I hated going to Catholic school, so why do I want to go back?

You can take the girl out of Catholic school, but you can’t take away her spirit

The responses I get are all the same. 

“I went to an all-girls Catholic high school,” I say. 

Jaws drop, people stare and an uncomfortable silence stretches across the room. 

“Oh, so you must have hated high school?” they inquire. 

“You know, looking back on it, I actually loved it, and, sometimes I wish I could go back.” 

From kindergarten to eighth grade, I was a cog in my town’s public school system and expected the same through my high school years. But once I turned 14, I was given a choice — continue my “normal” life or attend a single-sex Catholic high school. 

I chose the latter, and while I was there, I hated every second of it. 

My friends and I counted down the days until graduation as soon as the second semester of freshman year began. But, here I am two years out, ready to defend my alma mater’s name until the bitter end. As it says in my high school’s definition on Urban Dictionary, it’s not four years — it’s for life.

Thanks to this, I know one thing for sure after high school — if I ever need anything in the future, my “sisters” would have my back. Even if we drifted apart, they would always be there to lend a helping hand. Every day, I miss the strong female community that looked out for me and my success. 

Our principal taught us this value, and it’s something that will stick with me forever. Although you can take the girl out of Catholic school, you can’t take away her spirit. 

It may seem like an alien experience to some. Something they would never want to endure, but those four years made me who I am today. From time to time, I crave the rigid structure again — because there is no better morale boost than someone telling you you're a disappointment to the Lord if you don't try hard enough. 

The environment was unlike anything I had experienced before, and it shaped a competitive attitude that prepared me for college and, ultimately, life. 

You think your high school was tough? Imagine walking in every day to an 80-year-old nun telling you your sweatshirt is “illegal” under the dress code and giving you two demerits for each sock that isn’t above your knee. 

As a meek freshman, I was whisked into a world of deadlines, pop quizzes and legitimate assignments — nothing like my cushy public school. Even as tears streamed down my face when I received my first grade below an A during freshman year, I realized my time here served as a wake-up call for the future. 

My educational background serves as an explanation for how I operate now. 

I am way too early for things because “if you’re 15 minutes early, you’re on time, and if you get there when it starts, you’re 15 minutes late.” 

I always make direct eye contact and nod when having a conversation in order to seem engaged — and do not get me started on the importance of an introductory firm handshake. 

Attending an all-girls school did have its perks, like not feeling pressured to look your best all the time to impress the boys. I find it hilarious when I see brands like Brandy Melville and Urban Outfitters sell replicas of my uniform skirt and claim it to be “fashion.” Each morning, I woke up 15 minutes before I had to leave and simply threw it on — sometimes I would even forget to brush my hair.  

I could focus on my education without having to worry about the outside pressure of the male gaze. (Not like they were interested in a teen in a tartan skirt with the dark circles of a 47-year-old lawyer anyway.) 

And even my missteps became learning lessons. 

If you needed extra help, the school provided it, but this wasn’t an easy way out. The way we were treated showed us that in the real world, no one is going to hand you the answers on a silver platter. People are going to give you advice, but you have to learn from your mistakes and find a solution to be better next time. 

Sometimes I felt a looming sense that they would shove us into the fire, even though, in reality, they were hoping and praying we did not get burned. 

While I metaphorically got my butt kicked from time to time, I came out with more knowledge than I would ever have from public school. The strictness may not have been something I wanted, but I sure needed it. 

Plus, I still remember how to write a killer research paper, properly shake a hand and recite the Hail Mary in Italian

Reach the reporter at omunson@asu.edu and follow @munson_olivia on Twitter. 

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