Double the Trouble

In the fall of 2021, incoming freshmen, sophomores, and juniors will begin their first fully in-person year at Stuyvesant.

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In the fall of 2021, incoming freshmen, sophomores, and juniors will begin their first fully in-person year at Stuyvesant. With the school shutdown, both rising sophomores and juniors didn’t have many opportunities to experience their first year of high school in person. Students who’ve never even stepped foot into the building have yet to experience cornerstone freshman traditions like climbing up 10 flights of stairs or stumbling through the hallways searching for the right room.

It’s clear from the Facebook posts asking about where to pick up AP devices in the Stuyvesant building that rising sophomores do not know their way around the school. As a result, incoming freshmen will be unable to count on the rising sophomores for directions around the large school building. Incoming freshman Jiawen Lin said that instead of turning to sophomores for support in getting around Stuyvesant, she’ll be seeking out teachers who have an important role in making students feel comfortable navigating high school life in an unknown environment. However, Lin noted a positive aspect of sophomores being unfamiliar with Stuyvesant. “I feel like I’ll be able to talk to them with less pressure because they’re as new as me now,” she said. In light of these mutual struggles, perhaps freshmen and sophomores may be able to develop stronger friendships next year.

Lin looks forward to starting high school after the difficulties surrounding socializing during a pandemic. Even mundane actions, such as going into an actual building, are an exciting prospect for Lin. “It’s been very weird not seeing anyone, and I’m looking forward to engaging with people and seeing the teacher. Usually, whenever I’m in real life, I tend to talk with the people around me,” she said. “I usually ask about homework and stuff like that. Remote has been very lonely, because I don’t have the contact information of people in my class, so I can’t really talk to people.” Unfortunately, loneliness is a common feeling that students in all grades are struggling with.

Another big concern that both freshmen and sophomores share is how COVID-19 protocols will be implemented in the building. Lin expects the transition to high school to be dependent on how high coronavirus rates will be by September. “I think I’ll feel better if there are basic COVID procedures like social distancing and wearing a mask,” she said. The surge in vaccinations over the past few months will hopefully make students and staff more comfortable about possibly attending school in-person. By now, the FDA and CDC have approved the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12-15, expanding the age of eligibility to all Stuyvesant students.

Both incoming freshmen and sophomores share concerns about entering high school this fall. Lin identifies her biggest fear about starting school as being unable to keep up with the rigor of Stuyvesant. “The middle school I went to wasn’t very competitive, so I might not be used to all of the work,” she said. On top of adjusting to a new course load, incoming students will have to juggle other responsibilities such as navigating the Stuyvesant building, making friends, and staying safe from COVID-19. 

Freshman Nelli Rojas-Cessa shares Lin’s worries about not doing well academically next school year. “Freshman year is the easiest year, according to what people have told me, so things are going to get more complicated, and it’s gonna be harder because I’m not used to it from freshman year,” she added.

For freshman Yarza Aung, his biggest concerns lie in the safety aspect of returning to school. “Although it’s necessary in our current times, actively having to be wary of everything we get near and touch sounds exhausting,” he said in an e-mail interview. This concern is applicable to upperclassmen as well. After more than a year’s worth of quarantine, being surrounded by people in a closed environment can be a shocking adjustment.

Whether they attended blended learning or took classes from home through their laptops, something that everyone can agree on is that this year has not been a normal freshman experience. This school year has been a difficult time for many students, especially freshmen, with problems ranging from trouble focusing on schoolwork to feeling lonely without friends to casually talk to. However, there is hope that the next school year will be better than the last two: freshmen and sophomores have the unique advantage of being able to work together and help each other through next fall’s transition. “A lot of upperclassmen tell us we’ve been missing out on a lot of the full Stuyvesant experience,” Aung said. “I’m looking forward to seeing everything that I missed [this] year.”