Looking Back

I’ve been wanting to write this post for quite some time now, and due recent events I feel like it’s the perfect time to put this all out there. While I’m not really sure how this will turn out, it’s quite personal  to me, and long…

Looking Back: Insecurities and Struggles

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed a few capitalized tweets past Thursday. Capitalized as in shout it of the rooftops, because I passed my exams. I passed my final exams, which means that I am officially done with high school. Which is big, and beautiful, and a tremendous relief, and awesome, and kinda scary, but above all it proves to myself that I can do anything when I put my mind to it.

First things first, let me explain a bit about out Secondary Educational System. I always find this hard to explain, but I’ll try and do my best (to my Dutch readers, if I’m doing a crap job explaining this, please let me know! haha). In high school Dutch students are placed into different levels based on your ability to learn and how well you do at school. There’s vmbo which takes the shortest time to complete (4 years) and is the ‘lower’ level. Which doesn’t mean it’s bad! On contrary, but it’s for people that have a harder time learning at school. Then there’s havo which is the ‘middle’ level, this is for people that are good at learning and takes 5 years to complete. Last there is vwo which is the ‘higher’ level, this would be considered advanced level at American High School (I think), and it takes the longest to complete (6 years). The terms in Italic probably don’t mean anything to most of you, and the following information might explain things a little better to you.

School type (abbreviation in Dutch) Duration (years) Pupil age Gives access to
Pre-university education (vwo) 6 12-18 Research University / University of Professional Education
Senior general secondary education (havo) 5 12-17 University of Professional Education
Pre-vocational secondary training (vmbo) 4 12-16 Intermediate Vocational Education

I probably confused you even more with the overload of information I just poured into this post, but I promise you, I am going somewhere with this.

The diploma I obtained this year is my vwo diploma. And why I am so insanely proud of myself is, because vwo wasn’t the high school level I started with. I obtained my havo diploma three years ago. Learning wasn’t really hard for me, but it never came easy. As for so many other students, it took time and determination to get good grades and along the road to that diploma I had some serious setbacks. For instance I pressured myself too much, and always came out disappointed with the grades I got. Which ended in an enormous breakdown that had been long time coming. I took a break from school, wasn’t allowed to study more that two hours a day and had to make some serious changes to my study habits, because the way I’d been going wasn’t healthy for me. So with a little bit of help from teachers at school and my family I picked up the pieces and continued the road in a way that was much better for me. So I got that havo diploma, and then found out that I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I had finished my high school education, gotten the diploma I worked so hard for, but in the end I had focussed so much on getting that diploma, that had no idea what to do with it when I got it.

So how did I get to the point where I am now? Some necessary background information: After obtaining a diploma, every student has the option to continue high school in the level that comes above the one they just finished (that is if you have the right grades). You probably can see this one coming: because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I chose to take advantage of that option and enrolled to vwo.

I’ll spare you the long details of those two years, but what I do want to say is that they were hard. I had lots of fun with friends, but studying took quite some time and keeping the grades up was a pain. Maybe I made it a little bit too hard for myself and set the bar too high, but I’ve never backed down from a challenge, and when I start something I’ll give it my all to try and get the best result possible.

So when I failed my final vwo exams and as a result of that failed my last year, I was heartbroken. I had to do the last year all over again, while my friends would go to University. I was torn between being happy for my friends and being sad about my insufficient results. Which I can tell you is crappy. While all around me people were partying and celebrating, I was trying my best to be happy for them while being sad and frustrated.

As I started the last year all over again, I was plagued by insecurities. A little nasty voice in the back of my head telling me that I couldn’t do it, that I wasn’t smart enough to get my vwo diploma. It was hard, but with the help of some of the best friends in the world and the absolute best family a person could wish for, I squashed those fears one by one and tried my best to pass every single exam I took. I proved to myself what my family and friends already knew.

Thursday June 12th at 11.30 am I got a call from my school that I PASSED my final exams and therefore would be receiving my diploma on June 27th. I couldn’t quite believe it at first, but I’ve been packing a big Cheshire Cat grin for days.  I actually did it. Can you see me flipping the bird to all those insecurities, because I am GRADUATING from vwo! Where I had to call people last year telling them that I didn’t pass, I now got to call every single one of them to tell them that I passed, which was the best feeling in the world. In addition to that, it’s double the joy, because my sister passed her exams as well and we’re graduating at the same time!

