Out of Place — For Now

The JIS community eases the inevitable challenges new students face.

Home can come in a variety of forms. For many, it is a person, group of people, place, or a combination. It is what many people primarly associate with feelings of consistency, familiarity, and security. The problem, however, is that leaving the place you consider home, or leaving the people that make you feel safe, may heighten the sense of intimidation. For instance, when starting at a new school it is no secret that being a new student is challenging. They are expected to leave behind their old lives to enter foreign social and academic environments. With incoming and departing students from across the globe, student turnover at JIS is often as frequent as it is significant. We regularly find ourselves losing and gaining peers in considerable quantities each year. This is why it is why it is vital to understand that new students come in various forms and from various backgrounds; so we can learn how to empathize with our incoming peers and make their transition to JIS as seamless as possible. 

Connor C., a sophomore born and raised here in Jakarta, is eager to be a part of the JIS community. Prior to attending JIS, Conner had spent the entirety of his academic career at Sekolah Pelita Harapan (SPH), another school in Jakarta. 

Overall, Connor was enthusiastic about the social and scholastic opportunities that awaited him, saying, “ I [was] really stoked for the classes…and I’m not really afraid of putting myself out there. So I don’t think making friends [will] be too much of a problem.” Despite Connor’s infectiously positive attitude, he was not immune to the pressures of entering a new school. He struggles to maintain the quality of relationships with those in his old school. When asked about the biggest challenge in regard to his social life, Connor said,  “I don’t meet [my friends from SPH] every day anymore.” Connor further expressed that although he feels very welcomed at JIS, it can still be hard to waver from friendships built upon years of daily interaction. Connor is still in touch with several SPH students and occasionally sees them in person. However, he understands that there will be an inevitable disconnect between him and his friends. 

Like Connor, Robai V. is also transitioning from a different school in Indonesia. However, Robai is from Kenya, and has lived in multiple countries, attended various schools, and endured numerous local and international moves. Before JIS, Robai had spent her life moving around Africa, living in countries such as Kenya and Uganda. However, most recently, Robai attended ACG, an Australian school based in Jakarta, which she attended for a single year.   

During the first few weeks of attending JIS, Robai struggled to fathom the size of our school’s campus and population. She expressed these feelings of intimidation by saying, “At first it was scary because the school is so big…but now I am getting used to everything.” Robai further explained that she had only attended smaller schools in the past and that she believes it made for an easier social experience. Her school in Uganda was especially small, and the friendships she made there are strong and thriving today. “Even if [me and my friends from Uganda] don’t talk for a huge amount of time, we call each other and catch up… it’s easy because we have known each other since we were young.” Robai emphasized that if a relationship is strong prior to moving thousands of miles away, it has the potential to withstand years of physical distance. 

Leaving the only place you have ever known will inevitably raise feelings of intimidation, disconnect, and uncertainty. These elevated emotions are seen distinctly in new sophomore Alexandra M. Born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, Alexandra has spent the entirety of her life in New Zealand. Alexandra and her family had only four months to prepare for an international move and a monumental change and consequently had to adapt to their new lives in Jakarta quickly. Her first overseas experience has been mainly positive thanks to the JIS community. She says, “Everyone is kind and friendly… the teachers are good at explaining things. It’s a bit harder than my old school, but I am starting to get the hang of it.” However, her biggest obstacle is maintaining relationships with those in Wellington, saying,“The [five-hour] time difference makes it really hard.” In contrast to Robai’s experiecne, Alexandra expressed that though social media is invaluable when connecting the world, it can not replace the immediacy or simplicity of face-to-face communication that she believes fuels lasting relationships.  

Everyone at this school has been new to school at least once in their life, whether it was on the first day of pre-school all those years ago or the first day of 10th grade two months ago. We all have experienced the struggles and anxiety when adapting to a school, even if we can’t quite remember. Understanding the circumstances of our incoming peers is essential to showing them the necessary empathy and support they need for a seamless transition to our community. Accordingly, we should continue to be kind, welcoming, and best for each other -because if we can’t be the best for each other, how can we be the best for the world?