Student Experience

We invite you to experience OES from our students’ perspective. Click on a question below to explore student life, the academic experience, the boarding program, and our community from our students!

What new experiences will I have at OES?

One of the best experiences I've had since entering the Upper School is joining the OES JSA (Junior State of America) chapter. Through JSA, I've met so many brilliant and passionate people, learned different sides to stories I thought I knew everything about, and further developed the life skill of informed decision-making, as well as my open-mindedness and curiosity toward U.S. politics. Annie, 10 Day

I tried acting in school plays and ended up falling in love with it! Noelani, 12 Day

My teachers emphasize interdisciplinary learning, so I find myself going home each night excited to think about the connections between classes like genetics and poetry, which gave my learning a new dimension. Grace, 12 Day

I tried different sports including soccer, basketball, and golf. It was my first time trying out soccer and basketball, but I was able to learn a lot thanks to my teammates and coaches. Culture Shock was a meaningful event that I have never experienced before. It was great to take time and talk about different topics that we normally do not discuss in our daily lives. Rasley, 9 Boarding, South Korea

Culture Shock, affinity groups, office hours, free periods, and SRP. Grace, 9 Day

Students in the OES Woods on the vertical ropes course

Being on the volleyball team gave me a home away from home at school and the community that all the different sports and activities foster is amazing. Becca, 10 Day

I tried track and field and loved it. Ryan, 11 Day

I had lots of experience that I never had before. I went out with every single outdoor activities led by Tom Handel last year, including rock climbing, kayaking, etc. I played basketball for fun before I came, but in OES, I can actually be on the team, play the game and build up team spirit. I attend a few clubs and activities, including Mock Trial, MUN, Student Council, that I never had the experience before. Annie, 10 Boarding, China

Freshman year I played volleyball for the first time. I went to some of the summer practices and ALL of the upperclassmen were so welcoming and very willing to help me if I needed it. I played on JV2 and had a blast! Ashley, 10 Day

How will I be challenged?

Academically, it has pushed me to be a better student and work more efficiently and with purpose. OES has given me opportunities to hold leadership positions, stretching myself to figure out how an ideal leader should act.
Rachael, 12 Day

OES has challenged me by emphasizing the importance of self advocacy. I never thought that I would be as confident as I am today. OES has also challenged me academically, but now I feel prepared for college! Noelani, 12 Day

Academically, it challenges you with rigorous classes, but also challenges you to become a critical thinker and learn to view the world with more than one perspective. Becca, 10 Day

In nearly every aspect of my life. OES challenges me academically, socially, and in the impact we can make by doing service (power for good). Ella, 12 Day

The one thing I personally love about OES the most is how challenging it is. I don't mean that some source of intimidation, although it can get hectic sometimes, OES balances challenge very well on their students. I feel like I am able to push my limits and grow a lot by challenging myself. That's another reason why I loved SRP (Science Research Project) was because it was very challenging to do it all independently. Kara, 9 Day

OES is an open school. Everyone here is encouraged to be open. As a Chinese student, I was taught to be humble. So I might not be as open and extroverted as other students. But here at OES, I really feel supported. During class, I might express something that contradicts what other have said, and they appreciate my words. Danni, 12 Boarding, China

I think the academic workload in OES can be quite challenging. It might be hard to balance all the school work, extracurricular, and personal life. However, the challenging environment taught me how to manage my time. I learned how to manage all the work, and also look for help when needed. Rasley, 9 Boarding, South Korea

OES has challenged me to be who I am all the time. Activities like Culture Shock, Identity Retreat, etc, are able to provide students a space to express proudly to everyone who they are. Kylie, 10 Boarding, Hong Kong

OES has pushed me beyond what I thought possible by holding me to my highest standard. My teachers know what I'm capable of and encourage me to explore the material to its fullest capacity while also pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Grace, 12 Day

Who will I connect with at OES?

Nearly all my teachers; they all go out of their ways to make sure that we can succeed. I have also felt particularly connected with the running coaches, and the Midwinter Madness program. Ella, 12 Day

Over four years I've built many connections, but the strongest is definitely my advisor. I don't know if I could have finished OES as strongly as I have without her there helping me. She has been there to help me through tough classes, illness, injuries, and anything else I need.
Nathan, 12 Day

I have deeply connected with a lot of the dorm students, day students (including upperclassmen), and the teachers. The teachers/faculty are such a great resource here, and using them to even just answer a simple question is extremely helpful. They give full attention to you as a student and as a person, and will happily accommodate things when necessary. Kara, 9 Day

