The unparalleled perks of attending an American-International School

Posted on 13th Oct 2020 in School News, Italy, International Schools

By Mario Viola, American Overseas School of Rome (AOSR) Class of 2018

My name is Mario Viola, and I am an alumnus of the American Overseas School of Rome. When reflecting upon my successful university career at SciencesPo Paris, it is instinctual to appreciate the international school I came from for the skills and content it taught me. Attending an international school means that your education will be complemented with an emphasis on multiculturalism, personal development, and with the awareness that the key to explore the world is a university application.

When I was still in high school, I could not predict that the Advanced Placement curriculum would have made me stand out at university. I had heard about the work ethic that students developed thanks to rigorous, university entry-level courses, but I did not realize that if it had not been for the way the program is designed, I would have found the adaptation process to university excessively difficult. Back at AOSR, I took four AP classes, which required me to study, take notes, and complete assignments every day. This habitual manner of studying allowed me to strike a balance between study-time and personal time, which enabled me to have a strong academic performance and to cultivate hobbies and interpersonal relationships.

Despite organizational skills, though, the AP program taught me how to perform well under a time constraint. Every class normally has timed exams, but AP exams divide each exam into subparts, rendering every minute incredibly valuable. Getting accustomed to processing my thoughts coherently and fast is the most fundamental skill I could develop as a student. My peers at university would walk out of the exam room feeling flustered and disappointed because they were not able to finish their essay or exam, and they complained that they did not have enough time to draft an outline. I, on the other hand, thought that two hours for an essay was a generous concession, as I was used to 35-minute-timed-writes from AP English.

Additionally, attending an English-speaking international school exposed me to the Anglophone world of academia, which is central to university research and methodology. Knowing how to cite scholarly articles and papers following MLA, Chicago or APA rules allowed me to turn in work that stood out for its professional presentation. Other school systems, which I both experienced and heard about, do not approach education in the same way, and tend to focus more on content mastery rather than written production and research. AOSR’s determination to embrace the latter is what allows graduates to continue their studies in any university system and to achieve outstanding results.

On the topic of university, I would be remiss if I did not mention another unparalleled perk of attending an international school – college counselors are familiar with multiple university systems and application processes. I remember vividly the moment when I received an email from my college counselor at the beginning of my senior year prompting students to turn in specific documents if they planned to apply to universities in South-East Asia. Upon opening the email, I noticed that the counselor had listed the generic deadlines and procedures to apply to university in every continent. Students often do not conceive of the possibility of going abroad, because the system in which they are formed does not provide such a stimulus. Conversely, I applied to universities in four different countries.

Upon moving to France to attend SciencesPo Paris for their Euro-American program, I pleasantly noticed that the student body presented the same degree of diversity I was used to in high school. At international schools, class discussions are especially stimulating thanks to the myriad of different perspectives that are shared among students. Every event or club is geared towards inclusivity, as it is important to represent the cultures on campus and to learn from our peers. At university, it is easy to solely focus on academics and to stick to what is comfortable and known to us. However, the international school mindset renders multiculturalism and diversity what is known and what feels comfortable to students. I was no exception. I could connect with people at university by showing a true interest in their cultural traditions, since it was a practice I had gotten used to in high school.

Cultural awareness is not only important for the globalized context in which we live, but it is also what allowed me to offer an interesting perspective on my college essays. When studying a political issue, a historical one or an economic trend, there are always different perceptions based on personal and cultural background. The ability to seek those perceptions and to represent them through my argumentation has often resulted in the appreciation by my professors of my work. The multiculturalism which characterized my education has gifted me with a nuanced lens through which I view the world. Applying this lens resulted in successful academic performance and personal interactions.

Finally, international schools provide an environment that emphasizes the well-roundedness of students. After school activities cater to those with artistic inclinations as well as to those who gravitate towards sports. Remembering the days spent at cross country practice, as well as the Model United Nations trip to the Hague, always puts a smile on my face, as I feel grateful for the opportunities AOSR afforded me. Mastering the English language, and having access to excellent teachers and college counseling were already unparalleled perks, but making lifelong memories while traveling throughout Italy and Europe is an opportunity that very few students can claim. I sincerely hope to be able to pass down the privilege of attending an international school to my children, since it is an environment which instills in its students the notion that we are all world citizens – we just need to learn how to act on it!