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A Letter from an International Student: CSS, I’m saying goodbye

April 15, 2020

Tenth grader Philipp W., center, an international student from Germany, said CSS Tenth grader Philipp W. has attended The Colorado Springs School during the 2019-2020 year as an international student from Germany. Philipp played tennis as the top singles player for the Kodiaks this past fall. He had planned to be a manager for the girls’ tennis team this spring. He also participated in Model United Nations and Matchwits. Philipp’s experience at CSS was cut short due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, and he left his host family, the McCurdys, and returned home. Philipp is engaging in e-Learning with CSS from Germany. This is a letter he wrote about being a Kodiak.

How do you leave behind a second life? How do you walk away from the community you’ve become so attached to, the experience that you love—one which brought you untold tears and unspeakable joys—a school where you found friends, along with teachers who encouraged you to think further than ever before?

I’m new to this, so please forgive me. CSS, I’m saying goodbye.

Before we get to the end, though, let me start at the beginning. The first time I remember being at CSS was in October 2017 with my grandparents, during a visit to the Broadmoor.

After returning home that year, I started looking into exchange programs, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever end up at the same school I stopped at back in 2017. I applied and after seemingly 100 hundreds of documents and an interview with Ms. Joy, I got accepted—my dream became a shocking reality.

Upon arriving, I became scared. Did I make the right decision, coming here leaving everything behind? But after visiting the campus, I felt I was at the exact right spot, and I couldn’t await the beginning of the year—and as it turned out, coming here was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I’m so grateful for every moment.

As U.S. History was my favorite subject, it seems like a good place to start. Originally I wasn’t supposed to take it, but after putting up a fight, I got in. Inside, I learned the most of the entire year, as I enjoyed every second, and Mr. Benson always spared some time for me to discuss politics, which I greatly appreciated. Algebra II, thanks to Ms. Beardsley, revived my love for Math. American Literature invoked my interest in poetry, as Acting and Public Speaking put me outside of my comfort zone, thanks to Dr. Longo. Mr. Johnson solidified Chemistry as my favorite science. Profe. Kunze took away my embarrassment of speaking Spanish and encouraged me to enroll in it until I graduate and hopefully to keep speaking it. Lastly, Mr. Wolfe is simply the best advisor there is, and his food is nothing but great.

Overall, attending CSS was a pleasure, as it revealed the true me. Inside its grounds, my vulnerabilities felt safe. How lucky am I to have found a kind of place where I felt so exposed and yet so comfortable?

I had the privilege to meet so many amazing people and to become part of this incredible place. As the coronavirus cuts my experience short, I’m incredibly sad and facing this sudden departure is hard and will hurt for a while, as I will miss all of you. Still, I’m so grateful for everything, and I’ll certainly be back.

Finally, in living my experience to the fullest, CSS gave me a second life. I’ll miss it every day. I’ll miss the campus and my daily routine: waking up at 7, showering, and barely making it to my first class. I’ll miss my friends, my teachers. I’ll miss the moments sitting with my friends at our typical spot. The after-school activities: tennis, Matchwits, and Model UN—winning or losing—as everyone pushed me to be my best.

Looking back now, I realize that this experience has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible. After more than 8 months at CSS and more than 250 days inside the U.S., I feel ready to scale another mountain—to challenge myself on a different type of terrain.

In the meantime, there are a few simple things I’m really looking forward to: my family, my home, and especially not having to rely on rides everywhere.

CSS showed me America—and it showed me what I was made of. It’s how I tested myself and how I measured my growth. And so in whatever might happen in my next chapter, my next mountain, I’ll still be pushing. I’ll still be climbing. I’ll still be growing.

Tenth grader Philipp W., center, an international student from Germany, said CSS