A global childhood

It’s no secret that I’ve been promoting this blog as a global one. This began during my childhood years, when I would go over to my neighbor Joel’s house and watch Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? But I think one of the biggest influences was my old school, University Elementary.

Because it’s a college town, Bloomington already had a multicultural background to begin with. University School, or UES as we knew it for short, was one of the best examples of it. I met my best friend Andi in second grade, and our class that we met in was pretty revolutionary: we had a combined second-third grade class, known as “multi-age.” There were some question marks, but I remember fond memories of those halcyon days. I never would have been able to meet Andi without that class. That same year, we all took Spanish class one day a week. This continued for the remainder of my elementary school career. I wish I had taken it more seriously back in the day, although from what I do remember, I was pretty excited to participate whenever I could.

Funnily enough, I only did half of my kindergarten year at UES. Second semester, we spent it in Antwerp, from January-August. And it was the first year of the new building; the old location is presently the gym for the IU women’s volleyball team, and up until the 1970s was actually a high school, before Bloomington High School North (my high school) ended up taking its place. UES didn’t really have a mascot, but unofficially, we were the Owls, referring back to the old University High School days.

Back in the day, it was common for the fifth grade classes to go to a nearby woods called, appropriately enough, Bradford Woods. We only had nine guys in our bunk (Andi and another good friend of mine named Dave among them), but looking back, I think about how special it was: Andi hails from Albania, I’m half-Belgian, and we had one from Ghana, one from Kuwait, and three from Brazil. We didn’t all go to high school together, as about half of our bunk moved away before then and/or transferred schools, sometimes both. That was the tragic part of it: because many of my classmates were the children of parents who were studying at IU, you could never tell how long your friends were going to stay.

Unfortunately, I lost contact with some that I was hoping to keep it with. With a couple, I was able to re-establish contact, so that was lovely. You don’t get to choose your classmates, but I always wanted to reach out to them as best I could. Such is life.

Being Belgian, of course I got to do a report on it in sixth grade. Having visited all the exhibits in previous grades, and being the huge geography nerd that I am (most people from elementary school know me for that and my baseball fanaticism – and yes, I’ve kept both of them), I had been looking forward to that day for many years. To the best of my knowledge, it went well, and there were no major hitches. And sixth grade year (raise your hand if you had Mrs. Williams during ’99-’00) was probably the strongest individual class I was part of. We did our country units, and also did units on Vietnam and the ’60s, and on other major wars of the 20th century as well. It’s been over fifteen years since we graduated, but man, what a year that was.

Most recently, I ran an after-school French club for a semester, teaching French to the ALPS kids in grades 4-6 in fall semester 2011. I had just graduated college, but coming back to the building, it was just like I remembered it.

If you were at UES during that time, this post is for you. We were luckily enough to have so much of the world, and yet have so much of it yet to explore. Those bonds were some of the strongest through the middle and high school days. These ties that bind are very special. Thank you for allowing us to share them.

On the MCCSC website, instead of a picture of the school, it shows a drawn picture of a globe with children holding hands around it. We used this same design on a T-shirt for our grade’s musical revue each year. I guess it’s still popular. And the motto around it says, “Naturally global.” Couldn’t have put it better myself. And thank you, University School, for giving me those experiences.


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