Debate team has been really welcoming. Catherine, 9 Day

The teachers in the science department reignited my love for science and they pushed me to discover new things, both about myself and about the world around me. I have also been heavily impacted by my OES friends. Because we go to such a small school, my best friends are also the ones next to me in every class, working on presentations with me, and editing my essays. I am the person I am because of them, but I am also the student I am because of them, and that's a special relationship to share. Grace, 12 Day

Choir, Dorm kids, and A Cappella. Grace, 9

I have connected to a lot of teachers in OES. They always make me feel comfortable whenever I reach out to them for help. I feel like I can talk to them not only about the school, but also about my life outside of school. Especially, I feel extremely lucky to have the dorm parents who are like my second parents. I know that they always work hard to make the dorm students feel like home, and I really appreciate their effort. Rasley, 9 Boarding, South Korea

Tons of people - especially teachers - the teachers have truly made my experience magical by stretching my bounds while letting me know that there's someone there for me. My classmates make a fantastic set of friends, and they have stood up for me and strengthened me in the hardest of times. Chandler, 11 Day

I feel like I have been closely connected to the dorm community where I live every day. The dorm parents, prefect team and dining hall crew are great people whom I am really privileged to have a connection with. And I think I am learning many different values and perspectives on the idea of family. Jeff, 11 Boarding, China

What OES memory or event will stand out for me?

When our class went to camp Westwind, I was able to meet all the kids in my class for the first time. I am new this year as a freshman so it was a great bonding experience to camp with all my classmates. Everyone was so accepting of me which made the experience that much better. Hearing the stories of all the old memories of the class made me feel like I knew everyone. After only a week I had already felt like I had been there forever. Sonia, 9 Day

My favorite OES memories are probably from Winterim, because when learning extends beyond the classroom into a sailboat in San Diego or SCUBA diving with classmates in Hawaii, that's something really special. Grace, 12 Day

Initiated by the requirement of service learning hours in OES, I have been involved in many kinds of volunteer experience so far. And I found that I know the community and understand people better now. Annie, 10 Boarding, China

Culture Shock is one of my best memories at OES. It was great to see students who are passionate about certain topics leading discussions. I was able to learn things that I might not have learned in normal school days. The event made me think about people who have different culture and ways I can be a good world citizen. Rasley, 9 Boarding, South Korea

The tennis tournament with varsity girls and faculty stood out because everyone was having a lot of fun and everyone was cheering each other on. Catherine, 9 Day

I think Mount Hood Climb Service Day and the Belltower Ceremony are really beautiful because they bring the entire community together. Ella, 12 Day

One OES memory that stands out to me was the first day of school where we all gathered at the Belltower and listened to the Head of School's speech. I had this at my old school too but one thing that was different was that here, we shook all the faculty members hands which helped make the community feel more welcome. Vivian, 10 Day

As a boarding student, what will I do for fun on the weekends?

I like to hang out with my friends during the weekends. There are different dorm activities that take place every weekend, so a lot of students sign up for that to try out new activities. Rasley, 9 Boarding, South Korea

Playing board games, ping pong, pool, badminton, soccer, basketball, and watching movies. I like trips to beautiful places like the beach, the Columbia River, ice skating, restaurants, bowling, and tons of other activities. As part of the dorm community, you will have a lot of fun. Maisam, 9 Boarding, Afghanistan

On the weekend, I mainly hang out with my friends. After the school week, I like to unwind and chill out in the dorms, but occasionally we will go out to the mall, downtown Portland, or a good restaurant. Jessica, 12 Boarding, USA

Exploring Portland and find out what the area is like. We have an awesome prefect group that comes up with fabulous ideas for dormies to explore American life. Students are very engaged and appreciative of the hard work from the program. Kelly, 11 Boarding, Taiwan

During the weekends, I usually spend time with my friends and their families at times. I go downtown and visit shops, restaurants, and I occasionally go to the movies. I have also participated in lots of the dorm activities to the movies, go-carting, kayaking, and the occasional trip to Red Lobster. Haggling the dorm parents every hour or so on boring weekends also tends to happen. Ian, 10 Boarding, USA

I'm a very outgoing person to say the least so I like to go out and explore the city on weekends. Oren, 10 Boarding, Jamaica

Sleep in without interruptions. Play basketball or play on my xbox. Go out to the movies. Go out to eat with day students or dormies.
Simon, 11 Boarding, USA
There is a variety of activities on the weekends, such as food, movies, sports etc. My favorite ones are food activities. Jeff, 11 Boarding, China

How will my OES experience extend beyond the classroom?

