for the night’s sleep, or challenges you to propose a bill to senators, you will learn that you are fully competent to learn, as well as to undertake these challenges. You will learn to trust that—though these challenges may not be familiar, and they may not be easy—you have the full capacity to learn how to start, and eventually, to undertake these challenges with the utmost confidence and grace.

You will learn about community.

Nothing quite compares to a community in which every member has been self-selected; a community in which each and every member is there upon their own accord. These aren’t the people who socialize to ease the everyday pain of high school; nor, those whose parents have shipped them off to camp for the summer. On the contrary, these are the people who have put their own lives on hold in order to be a part of this experience: putting this experience above all else, even if only for the semester. These are the people who share strikingly similar attitudes and morals; though, stem from a multitude of different backgrounds and passions. These are the people who will not only teach you about the world around you, but also about yourself. And even after the too-short semester has ended—after everyone returns to their own respective lives, these are the people that will be by your side through the easy, and through the not-so-much. These will be the people that you feel connected to when you’re halfway across the country—halfway across the world— as these are the people who you will feel close to many years after the shared semester has passed.

You will learn to persevere.

Now, its inevitable that will be difficult moments while you’re at semester school; as, at times, you may even believe that you’re making a massive mistake. You may be missing home with all of your heart. You may be sick and tired of the small community you have been dragged into. And you may even be exhausted, cold, and hungry as you are hiking through a blizzard to reach the next campsite—though that example may be limited to certain semester schools. Nonetheless, regardless of whether or not you have a choice in this fact, you learn to persevere through the difficult times. You will come to carry an attitude of positivity; viewing the difficult times as a challenge, and will learn to be able to look back at these challenges with pride. You will l

earn to designate Type I from Type II fun; being able to recognize the irony and humor in even the most miserable of times. And you will learn that the community around you is undergoing similar challenges, and that they are there for you to lean on; as you leave your shoulder open for them, as well. You will be able to make the most of every scenario you encounter—good or bad—as you can recognize the value in the experience, as well as the value in persevering through it.

You will learn that home doesn’t have to be limited to where you were raised.

Growing up, your home is typically regarded as where you experienced your childhood: the place in which you have shared memories with people who you love, and who love you. Your home is the place where you feel most comfortable and cared for; where you feel your happiest. But does this description have to be limited to where you were raised? You will quickly learn that—although this does not mean abandoning your past identifications of home—you can call many places home; your semester school included. Those you share your experience with will feel like family; as you grow to love them just as quickly as you feel that love reciprocated. Your day-to-day schedule will become just as comfortable as the schedule you followed before; yielding memories that will be looked back upon as some of your very happiest. But when you finally leave, you will feel that little pit in your stomach that we oftentimes define as homesickness. And you will be homesick because you realize that, although you may be home—in one respect—you are missing your other home: that home you created with a community of strangers in a far away and unfamiliar place.

So why should every high school junior attend semester school? Look at these lessons, and try to convince yourself why not.

For information regarding the incredible opportunities that semester schools provide, do some more digging on the Semester Schools Network: http://semesterschools.net/.

Cover Image Credit: The High Mountain Institute

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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Why Horoscopes Don't Matter To Me

Stop Deciding Who I am Based Upon Them


True story: I was born on December 25th, which according to my horoscope, makes me a goat. Excuse me, it means that I am "Capricorn," which looks like a goat. People tell me that I am the one that needs to be open-minded and respectful. However, if you go around deciding that I have to be a goat because of a day of birth that I did not decide for myself, I might feel offended. Maybe I do not want to be a goat? Maybe I made a choice of what my spirit animal is a long time ago, and goat did not make it in the Top 10. We cannot go around calling strangers goats. That is weird.

Here is where I try to be respectful: if someone wants to decide to understand themselves based on the astral configurations when they were born, more power to them. However, that does not mean that everyone else should be forced to "abide" by the strange rules of horoscopes that seem flexible enough to accommodate anyone's whims.

People use horoscopes to calculate the "future," "personality," and "compatibility with others" for every person. This basically means that someone has decided that they know my future and my personality without even asking me. They decided they know my heart better than I do. It is annoying to open up magazines that have different "forecasts" for the same horoscope. If it lacks consistency, how am I supposed to take it seriously and allow it to guide me through every decision in my life?

The fact of the matter is that my future is based on my choices. I have free will, so no matter how much someone decides that they know me based on my horoscope, they dehumanized me because they decided that spending quality time was not a necessity for getting to know me.

The respectful manner for interacting with people is to stay open-minded and wait to have quality time with them before judging them. We cannot judge what we cannot understand, and we cannot understand someone based on second-hand information… like horoscopes.

Personally, when I want to understand myself and what drives me, I open up a psychology book and try to get some statistics and facts published by professionals. However, this is my choice. Just like not everyone falls into the same psychology statistic for their behavior, not everyone completely abides by the description of their "horoscope."

What is worse is when people try to use horoscopes against other people. Someone even tried to ask me if I was a Sagittarius (a horse-man-centaur-something) and I had to explain to them that my birthday does not fall into that category. Someone decided they knew my personality based on a false horoscope because they did not even know my birthday. They decided they knew who I was compatible with without my consent and my future without my consent.

See the problem?

One wrong number, and I was suddenly branded as a mythical creature that I coincidentally also never chose to be my personal spirit animal. That one did not even make the Top 25.

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