International School Memories

Sometimes I swear I forget I lived abroad.  Other times, I can feel the way my times in Switzerland impacted my present life, particularly my days attending international school as a young teenager.

Here’s a list of my Top Ten (no particular order) memories from attending my international school in Francophone Switzerland:

1.  Having friends and classmates from what seemed like EVERYWHERE.

“You know, my friend from my school in Switzerland who lives in France but she’s actually half British half Caribbean…” 

“No, the one who lived in Fiji after Sudan but we met in Switzerland in between.”

2. Going on field trips to the Swiss Alps, France, Morocco… etc.

While all of my American friends back home got to go to Washington D.C. for their 8th grade field trip, I went to Provence, France with my classmates.  The next year, in 9th grade, I got to take an unforgettable trip with other students from different grades to Morocco for 8 days.

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3. Hearing different languages every day.

From Korean to French to Spanish to Russian to Arabic… oh and let’s not forget English… 

4.  …And with that, being taught random phrases in these languages.

At fourteen or fifteen I learned how to swear in both Italian and Russian.  I haven’t forgot since!

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5. Exploring a new identity as an American.

I never thought of myself as an American until I was surrounded by those from so many other places on a daily basis.  

6.  … And navigating the identity of being an international student on top of being an American.

It was a surreal time, because not only did I have my identity as an American, but I had to try and understand what it meant to be an international student– an American abroad.  My international student identity is what connected me to all of my foreign classmates. We were all so different in our upbringings and this was the one thing that tied us together.

7. Not taking anything too seriously at school.

I’m not sure if it was all international schools or just mine, but schoolwork was a low priority for most of the students.  Fun seemed to be the main focus, and perhaps this was because of the constant uprootimagesing.  Most of the students had no idea how long they’d be there or where they’d be next, so homework didn’t seem as important as exploring and goofing off.

8. Eating all kinds of foods.

“I’ll give you my grilled cheese if you give me a bite of your sushi…”

Moroccan Tajine, Japanese Tempura, British sandwiches with Marmite… It was all a new experience.99228701_18b96e7633_b

9. Taking the train to Geneva from school.

My school was located in Versoix, Switzerland.  It wasn’t too far from the city of Geneva, where, as 9th graders, many of my friends and I were able to hop on the train which was a brief walk from school.  We would walk around Geneva and explore (and as we got close to the young drinking age… drink) and enjoy the freedom of being an adolescent in a place with public transportation.

10. Not having to be politically correct… at all.

You could call someone black, white, gay, American, Russian and use all the stereotypes in the world and no one cared… mainly because most of them were true.  And even if they weren’t– it was never meant in a hateful way, but rather just a way of identifying in the chaos of an international environment.HELLO in eight different languages

geneva-all-inclusive-vacation-packagesimages taken off of google images.

“It’s okay to not be high all the time”

I have a very great therapist who said those words to me recently.

“It’s okay to not be high all the time.”animals-001

And no, I’m not a recovering drug addict.  I’m recovering from different addictions.  I’m recovering from a different method with which I used to create or prolong my own personal highs.

Everyone feels ups and downs.  It’s a normal part of life.  Since my mid-to-late teens, I’ve been experiencing my own highs that soar to even greater heights than those of most people: hypomanic highs, an inevitable part of bipolar disorder (which I was not diagnosed with until this past January).  The funny thing about hypomania, is that although it can be distracting or painful at times, this mostly is not the case.  Majority of the time, when I’m in a hypomanic state, I’m happy, feeling incredibly creative, energized, and having a great time.  My confidence soars and my thoughts are faster than I ever could imagine possible.  It’s all fun and games until I crash.  Boom.  And then I no longer feel so high and happy, but rather depressed, cognitively slow, and lost in a sea of self-loathing thoughts.

I have medication to help this.  During my depressive episodes, I’ll do anything to help me take away the pain.  So I gladly take my medication without question.  On the other hand, the medication also calms the hypomanic episodes so that I can sleep better and feel calmer and more productive.  But once you’ve gone as high NATURALLY as I have, you don’t want it to go away.  And that’s why many bipolar individuals turn to drugs or alcohol.  Or in my case– Restricting, exercising, and purging.  An eating disorder.

As my psychiatrist has finally leveled me out to the correct dosage for my mood disorder and OCD, I feel so much better than I ever have in my life.  It’s tempting for me to fall back into negative behaviors, such as restricting, to feel the high that enters your mind from using this addictive action– the addiction to feeling hungry.  The addiction to withholding yourself from something your body and mind need to function.

I know I can’t do this though… because the further you fall into the eating disordered behaviors, the higher your highs become, but with that, you receive the lowest of lows that only sink deeper into a dark abyss as your body starves.

So, as my therapist says, it’s okay to not be high all the time.  Life isn’t always crazy and thrilling, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be boring either.  Both times will occur, as it is part of the natural cycle of life.  I think this is a message that can apply to anyone and not just those mental illness.

210bddccf16c0f273954afdc04b7a76bNote: Images taken off of Google Images (except for featured image– taken with my Nikon Camera)