I was lucky in that my parents and teachers encouraged me to go on a semester abroad while I was in the Upper School. OES is one of the only schools I know of that not only allows a semester abroad in high school, but that also actively encourages it. By spending a semester away from OES in the Bahamas exploring my passion for marine biology, I was able to come back to my OES community as a more well-rounded student with a much deeper understanding of who I am. Grace, 12 Day

OES has taught me to be more confident in my daily life because of the talking I have to do in class. Since OES is mostly discussion-based, it is centralized on posing an idea and having to be able to back up your opinion. I find myself more willing to talk to others outside of class because I know how to convey my message more clearly. Sonia, 9 Day

Making friends through sports programs, activities on weekends in the dorms, Winterim, Culture Shock, and outdoor programs extend my experiences. Through all these programs I learn how to work with others and make new friends. I really enjoy working outside of the classroom. Maisam, 9 Boarding, Afghanistan

OES is like a second home to me. Because I've been at OES since Pre-K, a lot of my growing up has taken place at the school (e.g. losing my first tooth in the bark chips at recess and the impromptu class scavenger hunt that ensued). But even in Upper School alone, my OES experience has extended the classroom through Backyard Exchange stays at the dorms, weekend conferences in Seattle with the OES JSA crew, learning blackjack (for charity) at Semi, starting an advice column on the school newspaper, going on the truly life-changing Mississippi to Memphis Civil Rights Winterim trip, and most recently, portraying a mom in the Spring One Acts, which permanently increased my empathy for my own mom. Annie, 10 Day

What will I learn about myself as a person at OES?

Students playing piano in the OES Great Hall

I've learned to never be impulsive with my actions. Ryan, 10 Day

I have been encouraged to step into leadership roles while I have been a student here, and I can now graduate from OES being comfortable leading others. I don't think that when I entered the Upper School the word "leader" is a label I would have used for myself, but it's one that my OES community has helped me grow into. Grace, 12 Day

Before I came to OES, I was meek and insecure. Having come to OES, I have become bold and confident in myself. Having so many people who respect me here, I am able to be who I am and have people like me for that. I have learned that I have a strong opinion about things and am willing to argue about a topic. OES has helped me feel equal and express my true qualities. The student teacher equality makes it so much easier to express my feelings and personality. I am able to work with the teachers instead of succumbing to fear. Sonia, 9 Day

OES students enjoying gathering

One thing that I have learned after coming to OES is that I like learning. Inquiry based learning system and the amazing faculty helped me realize that I am an active learner. All the resources at the school have made me develop further as a learner. Rasley, 9 Boarding, South Korea

I have learned that I always love a good challenge, and working hard pays off no matter what. Kara, 9 Day

What types of class projects will be most engaging?

The cumulative project for the advanced French and Spanish classes is to give a Ted Talk in that language. I really enjoy the amount of freedom incorporated in this project, since you can choose any topic you want. This year, I'm writing my third and fourth Ted Talks about astrology and natal charts. Jillian, 12 Day

Last year in my history class, we gave persuasive speeches but we were able to choose any subject, so everyone was able to discuss something they were very passionate about. Mostly, I just love that many projects have few limitations and lots of choice. Becca, 10 Day

Definitely the annual SRP (Science Research Project). Being interested in science , math, and technology, I was able to focus on something interesting and compete in regional and state competitions. This was definitely a highlight of my entire year, and I absolutely loved this project! The fact I could focus on what I wanted, and do something in depth and professional over the course of time (on my own time) made the ending result feel more special and accomplishing. Kara, 9 Day

OES students working together

The project that engaged me the most was the LJP my junior year. It allowed me to explore the Black experience in Portland. Something that I believe isn't talked about enough. It was incredibly fascinating and really helped me become a student advocate and leader in my community. Noelani, 12 Day

I think History class is one of the most engaging classes in OES. Different projects that we did involved writing a letter, creating a constitution, making VR guide, and conducting a research based on our individual interest. Every project differed from the other, which constantly engaged the students. Rasley, 9 Boarding, South Korea

The literary journalism project in 11th grade was the most engaging. I was able to choose a subject I was interested in (music) and do field research on that subject. Ellie, 12 Day

I have liked all of my projects, but my favorite was probably the dissections we did in my anatomy & physiology class. I had never really thought about medicine as a career that I would ever be interested in, but through these projects, I learned to be curious about the body and how it works. Now not only can I tell you where every organ is in the body, but I am also beginning to piece medical school into my future plans. Grace, 12 Day

OES Students in Utah on Winterim trip.