Home Away From Home

North freshman spends the end of her middle school education in a different country, brings perspective home.

Jennyfer+Villarreal+has+always+made+studying+a+priority+both+on+the+beach+in+Mexico+and+in+the+North+student+center.
Jennyfer Villarreal has always made studying a priority both on the beach in Mexico and in the North student center.

Jennyfer Villarreal has always made studying a priority both on the beach in Mexico and in the North student center.

Cheyann Neades

Cheyann Neades

Jennyfer Villarreal has always made studying a priority both on the beach in Mexico and in the North student center.

Cheyann Neades, Co-Editor-In-Chief

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Middle school, the three years of school considered “awkward” and known for the “growing pains”, but freshman Jennyfer Villarreal struggled with much more than the full effects of becoming a teenager.

From being born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, Villarreal was familiar with the typical Des Moines
Public Schools standards and system as a whole. Her everyday school life changed at the end of her seventh grade year.

Due to family problems, Villarreal traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to attend Escuela Secundaria Técnica (technical high school) to essentially begin high school.

“There [Puerto Vallarta], elementary is first through sixth grade, middle school is seventh through ninth,
and high school is tenth through twelfth,” Villarreal explained. However, Villarreal quickly realized that
the higher the grade level, the stricter the school became.

“I think [Puerto Vallarta] was really weird because I was wearing eyeliner, my makeup, I had my nails
done and my hair was dyed; as soon as I got there, [teachers] told me to take off my makeup and that the
next day I could not go to school if my hair wasn’t natural,” Villarreal said. Not only were natural characteristics required in Escuela Secundaria Técnica, but also standards students were held to.

“I had to wear a skirt and a polo, with some really long socks with flat shoes,” she explained. Villarreal was
required to wear the uniform every day in order to attend classes.

Along with appearance restrictions, Villarreal was warned about her interactions with others within
the school.

“My friends would tell me that if you had a boyfriend or girlfriend, you would get a level 3 or 4 [referral], which is really bad… there’s a report, then they call your parents, and then they have a parent meeting,
you can even get kicked out,” Villarreal explained.

Whether Villarreal was studying, cleaning the classroom with other students, or enjoying the “free hour”
when a certain subject teacher was absent, she took full advantage of her time outside of the United States.
Living with her cousin and having free time after school led Villarreal to many sights and things to experience.

“[Puerto Vallarta] was really, really pretty; I lived in the city. I went to the
beach a lot to study,” Villarreal said. After her eighth grade year and time on the beach, Villarreal returned
to Des Moines to begin high school as a polar bear.

“There’s a lot of freedom to express your personality at North,” Villarreal said. She advises other public school students to “be happy with the freedom you have because other people would love to have it.”

Although Villarreal enjoys her Des Moines education more than her eighth grade year, her experiences in Puerto Vallarta give her more perspective for the future.

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