Ella Berger, a CDS 2011 graduate, recently spent a month in Indonesia with the College of Charleston, where she is a rising...
Ashley Hall Sophomore Austin Givens
Meet our Alumni
Austin Givens speaks on her writing aspirations, hobbies and the best advice she received at CDS
What advice would you give an 8th grader about choosing a high school?
I clearly remember stressing for months over which high school to pick. For me, it came down to Academic Magnet and Ashley Hall. It was a really tough choice for me to make because there were benefits of both schools. I ended up choosing Ashley Hall because of the connection I felt to the school and its people.
My advice to any eighth grader would be to go where you feel the most comfortable. It’s something I heard a lot in my time in eighth grade, but you really do feel a connection when you shadow what will eventually become your new school. As cliché as it sounds, if you can’t see yourself easily integrating into the school community, it’s probably not the place for you. You have to consider academic, social and athletic aspects. Whichever school has the best match to your standards is the place you need to go. Think about what activities you’re interested in continuing or starting and choose the school with the best program for your areas of interest.
Finally, I highly recommend not spending your whole eighth grade year thinking about where to go to high school. While it is very important and requires a lot of thought, don’t allow yourself to dwell on it the entire year. Be sure to be present and enjoy your time in eighth grade because it really is great! Also, I’d be happy to talk about Ashley Hall with anyone who is interested!
What was the best advice you received from a CDS teacher and which teacher?
I have kept the advice of many teachers in my mind since graduating from Charleston Day, but the best advice I received from a CDS teacher was from Mr. Garnett. Picking a high school was very stressful for me, and he gave me guidance that helped narrow down my options. I was worried about what size school I’d be more comfortable going to. Mr. Garnett told me that I could either be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. I then thought about what that meant to me; would I rather be known by everyone in the school or was that something I didn’t care about? This advice helped me because it made me realize that I prefer a school where I have personal relationships with both my teachers and classmates. Larger schools are great too and I don’t discourage anyone from choosing one, but these words showed me that a smaller school would be the best fit for me due to the close-knit community it would provide. I recommend eighth graders to consider what size school they want to go to because it makes a difference. Mr. Garnett has also given me great advice on pursuing my writing in the sense that I should not be afraid to share my work in of fear of constructive criticism or failure.
Is there any area of high school in which you felt particularly prepared — either academically or socially?
I have felt very prepared for high school in an academic sense. One of my biggest fears about high school was that the work would be too much. However, the adjustment was not as drastic as I originally believed due to the preparation Charleston Day provides. I felt very prepared in English and history classes. These courses involve the most essay writing and I feel as though Charleston Day does an excellent job instructing students to connect ideas from different topics and convey them in writing.
Socially, I felt I have made many new friends and kept connections with my friends from Charleston Day. In both respects, high school proved to be a lot less difficult than I initially thought.
There is no need to stress yourself out over the changes high school initiates because you will soon see that you are able to handle a lot more than you think you can with the foundations you have accumulated from Charleston Day.
Any thoughts for the future? College or career goals?
In the future, I plan on going to college somewhere in the south, although that could change. I would love to get a Bachelor’s degree in some form of English, maybe literature or creative writing, and return to Charleston to begin my career as an author. I would love to eventually start a family and write best-selling novels. Maybe before being a full time author, I could be a journalist or work at a publishing company. I know for sure that I want writing to be a part of my career and every day life. As long as I have a career that makes me happy and involves my passion I’ll be fine with wherever life takes me!
What do you do to relax?
In order to relax, I read, write and play guitar. I recommend taking up a hobby that makes you happy. For me, guitar is a really good outlet because I can focus on something that doesn’t count for a grade or require much thought. Even sports after school can be a good way to relax. I think you just need to find an outside of school activity that is fun for you. Anything can work as long as you enjoy it. Doing something that you love every day is a great way to relax!
Are you doing any extracurricular activities in high school? Which ones and did you do them while at CDS too?
At Ashley Hall, I am on the golf team, student council, the soccer team, and am starting to get more involved in the Acanthus.
At CDS, I was Red Team Captain in my eighth grade year, and this inspired me to run for student council. I was voted representative and enjoy being more involved in the school community. I also was on the Charleston Day golf team and decided to continue playing competitively.
I did not play soccer at Charleston Day, but I decided to give it a try at Ashley Hall. Don’t be scared of trying new things in fear of embarrassment. For various reasons, I was nervous about playing soccer, but the team was super encouraging even when I messed up. I highly recommend joining some sort of team, sports or academic, because it really helps you get to know people from all grades, 6-12 in Ashley Hall’s case. Getting involved in extracurricular activities has allowed me to make many new friends. It’s also really fun, and it’s a great way to get to know people outside of the classroom.