Caroline Brown (’14), a new junior at ASL, will not forget her first day of school any time soon. The hallways were crowded and the concept of mini-classes seemed strange. “I was in the wrong classroom for 10 minutes before I realized that I had messed up,” said Brown. “It took me another 10 [minutes] to get to where I was supposed to be and let’s just say I got a couple of weird looks when I finally walked in.”
Returning to school after two months of summer is difficult for almost all students. But for new students, having to come to a school that is completely foreign can be distressing. Being new comes with a variety of challenges; there are the unfamiliar routes to remember, the academic standards to set for yourself and the wide range of new people to try and meet. None of these things are easy to accomplish, but at a school like ASL, the latter, meeting new people, becomes even more difficult.
As an international school, ASL admits approximately 60 people into the High School each year. This year it admitted 66 new students, leaving us with a High School population that is made up of 13 percent new students. This year, the freshman class has a total of 20 new students, the sophomore class has 17, the junior class has 20 and the senior class has 9.
Brown, who had previously lived in Connecticut for all her life has never been new before this year and feels like the experience did not quite meet her expectations. “The friend groups seem very tight and close-knit,” she said. “My closest friends are other new students.”
Brown as well as many other new students feel that they would have an easier time meeting people who have attended ASL before if the number of new students wasn’t as vast. “I think I would strive to talk to more people if there were less new kids,” said new junior Daniela Al-Saleh (’14).
Students who have been new in previous years agree that it can be hard for new kids to settle in. Sajel Swartz (’14) was a new student two years ago and said that the large number of new students in each grade makes it difficult to branch out. “ASL doesn’t see new kids as a novelty,” Swartz said. “I think it’s fair to say that ASL students aren’t as welcoming as we’re made out to be.”
Counselor Liane Thakur believes that the large number of new students does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. “Their large number allows them to make friends most easily with each other, but it doesn’t impact their ability to make friends with returning students,” she said.
Thakur feels that the returning students may be “in charge” of whether or not a new student becomes friends with their groups. “They have to be the ones to open their group to a student or two,” she said.
The High School provides a student ambassador program for all new students in the hopes that it will help them integrate into the school community. Student ambassadors are chosen based on certain qualities that they possess. These traits include, honesty, empathy, respect and optimism. Their role is to ensure that new students feel comfortable and welcomed at the beginning of the year by offering to take them to classes or out to lunch.
Student ambassador Lena Youness (’14), sees both the good and the bad in the student ambassador program. “It works well at the beginning of the school year, but slowly diminishes as the months go by,” said Youness. “Even though I’m one of the ambassadors and I enjoy helping out new students, the last close friend I made was when I was a freshman.”
Youness has been attending ASL since the seventh grade and sees a large difference in the way new students are received in Middle School as compared to how they are received in the High School. “In High School students have already discovered the kind of people they like and have divided themselves into groups; people aren’t thrown together like they were in Middle School,” she said.
Three weeks after her first day at ASL, Brown has said that she feels more comfortable walking through school and finds the concept of approaching new people less scary “I still don’t know as many people as I’d like to,” she said. “But at least I understand my schedule and am able to get to my classes on time.”