Students From Around the World

Each year, students from around the country and world move to North Liberty.


Leela Strand

Laney Robbins, junior, and Hana Burkart, senior, both moved from across the country and world to North Liberty.

Each year millions of students start at a new school. Liberty welcomes students from all over the country and the world each fall. Laney Robbins, junior, and Hana Burkart, senior, moved to North Liberty mid-high school. However, they have had varied experiences. 

“I really didn’t [think I would ever live in the Midwest]. I really thought that my family would always live on the east coast… It was a big change at first,” said Robbins. 

Before moving to North Liberty in the August before her sophomore year, Robbins had been living in Key Largo, Florida, a city in the upper Florida Keys. 

However, Robbins reports she was, “born and raised in North Carolina,” having lived in many cities over the state. 

“I mostly lived in Bloomington[, North Carolina]. That was really fun because it was by the beaches,” commented Robbins. 

Iowa definitely does not have oceanside beaches. Iowan culture and Floridan culture are arguably very different. Florida is notorious for its very unique and complicated identity. Iowa, however, is often overlooked entirely. 

These differences, along with the perils of moving to any new school, characterized Robbin’s transition into Liberty in many ways. 

Burkart had a varied experience from Robbins, coming from Japan. Burkart moved to North Liberty in March or April of 2022, in the middle of what would be her junior year of high school. 

“I moved here from Oita, Japan where I lived for five years… before that I lived in Florida for nine years. However, I was born in Ames, Iowa where my grandparents lived [at the time],” said Burkart. 

As a high school in Japan is only three years, Burkart had already graduated from a Japanese high school when she arrived at Liberty. However, she came to the US for future educational opportunities.

“Because of how much money the US puts into its educational systems, there are a lot more opportunities here. It just made sense for me to come [to the US], especially since my grandparents live here,” said Burkart. 

Although she had lived in Florida for nine years before moving to Japan, Burkat had to adjust to many cultural differences between the US and Japan, especially regarding the educational system. 

“One of the most surprising things was that the kids [at Liberty] seemed to have absolutely no respect for the teachers [compared to students in Japan]. The things [Liberty] students were doing would have gotten them suspended in Japan. [For example], there was this kid throwing pencils at the ceiling and making them stick there… That’s the destruction of property… You have to give the teacher the respect they deserve,” said Burkart. 

Another difference between American and Japanese high schools that immediately caught Burkart’s attention was the heating and cooling systems inside the schools. 

“I was so surprised that [Liberty] had air conditioning because [in Japanese high schools] we didn’t. We had them in individual rooms but we didn’t have a central heating system or cooling system… People think ‘Oh Japan, it’s so high-tech’ but no, it’s not how people think,” Burkart stated.

People think ‘Oh Japan, it’s so high-tech’ but no, it’s not how people think.”

— Hana Burkart

Though Robbins and Burkart came from very different backgrounds, there were many similarities in their experiences. As may be expected, both initially found Liberty to be very intimidating. 

“When I first got here it was intimidating because it was so much bigger than my previous school… Honestly, Liberty [didn’t stop feeling intimidating] until this school year,” noted Robbins.  

Robbins had the benefit of participating in new student orientation before her first school year at Liberty began. 

“In general, Liberty had a really welcoming environment… Things like the new student orientation were really nice because I could see the school… that made it really easy for new students to transition into the school,” Robbins recalled. 

Jonna Hall, an English teacher, is one of the staff in charge of this orientation.

“Mrs. Ellickson, [chemistry teacher], and I try to make the transition for new students as smooth and fun as possible… We take previous ‘new students’ feedback into account and try to improve the orientation each year,” said Hall

Burkart arrived around the beginning of the third trimester last year. This meant she was not able to take advantage of things like new student orientation. However, she thinks this may have benefited her experience. 

“I think [starting during the third trimester] was better than diving into a new school year because at least I knew some people going into the next year. I think [without that] I would’ve freaked out even more,” says Burkart. 

Eventually, both students were able to find their place at Liberty High School. Robbins is now a member of the National Honors Society (NHS) at Liberty. This is the organization that runs new student orientation. 

“When I went back [my second year at Liberty] and I was one of the people helping with new student orientation it felt very different. It took me a while to find good friends and settle in and get close with them but now it’s a lot better,” Robbins remarked. 

Burkart has found herself suited to the culture of the area as well as the lifestyle she has led here.

“My parents, in general, are pretty overprotective but now I live with my grandparents and the school is also not very controlling so I feel more relaxed. The society here fits me more than [the society] in Japan.”

However, there will always be things both students miss from their old schools.

“At my previous high school, everyone went all out for spirit days. People would just always dress up and… everything. Everyone wanted to be there and had a lot of fun at pep rallies and all that stuff,” said Robbins. 

Students like Burkart and Robbins that bring different backgrounds and experiences to their school are part of what makes each school unique. These two students are able to bring a different perspective on all aspects of Liberty than most other students and see to the school’s growth. Hopefully, Liberty will be able to welcome and recognize “new” students for all of its history.