Life Beyond Oak Park: Episode 1 – Bailey Andera



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Sri: Hey there Oak Park, welcome to Life Beyond High School. I’m Sahana Sri, and in each episode, I’ll be interviewing Oak Park alumni about their memories from high school, and what life is like after graduating. In this episode, I’m interviewing class of 2021 graduate Bailey Andera.


Sri: Alright, so thank you so much for being here. Could you please introduce yourself with your name and what year you graduated?


Andera: Yeah! Hi, my name is Bailey Andera and I graduated with the class of 2021.


Sri: Awesome! And what did you do after graduating? Did you go straight to college or did you have other plans?


Andera: Yeah, so the plan was always kind of to go to a 4-year university ideally, although I would have been fine with going to a community college. So right now I’m about to go into my second year at San Diego State University. 


Sri: That’s great. And what are you majoring in?


Andera: I’m majoring in Criminal Justice and looking to minor in Psychology.


Sri: Very cool! That’s definitely something we don’t hear of every day.


Andera: Thank you!


Sri: Did your high school experience influence that decision to go into that specific major or the college that you chose?


Andera: I always kind of wanted to go to a larger college because the Oak Park School District is definitely a little bit smaller and I felt like I kind of knew everyone at the end of my experience there. I kind of wanted to go to a place where I would be constantly meeting new people, so that’s why I chose a larger school. And then in terms of major, I would say there weren’t a whole lot of classes that really influenced my decision to go into that. I kind of knew that I wanted to do it since I was like 12 or so. But it definitely helped to foster my love for learning and gaining new information.

Sri: Nice! So what are your best memories from Oak Park? Are there any lessons you still carry with you?


Andera: In terms of lessons, I really, really had to work to manage my time in high school. And that meant I would be really, really productive in college because there’s definitely less homework. And so I found that I have a lot of free time. But I loved high school in a lot of ways. I was on the cheer team and made some of my best friends through that. That was always really fun, even if in the middle of it it felt like a lot of work. Same thing with most of my classes: I got really lucky. I got some amazing teachers who taught me a lot. I had some teachers who taught me to write really, really fast by hand, so that was really good! But yeah, I don’t really have a lot of bad stuff I can say about it.


Sri: So what are some things you miss about being in high school? 


Andera: For one, I miss not having to walk twenty minutes to every class, and instead only having to walk four. That was really nice. I’m sprinting across campus with every class I have now in college! There was a lot more unity, I think, in having a smaller school with school-related events. Football games would be really big social events then going to In-N-Out afterward with friends. There’s definitely stuff like that in college, but it’s something that I kind of miss. Yeah, there was a lot of that that I really miss now.


Sri: And on the flip side, what are some of the best parts of being an adult? What can current high schoolers look forward to? 


Andera: One thing I love about college is that I can absolutely choose any classes I want, so long as they fit into my graduation plan, which means that I’m taking some really, really cool new classes that I’m really excited for in the fall. And I don’t have to take any more math classes, which I’m really glad about! So if you’re not math-inclined and you’re not looking to choose a math major, you’re probably only going to have to take that math class one semester, tops. So there is hope. There’s a lot of that. There’s also a lot of freedom and a lot of getting to choose what parts of a community you want to integrate yourself into. Even if you’re not choosing to go to a four-year university, you can absolutely integrate yourself into a community of people and it’s really, really great and you meet some really awesome other folks doing that.


Sri: Yeah. Do you have a lot of free time since you’ve been out of high school?


Andera: Oh, absolutely. Oak Park definitely prepared me for very rigorous classes, I will say that. Oak Park classes were sometimes even more difficult and more work than some of the college courses I’ve taken. So I’ve actually found that I have way too much free time, especially in my first semester of college. I filled that by joining clubs and student organizations and picking up new hobbies so that I could fill my time a little better.


Sri: That’s great! What are a couple of things that got you through high school in general?


Andera: Definitely having some great friends. I made some really awesome friends and I feel like every year, I made new ones. We could all bond over the same things that we were going through at the same time. If it was AP English, you could absolutely get together and groan about how much of a headache Moby Dick was for us in the moment. Or talk about how difficult that last Calculus exam was. That was really great because you kind of realize that you’re not alone in your struggles. That was something that really helped me if I felt like I wasn’t doing well. I could check in with others and be like, “Okay, no. I’m actually doing okay. I’m being a little too hard on myself. Take a step back and breathe.” And absolutely just finding activities to do in terms of extracurriculars. I felt like that was really, really helpful with meeting new people and finding ways to spend time and getting interested in new avenues that I probably wouldn’t have ever considered otherwise.


Sri: Okay, awesome! Sort of as a tangent to that last question, do you have any advice for current Oak Park students?


Andera: Yeah, I definitely have a piece of salient advice. It’s that: looking back on my high school experience, I think that I took my failures way too seriously in the moment. Like every failed—not even failed—every test where I didn’t get the exact score that I wanted felt like the end of the world; or it felt like the end of that grade; or it felt like I totally let myself down or my parents down or whoever. And it just wasn’t that serious. I didn’t need to be stressing myself out so much. So it’s really good to have a healthy sense of self-worth and competition and want to push yourself and do better. But if you are not performing at the exact standard you’re expecting yourself to, it’s okay. Because in the grand scheme of things, it’s just not going to matter that much if you’re putting in the work overall. So try to take a step back and breathe, take time for yourself, and know that essay that you didn’t do as well on as you think you did is not the end of the world. It will be fine and you will totally forget about it in a year. 


Sri: Okay! Thank you so much, this was awesome!


Andera: Yeah, thank you for calling me. Thank you for interviewing me; I feel so honored.


Sri: Of course! Thank you for listening to this episode of Life Beyond High School. I hope you enjoyed, and I’ll see you next time.

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