I Came From An All-Girls School And This Is How It Shaped My College Self

We weren't afraid to express our emotions, and we never shied away from talking about things that mattered to us.
by Anya Nellas   |  Mar 2, 2020
Image: Anya Nellas
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A lot of people enter college ready to discard their high school personas to make way for their “brand new image.” But I’ve always felt that the person we end up becoming in college is heavily shaped by our high school experience, no matter how much we try to cut ties with it. That was certainly the case with me, coming from an all-girls school, and I can see how my personality as a college student—both the assets and the setbacks—was heavily shaped by that reality.

I play the “Miss Independent” role to a tee


Back in high school, there was no room to be helpless damsels if you wanted to get something done. We’d do a lot of things that teachers in co-ed schools normally let guys do, like set up the media equipment in class, carry stacks of books from the faculty room, and serve as runners for our profs, among others. Girls would even take on male roles in school plays and other performances (sometimes doing it loads better than a guy would).

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We all shared this collective notion that we had to find our own way to get work done, because no one else was going to do it for us. It’s a great attitude I carried in college, especially as someone who just moved to Manila and is dorming on her own. It made me brave enough to power through freshman year in a new school and a new city where I didn’t know anyone.


I learned to be a “safe companion,” open-minded and free of judgment

One of the best about being in an all-girls school was how comfortable we all were with each other. “TMI” wasn’t a thing for us—if you needed tissue for a number two, you just had shout it out to the class and someone would probably hand you a roll. We weren’t afraid to express our emotions, and we never shied away from talking about things that mattered to us.


Throughout high school I encountered girls with varying personalities, preferences, and emotional baggage. I learned how to listen to what they had to say, and how to respond when they would talk to me about extremely personal matters. It’s a skill I brought with me to college—it allowed me to get along with a lot of different people and be a good listener to the friends I made.

I still keep putting too much pressure on myself


Spending my formative years with eager girls who all had something to prove got me used to thinking that I could achieve anything, as long as I willing to put in the work. I’ve seen my schoolmates excel as leaders, athletes, and performers, all while acing their classes. For me it was in equal parts an inspiration and a burden. Spending so much time in a supportive environment where many people thrived in their interests led me to foster so many big ambitions of my own, and getting into the college of my dreams was only the beginning.

I spent my freshman year joining countless orgs, volunteering for so many events, and overthinking every class project, because I wanted to be the best at everything I did. Little did I know that it would only lead to more burnout than fulfillment. It’s been hard to let go of this mindset, and even now I’m constantly pushed by this need to prove people that I’m capable of excelling at anything I do.


I’m torn between my straight-laced nature and inner rebellious streak

Back in high school, I was the classic Miss Goody-Two-Shoes. While some girls found their own ways of going against the disciplinary customs of the school, there I was with my nearly perfect attendance, rulebook-compliant appearance, and yearly conduct awards.


Getting into a college that’s very liberal with their students was a whole new experience for me. It gave room to feelings of curiosity and impulsiveness that I’d repressed all those years. But along with the habit of sitting “unladylike” anywhere and the talent of changing clothes in public unnoticed, another thing I had carried with me from high school was this “conditioning of discipline.”

There were times when I’d change the clothes I originally wanted to wear to class because they went against my high school dress code, and I felt weird walking in them. I spent so many parties being the sole sober person, and only had my first drink during the start of sophomore year. I’m also still horribly awkward when it comes to socializing with guys. But although this dilemma constantly made me miss out on things I wanted to try out, it also made me a lot better in terms of managing myself.


I’ve grown to be a true feminist at heart

Throughout high school I was regularly surrounded by women who were competent, talented, and independent. I am no stranger to how hardworking and capable girls can be when they put their mind to something, which is why I’ve always been an advocate of getting women the opportunities and proper treatment they deserve. Spending most of my time with girls made personal experiences of being underestimated, harassed, and disrespected take on a whole new layer of meaning for me.


In college, I became aware of the way I constantly corrected people who made sexist remarks about women, the extra surge of pride I would feel when I saw women receiving appreciation for their work, and how hurt or angry I’d get when I’d hear of women getting maltreated in any way. I’ve never been very forward about my personal beliefs or advocacies, but this is one I’d like to pursue and be more vocal about, because of how close it’s become to my heart growing up.

Looking back, I know that I wouldn’t have wanted high school to go any other way. Coming from an all-girls school molded me into someone who was ready to face the demands of college and growing up. It was a life full of highs and lows, but it’s become an invaluable experience that I could never have gotten anywhere else.


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Anya Nellas
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