Kira Barker, from San Diego, California, entered the contest in 2019 thinking it was a long shot to win – but she earned the grand prize! So, was spending her grade 11 year at SMUS really The Best School Year Ever? We interviewed Kira halfway through their 2020 school year in order to get the scoop.
Why did you enter the contest?
I have a friend who went to SMUS, and she told me about the contest. She told me all about the school and how awesome it was, and I decided to enter The Best School Year Ever. The idea of going to a boarding school really interested me because it was in Canada, so it was far from home, and I thought this would be a such different experience for me because I’ve never gone to private school before. She told me about all the different sports and programs, and it sounded really intriguing to me.
When you entered, what were you hoping to get from The Best School Year Ever opportunity?
I was hoping to be more brave because entering the contest in itself was kind of a leap of faith. I hoped that coming here I would be able to grow as a person; I wanted to meet lots of people, which I have been doing, trying new experiences, and taking risks that I haven’t taken before. I sang in chapel a few weeks ago, which was really exciting and really fun; it was the first time I’ve performed in front of people in a really long time. It was so exciting and nerve wracking, but when I did it I was so excited because I got to show off my hard work.
What do you like about boarding life?
It’s been so different and exciting. I’ve found out a lot of things about myself, like I’m more extroverted than I thought and I’m able to make more friends. I’ve grown more independent, I’ve learned to do things on my own and take initiative on my own. It’s been a really fun experience when it comes to finding out who I am. I also think it’s great being able to meet so many people. Moving in at first was scary because when you meet new people it’s always a little awkward but everyone was so nice right away. I feel like living together is such a bonding experience that brings us all closer.
How has the experience been so far academically?
My first term was pretty heavy with academic courses but this term is easier. Even with my academic courses I found it wasn’t too bad because the teachers here have been really supportive and flexible; I’ve been able to form better relationships with them. When I was picking courses at SMUS, I really wanted to try something different that my old school didn’t have. I’m taking Law Studies 12, which I’m finding really interesting. I love debating and it’s been eye-opening learning about Canadian law versus law in the US.
Has SMUS helped you discover what you want to do after high school?
I’ve definitely found new interests, like law, so I’m thinking maybe I want to become a lawyer. Coming here has made me more interested in going abroad for college, which I hadn’t thought about before. I would really like to stay in Canada or maybe go to Asia or Europe. I find it fun learning about different cultures, experiencing them and meeting new people, and I love change.
What would you say to a high school student to encourage them to enter The Best School Year Ever contest?
Put in the time and effort and do it because there’s always a chance you can win. When I was entering I was on the fence because I didn’t think I would make it; there are lots of really smart, great kids out there but I reminded myself that we’re equal in a sense. We all have different strengths and skills, and so you can use those to your advantage to make a better application.
Do you have any other thoughts about your time at SMUS?
Adjusting to new environments can be very daunting and difficult at first, but if you make an effort and go with the flow, things will come together and you’ll come out stronger in the end. I especially learned that when it comes to making new friends and trying new things; of course it’s been strange, but looking back on it now, I just ignore the initial awkward parts and I’m really glad I made the effort. I knew deep down that I needed this chance to become independent because [moving away from home] was going to happen eventually, so I’m going to take advantage of this experience and make the most out of it.
At one time Kira was just like you: a high school student thinking about entering the contest. The next winner could be you – all it takes is answering three questions on our application page by December 1.
What else can you do that has so much potential to change your life?