Small fish, big school

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Small fish, big school

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As I arrived at Lowell on the first day of freshman year, I was bombarded by the sight of kids swarming by the flagpole, struggling to get inside. Before I knew it, I too was swept up in the bustle and hastily ushered toward my registry room. Making my way through the unfamiliar halls, I kept getting pushed back by the seemingly growing number of kids. I was so scared of what was to come once we all reached our destinations.

Coming to a school like Lowell is pretty intimidating for all freshmen, but when you are arriving from a 60-person middle school, that anxiety is amplified. During middle school, my family moved around a lot because of my mom’s job. As a result, I attended three extremely small schools — the only places I could enroll at on a short notice. Seeing hundreds of kids the moment I stepped foot onto Lowell grounds, it suddenly became painfully clear to me: I was no longer the big fish in a small pond like I used to be. I was a small fish in a pond 50 times my original pond’s size, and it was my job to stay afloat.

The first in the string of middle schools I attended was Nicasio School, a K-8 school which had 58 students in total. My grade was actually the largest, with a whopping eight people in it. Nicaso School was a comfortable haven where I knew everyone and everyone knew me. I had been to at least half of my classmates’ houses by the end of the first month. I also carpooled with a friend and his three sisters who all went to our school. This meant I traveled with one fifteenth of the school every day.

I was no longer the big fish in a small pond like I used to be. I was a small fish in a pond 50 times my original pond’s size, and it was my job to stay afloat.”

The situation was similar at the other middle schools I attended. I always got to be the center of attention because new students were uncommon. This made making friends rather easy since I was hard to miss, being the only new face many of the kids had seen in awhile. Easily distinguishable and well-supported, I found myself calling my fellow classmates friends by the end of a few weeks.

When I got my Lowell acceptance letter in eighth grade, I was so excited about going to the “smart kid school” that I locked all my fears of transitioning to a large school in a small box in the back of my mind.

Far too soon, it was my first day at Lowell, and my repressed anxieties were released all at once. I was scared of being lost in a crowd of half a thousand freshmen, who were each the new kid. How could I stand out and make friends?

As I entered my registry, I frantically looked around the crowded room for a seat. Compared to the classrooms I was used to, the space felt packed and claustrophobic. My hands were shaking as I walked to one of the few tables with an empty seat and timidly asked the girls sitting there if I could join them. To my surprise and delight, they said yes.

Soon the three girls and I were walking through the crowd together to the Welcome Back Rally. At the event, we talked about our likes (writing), dislikes (the color orange), and middle schools (one was from a small middle school just like mine). This showed me that I could still be interesting even if I wasn’t the only new kid, which made me feel very relieved.

I learned that at a big school like Lowell, there’s a place and a group for everyone. You just need to search for it yourself.”

Though I was still nervous, these budding friendships made me significantly more confident. Later in the day, I even initiated conversations in several classes, which was totally new for me. When starting a new school in the past, relationships were practically handed to me; I never had to be the one to break the ice. The way everyone at Lowell accepted my conversation starters with open arms made me realize I was already on my way to forming a friend group.

This breakthrough propelled me to slowly become more comfortable at school. I worked on talking to different people in each of my classes throughout freshman year. Joining clubs also helped me meet like-minded peers. Over time, I learned that at a big school like Lowell, there’s a place and a group for everyone. You just need to search for it yourself.

On the first day of sophomore year, I walked into Lowell with a smile on my face and a jump in my step. Walking past the horde of new freshmen reminded me of how much I’d grown since then. Though I still don’t know 90 percent of the kids in my class, which is a very stark difference from the small schools I was used to, I know that I can always find someone to talk to if I reach out.