Close yet not Close Enough

Stuy students describe the complexity of classroom friendships.

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By Ibtida Khurshed

Every Stuyvesant student has had friendships that leave you thinking, “Wait, can we even be considered friends?” Whether they’re with a homeroom acquaintance, a history classmate, or a chemistry lab partner, these relationships usually help pass time in class. But can a classroom acquaintance turn into something greater?

For many students, classroom friendships feel more distant than regular friendships. “I feel like I can build on some relationships, but in the moment it doesn’t feel like such a good connection,” freshman Lucia Robinovich explained. “I see a lot of potential friends, but they’re just people that are there to keep me entertained during class.” When it comes to friendships that are formed out of shared classroom experiences, the simple pleasure of having someone to talk to may just be enough.

Sophomore Brandon Waworuntu noted that such friendships can often be mundane and one-sided. “Usually we just ask questions, talk about whatever’s going on at the moment,” he said. “I’m the one who asks the questions, though. I’m very sociable.” Still, he recognizes that deeper relationships can be forged when given time and energy by both parties. “Once you get to know each other in class, you can hang out and talk more, [like] after school or something,” Waworuntu noted.

Unfortunately, having meaningful conversations isn’t as easy as it seems, and students often find it awkward and time-consuming to strengthen their relationships with their classmates. “It’s very easy to make acquaintances but it’s more difficult to make deeper friendships because unless you’re very invested, you don’t talk a lot during class when you’re not supposed to and you only have a few minutes in passing,” Robinovich said. “You can always get their number but then it can feel awkward [and] you might be unsure whether they’d want to expand on it as well.”

Robinovich has had considerable success in bringing friendships from the classroom to her personal life. “I’d say that I have maybe five acquaintances in each class and maybe two from each turn into deeper friendships,” she stated. “We’re all in the same building for five days a week, and usually we’ll have a coinciding free period.”

For sophomore Angela Lu, classroom interactions can be most fruitful when they aren’t limited to one subject. “Most of [my classmates], I’ll only be seeing for one period. We don’t share any other classes,” she said. “But when we have a schedule change, I see them again in different classes, and our relationship gets closer because now we can talk about certain things outside of just classes.” Even when interactions are limited to classroom settings, seeing acquaintances in new contexts can serve to strengthen relationships. However, Lu feels that it can be difficult to gauge whether or not one has crossed the line between acquaintance and friend. “I know they probably have other friends or are just busy with schoolwork and life,” she said. “It’s pretty hard to maintain the relationship.” After all, once a semester has ended and daily conversations with peers are no longer guaranteed, a friendship can fizzle out in less time than it took to be formed.

In some cases, the ambiguity of classroom friendships can coalesce with romantic intrigue. “There’s a guy in my homeroom, like, I don’t really know about him because we don’t really have the same class period. [...] I kinda am confused with his intentions with me,” said freshman Eileen Lee. “I can’t just know if it’s romantic or not. I’d say it’s one of my biggest concerns or maybe something that really stuck in my head.” The path to a romantic relationship isn’t often straightforward, but uncertainty about whether one is even a friend tangles signals that are already mixed. After all, entering the friend zone while being considered a mere acquaintance seems to present an awkward situation.

When friendships made in the classroom do become more personal, they can be just as meaningful as those made through clubs or outside of school. “I met a girl in my Global class, and we started off as classmates but we hung out more and now we’re really close,” Waworuntu said. “We hung out over the summer and she even went to my birthday party.”

When it comes down to it, you never know what to expect with acquaintance friendships. Everyone is bound to have different experiences with different people. Sometimes, the stars are misaligned and friendships are simply not meant to be. Other times, all it takes is two adjacent desks and a little bit of spark.