As I barrel violently and awkwardly into my senior year, I am simultaneously obligated to undergo the quintessential senior-reflection period in which all graduating students, without fail, look back on their respective pasts and think: “Wow, time flies!”

Although this realization is hardly original, it couldn’t be more significant, and to me, it means looking back with gratitude on my thoroughly American high school experience. The first nine years of my life were spent outside of the U.S. Nonetheless, American movies and TV were overwhelmingly present in my household. As a kid, I was enthralled by the concept of high school, and there are therefore a handful of time-honored American traditions that I never thought I would experience for myself.

To begin: the yellow school bus. As a little girl, I would marvel at Ms. Frizzle’s remarkable adventures, believing that the bright banana-colored vehicle was just as fictional as the stories themselves. On my first day of fifth grade, I watched in awe and admiration as my golden chariot rolled up to the driveway, ready to carry me off to begin my new American life. Ironically, after seven years of long and jerky bus rides, I can confidently say that my fifth-grade self was wildly misled. By the time I began my freshman year, the magic was decidedly gone, but I am thankful nonetheless for the chance to reenact my childhood fantasies, however dull, and however strange.

Somehow, prom was the glittery and fantastic culmination of every high school movie I watched as a little kid. If I remember anything from High School Musical: A Night to Remember, it’s that prom is, in fact, a night to remember. Needless to say, when my junior prom rolled around I pulled out all the stops (within a reasonable budget, of course). Despite having waited an excessive amount of time to purchase the perfect prom dress, dinner and dancing was a veritable hoot. Eating red sauce in formalwear, however, was a problem I had not anticipated.

Lockers were another elusive American concept to my 9-year-old brain. For years, I shared a room with my two brothers, so I was delighted to finally be given my own space in the midst of the high school chaos. While I expected my fellow classmates to obsess over the perfect locker decorations and designs, I was shocked to discover the opposite. As a senior, however, I know better than anyone the value of prime locker location. Who would have guessed that Wilton students care more about practically positioning their belongings than they do about bedazzling them? Though my own locker remains relatively unadorned, it’s still mine, at least for the year.

I now take the opportunity to thank the American school system for blessing me with the stuffy yellow buses, classy teen evenings, and small but relatively convenient hallway cabinets that I grew to love during my time both outside and inside of the U.S. As I am thrust into my last year of high school, I realize now just how significant the trivial things can be.

Niamh McCarthy is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with three classmates.