My sister (on the left) and me (on the right) all dressed up.

My sister (on the left) and me (on the right) all dressed up.

The past week I’ve been busy doing all the things that I didn’t do last year. I’m attending graduation parties, I got all dressed up and went to the gala the school hosted (and looked quite awesome if I do say so myself). Me and my sister are having lots of fun planning out own graduation party. Spoiler alert: There’s a sumo wrestling ring involved, as well as karaoke, and a homemade cocktail bar.

Honestly, I love everything that’s been going on and I’m enjoying every single thing that’s happening. While it sucked that it took me an extra year, I am proud of myself for continuing and not giving up. It may be a year later than planned, but I got there didn’t I?

And as my best friend said in the card she sent me right after she heard the news that I passed my exams: “The question is not who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me”. So next year, when I’ll be studying English Language and Culture at the University of Leiden I’ll do my best to start living by that quote, because if the past year has proven anything to me, it is that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.





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  1. 17/06/2014 / 01:08

    Good job pushing yourself to be the best you can! I’m super proud!

    • Iris
      21/06/2014 / 19:17

      THANK YOU! :D

  2. Zaira F
    17/06/2014 / 03:42

    Yay!!! So happy that you passed and that you are graduating!! :)

    • Iris
      21/06/2014 / 19:18

      Me too *sighs in relief* Me too! :D

  3. Jenneke
    17/06/2014 / 09:11

    Go Iris – Go Iris

    • Iris
      21/06/2014 / 19:18

      *dances with you!* I know!!! And thank you for the lovely card

  4. Congratulations, Iris! Dutch comment coming up, because well it makes sense in this situation :P

    Ik heb in hetzelfde schuitje gezeten. Ik ga volgend jaar naar de spinthavo omdat ik het gewone onderwijs niet aankon. Ik ben na het 3de jaar van het vwo doorgestroomd na de 4de van havo. Ik heb die afgemaakt en ik ben daarna mediavormgeving gaan doen op het mbo. Dat ging ook niet goed, en nu zit ik thuis, zonder diploma en ik ben bijna 18. Volgend jaar ga ik sprinthavo doen en als het allemaal goed gaat neem ik wiskunde in mijn pakket zodat ik ook sprintvwo kan doen, want ik wil ook naar de universiteit. Ik heb zelf ook een periode gehad waardoor ik niks anders meer deed dan leren en huiswerk maken. Ik ging er praktisch gezien kapot door, dus dat moest stoppen. Dus ik weet goed wat je door maakt, en ik ben blij dat jij volgend jaar gewoon naar de universiteit kan gaan ondanks het langere traject :)

  5. 17/06/2014 / 10:20

    OH THE HUGEST OF HUGEST CONGRATS!!! *throws celebratory cake* Your system is very different to in Australia, but it sounds really intense and I’m just so so glad you got through! I always sucked at school and didn’t exactly go onto more studying, but that’s okay. I’m happy working. ;) CONGRATS AGAIN!!!

  6. 17/06/2014 / 12:30

    Great job and I think you explained it all right. It’s always confusing to have all these different school systems!

    I also ‘failed’ my first time on VWO, so I had to redo that year. While I was absolutely shattered (because it was my second time. Two years before I wasn’t doing so well, so I had to redo my 4th year) and it took me SO much time to get confident again, I was also incredibly proud when I made it. So I know a bit how you feel :D

    CONGRATULATIONS. I’m proud that you did it and good luck with your next education! ^^

  7. 17/06/2014 / 22:12

    CONGRATS! *throws confetti*

    Sounds like your school system is kinda like the one in Germany! We have these different levels too and the third one is really hard. You can be SO proud!

    And that it a wonderful quote to live by! I need to remember that!

  8. 25/06/2014 / 17:11

    Congratulations, Iris!!!! I’m so happy for you- you’re going to kick butt at university next year! :D <3

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