Jake Greenwood settles into American culture as he strikes a pose with girlfriend, Sofia Alvarez. (Photo courtesy of Jake Greenwood)
Newport Harbor High School

Jake Greenwood: Around the world in 18 years

At Newport Harbor, it’s not uncommon for students to have had several generations of their family attend before them. For one sailor, it’s quite the opposite. Jake Greenwood not only is a newcomer to California, but the United States, having lived in six countries.

And he’s only a senior.

Greenwood was born in Prague, Czech Republic, and spent the first three years of his life there. His journey then took him to Japan where he spent the next six and a half years before moving to Scotland, where his family is originally from, for a year. Then they ventured to Netherlands for a year before moving to France for the next five. Last year, he moved to Newport Beach. His family has moved due to his father’s work, which has ranged from working with Mars candy, to Pedigree to Nike. Today he works with Hurley.

Although each country has been unique and positive in certain aspects, Jake’s favorite places to live so far are a toss up between Japan and France. ”Japan was such an amazing country to grow up in since it was so full of diversity and crazy technology that fascinated me as a child. It was extremely easy to live in too because the Japanese culture is so hospitable and easygoing. I went to an international school as well so I grew up with friends who were from all over the world. France is more or less the same. While I didn’t exactly enjoy living in Paris for the first few years, the friendships that I made there were amazing, and it was especially difficult to break away from them in the middle of high school and start over at Newport Harbor.”

While moving around so much can be difficult, Jake believes it has added some positive attributes to his personality that otherwise would not exist. “Being exposed to so many different cultures in so many different places has definitely given me a huge amount of different perspectives on the world. Since I grew up with different cultures and traditions and beliefs, I was never given a set group of ideal to focus and believe. I was allowed to make my own decisions about life through reason and experience.”

While adjusting to a whole new culture and country is no easy task, for Greenwood the strangest adjustment when he came to America was the school system. All his previous schools had been small, private schools of at most 400 middle through high school students. In comparison, Harbor had a daunting 2,000 kids. “I was both nervous and excited. I was finally going to see a real American high school. Unfortunately, my first year at Harbor wasn’t exactly an easy one. I found it very hard to mix with others and find my own group in the school since it seemed to be very cliquey. It took some time but I adjusted and met people during my current senior year. The biggest difference is definitely the amount of students there are at the school and the large range of personalities there are.”

In fact the cultures have given Greenwood a wide range of interests. Having grown up with a mother who is an avid painter, and a sister who shares his passion for drawing, it’s not surprising that he developed a passion for art. You can often find him doodling Baymax from “Big Hero 6” or a creation of his own, capturing a glimpse of his possible future ambitions, digital art animation. He hopes to pursue a career which involves creating concept art for characters which would be included in animated films of video games. Next year he aspires to attend Arizona State University and study art. He currently is involved in the junior mentor program with a Disney concept character creator.

Despite having lived in more places before 18 than many people do in their entire life, Jake isn’t done with his travels. While he most likely wants to stay in the United States to finish up college, Greenwood expressed desire to live internationally in the future. “I’m not sure where, but I do want to continue seeing the world. It’s tough deciding on a place now. I’ll have to see where college takes me.”