Interview with Trinity College School Alum, Sarah Gerwens
Sarah was an international student from Germany in the boarding program at Trinity College School who graduated in 2014. During her time there, she appreciated being surrounded by hard-working classmates who were motivated to pursue their goals and interests. Sarah also enjoyed the beautiful campus and the vast array of courses offered at the school. She felt that the welcoming and diverse atmosphere promoted respect and contributed to strong relationships formed between peers and teachers. The global community at Trinity College School empowered Sarah with the language skills, confidence, and independence to study abroad in America to pursue post-secondary education.
Highlights from the interview
Everyone was driven to Trinity College School. That doesn't necessarily mean that everyone was a ruthless go-getter, or super focused on getting straight A’s, or excelling in the sports that they were doing. I think that most people in the school had their niche, and they were being supported by Trinity College School to succeed in their niche, but they also seemed quite motivated to do that.
What I appreciated most about Trinity College School was the people I met. To this day, one of my best friends is someone I met at TCS. We spent two years together. He also did Grade 11 and 12 there. We've seen each other twice in the past eight years, but we still are quite close. Maybe that was the most formative friendship I formed, along with many other people I met there along the way. They are important to me, and I think they shaped who I am as a person and shaped the things that are important to me. I think that was the most influential part of Trinity College School.
If Trinity College School were to be personified, it would be a person who's open to and welcoming to all sorts of different people and interests. Whether you're a sports person, an academic person, or an arts person, whatever your identity, Trinity College School will be a place that will be welcoming to you.
Most people I met at Trinity College School were inspiring, and had their own thing and it's nice, having had eight years to see how my classmates progressed, to see that quite a few people ended up pursuing that thing, including me.
One value that Trinity College School students communicate to each other is respect, as in respect for yourself, respect for your classmates, for your housemates, and the school. The school cared that we did well in academics and whatever, but it always felt more important to the school that we cared for ourselves and our community, which looked different for different people. For some people, that meant to remind yourself why you were there if you were slacking off in school. Someone is probably paying for you to be there, so students should respect that.
There was an emphasis placed on showing up for the community at Trinity College School, showing up for yourself, respecting those things, and honouring them.
New students at Trinity College School would be surprised about the diversity of students. My idea of boarding school or private school was I thought it was quite academically focused. I had some friends who came into Trinity College School on a sports scholarship or chose the school based on having a good football team or hockey team, and I think they thought it would be a sports school. What surprised me the most, and I think what might also surprise others the most, is that Trinity College School actually has quite a few different, well-developed areas of study. Trinity College School also helped me as a student to try out things, for example, I never saw myself as a particularly artsy person.I love creative writing, but I had never really acted before. That wasn't something I considered But then I had the chance to try it out at Trinity College School.
Trinity College School made me a more open person to other people, different backgrounds, and new situations. It's the reason I'm studying and living abroad. In terms of practical skills, I don't think my English would be as good as it is today if I hadn't studied English at that young age and had the chance to immerse myself in the language I have colleagues whose English is brilliant, but sometimes I can see that having gotten a head start, and living in an English speaking country does give me an advantage.
Trinity College School has given me a certain self-confidence. Going to boarding school at any age can be a big step. Going through that experience and seeing that it can work out for you can be quite empowering.
When I went to the United States for university, and I lived in dorms, I realized I had two years ahead. Other people were experiencing not living at home for the first time in their life whereas I had already experienced that independence from the boarding program at Trinity College School. There are tough things to learn when you live on your own from, ‘how do I feed myself?’ to, ‘how do I structure my day if there's no parent there all moments of the day guiding me, nudging me and telling me what to do?’ I think that was immensely helpful going into university. When I was there, I didn't realize that I was acquiring all these skills. I was just living my life.
We had to do presentations at Trinity College School. I think those are all skills that as a student, I was like, ‘why do I have to do this?’ Now, since I have spent a lot of time at university in the past couple of years, I’ve really come to appreciate those things. I also appreciate having the privilege of speaking English, which is just a given in the environment I've chosen. If I lived just in Germany studying in German, maybe that wouldn't matter that much, but that's something I didn't think about back then. I didn't have to speak English to have friends and go to class back then. I didn't realize speaking English is actually a hugely premium life skill for working and living in a global and English-speaking world.
One of the biggest reasons someone should attend Trinity College School are the people My classmates, the teachers, the support staff, and the people doing after school activities I always experienced them as caring, open, friendly, and interested in students, not just as students, as little great producing machines, but as humans with varying interests and issues. As a teenager, sometimes you have a broken heart or have nothing to wear to their dance, and there was always an understanding, and the approach was always, ‘okay, how can we equip you with the skills to deal with it,’ whether it's a school or personal problem.
Trinity College School is quite pretty. The school grounds are beautiful. If you like running or sports, there are many trails around the school campus. It's also nice because it's not in a big city. I remember there was a time in my life when the most exciting thing I did was go to Tim Hortons. Looking back, it's actually not that bad of a thing. I think back then, after the 20th French vanilla, I was like, ‘okay, well, I want to do something else now,’ but I think it was a nice and very safe environment to be a teenager. It was also not completely boring that you're locked in school. So that was nice. I mean, Port Hope is quite a cute town.
I always felt supported at Trinity College School. I felt challenged, and I liked the array of courses that were offered.
I liked that you could challenge yourself at Trinity College School. AP courses were offered. That made College much easier because I came in with credits. Suddenly I looked at my transcript, and I graduated with my bachelor's degree a year early. One of the reasons I was able to do that is because I came in with some AP credits that seemed like a nuisance to get as a high school student but then super useful as a university student. I think the academics were quite good at Trinity College School. They were nice and sparked interests in me that I’m still feeding off of.
I loved Trinity College School, and most of my friends loved Trinity College School. My dream would be to one day, if I have a child, to send them there. My second dream would be to name the building after myself, but that's a slightly more unrealistic one. I would recommend new students see Trinity College School for yourself, and meet the people, because that's what convinced me. Meeting one parent and their kids, seeing how much they loved it and seeing that I connected with them. That was enough, and I didn't regret that choice because that impression connected with my family and me. I think there's only so much you can read about a school and only so much you can see in interviews or videos online.
Being in another country as an international student can be overwhelming, and that's okay. It will probably pass, but you should talk to someone because it's not embarrassing, and it's not something to laugh about, although eventually, you might. At that moment, people will take you seriously because they have probably been there themselves. I recommend that a new Trinity College School student makes the most of it. Join a club, and if you don't like it, you can stop showing up, but try it. They won’t make you join a sport but join a sport anyways. I did one semester of yoga. It was a sport for the people that didn't want to do sports.