Broad Ripple High School is a continual bundle of surprises. Being an Australian exchange student I have been bombarded with questions about Australia and also about my thoughts on America. Students have asked what type of foods I have and haven’t eaten, accompanied with multiple suggestions of where to eat. They’ve even made me a taste-tester of all of their favorite candies. They’ve asked me if Australia is really fully of kangaroos and deadly insects. Their level of openness in sharing personal aspects of their own lives as well as their genuine excitement and interest in my life is admirable.

My Butler Writers group always seem to alter, but W— has been part of my group since day one. When I first met this loud, fun-hearted, spirited student dressed in a full-on Despicable Me onesie, it was impossible not to love him. As our sessions have progressed I’ve gradually come to see more than just the kid who loves to sing and have a good time. Recently, W— came to a Butler Writers session with several more prompts in his book filled out. He had taken it upon himself to continue his work at home and was super excited to get me to read his work. This was such a refreshing surprise to me and an indication that maybe my earlier work with him had been successful.

Two prompts that we wrote in class together really surprised me with their result. One was a five-minute task where you had to write about your life and the other was a group writing exercise where we all tried to write the most sappy love letter possible. At first, W—’s five-minute life-story was short and brief, but after my encouragement he delved deeper into his life, and it was shocking to realize how much this bright, happy kid had going on in his life. I won’t go into his personal life here, but I’m sure than many other previous Butler Writers have experienced a similar situation where they have learned things about their students that they least expected. Personally, this has made me gain so much admiration for W—, how he still shows up to these after-school sessions to brighten everyone’s day.

W— also surprised me with his sappy love letter. Even at such a young age and probably with little experience in love, W— wrote some of the most beautiful, poetic lines. It was so unexpected to see him write anything like that, as he is totally not the sort of kid who you’d expect that from. This is one of the main lessons that I have taken out of my time here at Butler Writers so far, to never judge a book by its cover.

Eliza Juniper is an exchange student from Australia.