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Transitioning from international schools


According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 1.61 billion children worldwide enrolled in primary or secondary schools, and of those, only 3.5 million students have attended an international school.

The official requisites that constitute an international school are that it must have English or French as the language of instruction, it requires students to take on at least one additional language and it must contain a multinational and multilingual population.

These schools were created  to cater students who are not natives of the host country, such as those who are children of staff in foreign embassies, international organizations or on the staff of international businesses.

Although these schools are relatively uncommon, a surprisingly large number of students have had the experience of attending an international school, including several students at Paly.

Freshman Ella Miranz is one such student. Prior to enrolling at Paly, Miranz attended the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) for 11 years: from Pre-K through eigth grade. Although the school is located in Palo Alto, ISTP offers a culturally enriching experience. Miranz recalls meeting students of diverse nationalities, saying “they were all bilingual and culturally knowledgeable.”

At ISTP, students are provided with a bilingual academic curriculum, blending practices of the U.S. education system with the standards of the French national curriculum as well as curricula from China and Taiwan.

“I initially noticed that we all had different backgrounds,” Miranz said. “What made everything easy was being part of [the ISTP] community for so long. Since we all met at the age of 3, we grew up with all this diversity which made it easy for us to understand each other and communicate.”

Despite transitioning to a new school for the first time, Miranz said the adjustment from an international school to Paly was predictable, given that she knew Paly was going to be larger.

“[Since] Paly is a bigger school with many students, it is harder to get to know everyone individually,” Miranz said.

Junior Rehaan Advani attended the Singapore American School (SAS) from first through seventh grade, before moving to Palo Alto. Among the differences between Singapore and Palo Alto, Advani said that the culture and the students here encouraged independence.

“You can be a lot more independent. You can bike wherever you want to explore,” Advani said. “In Singapore, there’s not much [else] other than going out with friends.”

SAS’s curriculum is nearly identical to Paly’s, and is similarly accredited by The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), to which Advani attributes his smooth transition. One aspect Advani misses is the opportunity to compete against sports school teams from other countries.

“I was in a [tennis] tournament called IASAS, and I got to play teams from Malaysia and Indonesia,” Advani said.

Both of Miranz and Advani’s schools, along with other international schools, provide opportunities for their students to travel and experience other cultures with their classmates.

These trips enrich the students culturally through hands-on experiences beyond the classroom and foster a closer bond between the many groups and students travelling.

Both said the greatest feature of all is the ability to fully immerse oneself into the international community, learning more about cultures and traditions that they may not have been introduced to otherwise.

Most students attending international schools are not from the host country, so at a relatively young age, they are exposed people who come from different backgrounds. Advani said living in Singapore opened up his perspective of the international community and taught him lots of unique customs.

These trips enrich the students culturally through hands-on experiences beyond the classroom.

“Singapore is extremely culturally diverse,” Advani said. “There were a lot of Indian customs and Chinese New Year was also really big. I got to learn about what’s important to people of all backgrounds.”

Sophomore Natalie Schilling, who attended The American School in Tokyo, agrees on becoming more open-minded afterwards.

“At first I didn’t like it [in Japan],” Schilling said. “But experiencing and learning what I liked about another culture made me more open. I don’t think I would be as open to trying new things if I didn’t live there.”

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