A New School Year in a New Country


How one student is adjusting after moving from school in an island to school in America.

Meredith McCalmon, Writer

Junior Raven Stiede spent the first 16 years of her life going to school in St. Lucia, at a high school which starkly contrasts her experience at Olathe West. 

“At my [former] school, the classrooms literally opened outside,” Stiede said. “After school, we would all walk down this trail and go to the beach every day. We would surf and stuff, and we could go there on lunch breaks.” 

Stiede moved to Kansas in agreement with her family, who had been planning on this since she was a child. 

“The deal was that the kids would live half their life, when they’re younger, in St. Lucia, because it’s such a beautiful island and a nice place for kids to grow up,” Stiede said. “There is not an option [to go to University] in St. Lucia, so if I wanted to better my education, I would start at an American high school right before [I graduate].”

To a teenager who has spent their whole life in the midwest, moving from an island to Kansas sounds undesirable. But for Stiede, moving to the United States has had plenty of perks.  

“[Olathe West] is a nice school, because it offers more opportunities than back home,” Stiede said. “I was very excited [to move here] just to meet tons of new people.” 

Another difference Stiede noticed between St. Lucia and the US is the common mindset, specifically among her teachers.

“You don’t realize how well [teachers at OW] treat you,” Stiede said. “[They ask] for pronouns of everyone, and ask what name you want to be called… I just love how chill everyone is, like you guys can eat in class if you’re really hungry. The dress code is also pretty relaxed.” 

At her old school in St. Lucia, the teachers and staff were far less forgiving. 

“At the school I went to before, I had a whole uniform,” Stiede said. “If I didn’t wear ribbons a certain way in my hair, I would get marked down on my grade. Every time a teacher came into the room, we had to stand up and say good morning… And that was just normal, you don’t realize how strict it is.” 

Stiede admits that she was nervous starting a new school year in a new country, but she was able to acclimate especially quickly.

“I think I’m adjusting pretty well,” Stiede said. “My very first day, at orientation, I walked up to [two other foreign exchange students] and started talking to them. They’ve become two of my best friends at this school.” 

Stiede has also been able to adjust quickly by getting involved in numerous extracurriculars, which had been far less common at her school in St. Lucia. 

“The theatre program here has me so excited,” Stiede said. “Your stage is amazing, you guys have props and money for the props. At my old school, the theatre was very, very small and there weren’t a lot of kids who were interested in theatre. I got very overwhelmed, to the point where it felt like I was holding the [department] together.” 

Stiede is feeling optimistic about her new Kansas life, and is excited for the new opportunities that await her.

“Coming to a place where I have everything set up for me, and I just have to do my best for myself is amazing,” Stiede said. “Anything that I want to do is here, and that’s so amazing.”