ELSIE MCKENDRY/SAGAMORE STAFF
For the first 16 years of my life, I had stayed in the same exact town, gone to school with the same people I had known since kindergarten and never experienced much change in my life. At school, there were the occasional new students who always brought a certain excitement to the environment. There was something about each “new kid” who always introduced this unfamiliar sense of mystery when they showed up in school one day with no one having a clue who they were.
A part of me was always a bit jealous of these new students, with their ability to completely start over; a fresh start with no permanent label or identity that would define the rest of their school life.
When I moved to Brookline about a month ago, I was the stereotypical “new girl,” able to experience the perspective of being an outsider who was not only thrown into a new school, but into an entirely different time zone. Shockingly, this drastic change came with many benefits I did not expect, including a realization of what I’ve taken for granted in the past.
In my first few days before winter break, I experienced some fascinating interactions with many different people. Most students politely introduced themselves and asked where I was from, some weren’t phased by my sudden appearance in class and a select few strangely stared at me for long periods of time trying to figure out who I was. It wasn’t too far from what I expected from people my age, and it was actually quite entertaining.
A more surprising encounter, however, was when some of my teachers didn’t introduce me to the class on my first day. Even now, I still get an occasional “wait, who are you?” from my classmates. This led to the funny situation in which one of the girls in my class admitted to “gaslighting” people into thinking I had been there the whole year. To be completely honest, still having people not know who I am is actually very amusing—it’s like I can pick a new identity each day and just keep them guessing.
Despite some awkward introductions, my experience as a new student has not only led to some hilarious experiences with my peers, but has brought me great insight into what I’ve taken for granted in the past. In Seattle, I had grown up going to school with people I had known my whole life. Finding friends to sit with at lunch or walk with in between classes was never a stressor. But on my first day of classes, I found myself worrying about not knowing anyone and having to sit alone at lunch. I was also preoccupied with finding my way around a huge building I had never seen before. It was like freshman year all over again—feverishly scanning my schedule over and over to make sure I was in the right place.
When I walked into the new wing, I was alarmed by the sight of so many new people my age. Bombarded with loud music, I felt like Cady Heron in the jungle scene of “Mean Girls.” By the time lunch came around and I had eventually found a picnic table, I was pleasantly surprised when some girls invited me to join them. As a new student, I appreciate simple acts of kindness more than I ever have before.
Back in Seattle during my freshman year of high school, there was a new boy at our school who had just moved from France. I vividly remember hearing that in class he acted like he couldn’t understand the teacher, and he explained in French that his English wasn’t very good, even though it was quite the opposite. With his role as the “new kid” at Lake Washington High School, he was given many opportunities, including the ability to prank his very own teacher and create a new identity for himself, which would have never been the case if he had been there all along.
Now that I’ve experienced being a new student, I can more clearly see his point of view. When coming to a new school, it almost feels like you have to make a name for yourself, and you want to stand out so people want to get to know who you are—or to simply have the feeling that you belong.
Fast forward to the present: I finally feel I’m beginning to fit in here. While change is never easy, it has taught me to appreciate things as simple as someone inviting me to lunch. As I settle in, I’m finally starting to enjoy being the new girl. The next time someone asks me, “wait, who are you?” I might just say, “What do you mean? I’m Lexie. I’ve been here all along.”