Interview with St. Michaels University School Alum, Sean Finamore
- University (major)
Harvard University (Human Development and Regenerative Biology)
Highlights from the interview
I think the school has a really good STEM program, which I think in the coming years they're going to put even greater emphasis on, from my understanding. And so for me, biology was particularly impactful. I remember coming in grade nine. I'm not sure if I can call out specific teachers on this website, but my grade nine science teacher was just fantastic. I think a lot of my classmates just have a passion for biology in particular because that's where her expertise was.
And so leaving grade nine, I felt like I really loved bio, really loved this teacher. And I learned a ton. And honestly, not over emphasising anything. I think compared to a lot of my peers at Harvard and a lot of other people I've met in other schools, I think the prep that I had for biology in particular was far beyond most high schools, like what they teach in high school. I think a lot of the credit does go to this teacher in particular, although I can't say because I didn't have any other bio teachers.
So I guess I felt really prepared. It's just something that I really enjoyed. And yeah, the teacher in particular, I think teachers have a way of influencing you. And if you connect to some in particular, it's just kind of how things go. Yeah, I really enjoy it. I still enjoy it. For me being able to get where I am now, it does still go smoothly. Definitely.
My particular university counsellor was just really helpful. Really. Like they keep you on track. You start in grade nine, you have an academic counsellor who just kind of gives you broad advice because in grade nine you don't have too much leeway in terms of what you take beyond like your arts. But when coming into grade eleven, which has been for years, you start to think about where you want to apply. The university counselling department definitely plays a big role in just taking you through different exercises and different discussions. You talk with them one on one. You have these larger workshops and you just work together to think about what's the best fit for you and what steps lay ahead of you in order to get there. And so I think for most of us, it's pretty clear what we have to accomplish to get where we want to go and that we have to attribute that to the UC Department. So they were definitely very helpful.
Well, I really liked the fact that it was in Victoria, like downtown Victoria. Another big part of it was the AP program and just like the number of APs you could take there that they had on offer, and it just seemed like a very academically strong school. And then another factor was it being in British Columbia, like that part of something I had visited as a kid. Sometimes we’d go back for alumni reunions. I think I went back once as a kid and it was just a part of the world. My parents, I think, felt safe to send my brother and I away. Like they felt like if they're going to send us anywhere, like Canada is the place to do it. And British Columbia is just beautiful.
Honestly, I didn't know what to expect. I think for me, the boarding component is really, I'd say one of the very special parts of the school. And so going into it as a 14 year old living away from being away from home for the first time in my life, I think it was all very new and surprising to me. I can't really point out one thing.
Boarding? It's definitely like a really special part of it. I'm sorry if I keep saying that. So the way it works is there's six houses and they're kind of grouped. Looking at other people's changes over the course of their boarding experience, I think, makes me realise how much I changed. And so there are kids who would come in and had never done their laundry before, their own laundry, never had to buy their toothpaste themselves, I don't know, like, simple things like knowing that you should get some deodorant or just making sure your room is clean. There are so many parts, like, things are integrated, and each house is a little different based on the house parents, but they really try to make you grow up, help you grow up and be independent and understand.
When you leave the school you're going to have to do many of these things yourself. And so I definitely felt that about having a schedule to make sure that my laundry is done on a regular basis and that I'm prepared for the week. So things like that, the community itself is really special because the day students get to go home every day after school, but you're staying on campus and you're surrounded by your friends every day. And that was just something that really helped me develop some really close friendships, friendships I think many people don't get until they go to university. The fact that you're living with these people, eating with them, cleaning with them, doing all these things together and yeah, like adapting to not having your parents with you, like, kind of going through homesickness together with your year every year.
Well, I think one thing I said before, I think it's the fact that it's in Victoria is one big thing, so it's not isolated, and there is a significant day component to it as well. So I'm sorry I forgot to mention this bit, but yeah, having the mix of day and boarding, I think is quite unique and special in that on long weekends you can sign out with a day student and stay with them for the weekend. I guess you feel like it's a lot easier to integrate yourself into just Victoria, the Victoria community, and with students who have grown up or moved there and lived there. So I think that's definitely something very special. The boarding community is pretty diverse. Most of the students are from Canada. There's students from all over the world. I know there are people that are dedicated to just making sure that the community is as diverse as it can be and trying to get students from different parts of the world to come and attend. So that's definitely a big part of it.
I think well-rounded is a good word because there really is just a ton of stuff that you can choose from. And so you can't really go wrong with what you end up with. They put a lot of emphasis on developing a well-rounded person because when you first come in, you have to do arts, and they really emphasise the kind of importance not just for your health, but also for relationships and the fun of it, of at least trying athletics. The pillars are the pillars that also really emphasise service. And I don't know, they want you to graduate being a well-rounded individual and having tried many things. So that's definitely one word I'd say.
Another one I'd say is diverse in terms of the community itself. I'd say, especially in the boarding community, I think it brings a lot of diversity of thought, diversity of thought, opinion, background, culture to the community that might otherwise not be quite as diverse in Victoria. So I think that's definitely something very special about it. It may be a big draw for students who are day students that want that diversity, maybe like empowering is the right word.
I think the school does a good job of pushing students to just try to go for that leadership role, even though you might feel like you're not there just yet or you're not comfortable with it. Try to put yourself in that position, put yourself out there, audition for that musical, try to be that lead role because you never know what will happen. Like shoot for that school you want to apply to or with an outdoor leadership program, which I can. Go on this trip. In those trips, you really push yourself outside of your comfort zone, like learning these new skills that you may not ever use later in terms of outdoor leadership. But you might fall in love with it and might choose to pursue it further after. So I think they want to give students the opportunity to feel like they have control over themselves and their aspirations and push them to try to achieve those things.
The fact is boarders have a very different experience because they're living on campus and day students are going to have access to most of the school but don't have access to this boarding component. And so just inherently because of just this structure, I think there are sometimes like just a disconnect, but by no means are there barriers for Borders to become really good friends with day students and go to their homes for weekends and go on to be very good friends. But it is definitely like something there where maybe boarders just feel it's just different. I don't know how else to put it. That's definitely one weakness.
For the outdoors program you have to go on a trip, and they try to offer enough opportunities so that students who may not feel comfortable going, say, kayaking or hiking, which is a little more physically demanding, can also do something a little less demanding but equally equally meaningful. I remember they offered Salt Spring Island where you do more service, I think building-type work, but they have everything from hiking, sea kayaking to rock climbing to Whitewater rafting and surfing. In grade ten, you can go on a boat like a sailboat. And you go on a group in this massive sailboat and learn how to take care of the boat. And you take turns keeping, watching and having that experience. So there's all these different types of outdoor experiences you can have, which BC allows because of just how beautiful it is. Yeah. So that's how it works. In grade eleven, you can choose to pursue outdoor leadership, which means you go on either hiking or seek kayaking.
Well, to be honest, when I was on the trips in grade nine, maybe ten, I'm not the biggest outdoors person, but I took the more outdoorsy ones. And I definitely didn't want to be there on those trips because it's hard. And you're like camping outside, you're cooking your meals on these little stoves, and you're carrying really heavy backpacks and you're walking decent distances. And it's definitely a challenge. And so for a small grade nine during the trip was like, oh, man, I want to be home. I want to go shower and all that. I think that's shared by some other people. But when I look back now, I was telling my brother this again, like when we're talking about highlights, it's weird how so many of my greatest highlights were from these trips and just bring things to a close.
Well, first, I'd definitely recommend the school. I think a thing to consider when you're thinking about applying is, I guess, what your interests are. If you know, going in what you want out of your high school experience, I think then that's great, first of all. And that gives you kind of this special opportunity to really hand pick things that you really want out of the school. I think if you want to go to a school which has lots of opportunities, staff there who are there to help you explore things, then this is a great place for you because you just have this opportunity to try things at a high level.
But I'm just saying you want to try many things. I think it’s a great place. I think if you're a day student at any high school, I think coming to school like this is perfect because I think there is a lot of value in being surrounded by kids from not just wherever you're living, and some kids from around the world.
One big lesson I learned here is the importance of committing yourself. I think what helped is you do really kind of figure out what you like and where you want to spend your time on. I think it's really important, if you want to excel at anything, to pursue what you love and dedicate yourself to that. And so I think not trying to do everything is something I didn't do very much. I think it's me. I tried to do everything but by the time I left I realised you really have to be deliberate with your time and just dedicate yourself to things that you really want to be spending your time on and that are important to you.
Another thing would definitely be just what I've learned as a boarding student: how to be independent, how to be prepared to make relationships with people in a new place from different parts of the world and to empathise with people from around the world. Definitely a big lesson taken away from smooth. I think by being able to try different things, I've learned more just about myself moving forward.