Friends Beyond Stuyvesant

Many Stuyvesant students have friends outside of school. What’s it like to balance in-school and out-of-school relationships?

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By Ori Mermelstein

The transition from middle school to high school can oftentimes be an obstacle for young friendships to overcome. In many cases, it results in the strengthening of bonds and the broadening of the scope of students’ social lives. In others, it can mean the unfortunate end of an era.

Many Stuyvesant students met their out-of-school friends through middle school. “Most of my outside friends are actually just my middle school friends and my elementary school friends,” freshman Christina Li said. Maintaining these relationships, however, is a different task compared to friendships already developed before high school. “Because Stuyvesant students’ schedules are very packed, most of the time, I just hang out with them during school. But for my middle school friends, I usually just talk to them whenever,” she said.

In a more unique circumstance, senior Syeda Rahman reports going to the same elementary school and even living in the same building as one of her best friends. They connected when they started taking the same school bus during sixth and seventh grade. “I’ve talked to them almost daily throughout high school,” Rahman said.

Of course, every response has its outliers. “Most of my rock-climbing friends are above the age of 25,” senior Satvik Agnihotri said. “Climbing would happen several times a week, so you’d meet people fairly quickly.”

Students share that many out-of-school friendships operate differently from their in-school counterparts. “My [out-of-school] friends and I know we can be brutally honest with each other and we know each other’s senses of humor. With my in-school friends there’s still that little barrier where we don’t want to accidentally offend the other person,” freshman Madeline Chin said.

These differences can bring out various shades of one’s identity, which can make larger reunions interesting. “There are so many aspects to someone’s personality that it feels natural, at least for me, to have a group of different people to match them,” senior Natalia Salman said. “Some of them know each other—it’s more of a mixture of whether it was facilitated or a coincidence, though. There’s some overlap in activities but I’ve definitely introduced my out-of-school friends to some in-school ones. It can be fun.”

For other students, however, mixing friend groups feels unnatural because of the unique nature of each friendship. “Obviously you behave differently around different people, but I don’t think it’s a problem of conflicting identity,” Agnihotri said. “Introducing them would be a bit odd because it’s almost as if they’re in different worlds. So it’s like, if I want to feel X way and do X activities, I’d go with friend group A, but if I want to do Y, do a second type of activity and be with a second type of people with a different energy, I’d go with friend group B.”

As for finding time to hang out, maintaining friendships from outside of Stuyvesant can take some elbow grease. “For my outside school friends, we have this meeting schedule, where we have to talk to each other on Saturdays and Sundays in the morning from this time to this time. Some of them are busy, so we just have to coordinate,” Li said. This differing communication, to Li, does not imply an auspicious future for their friendship. “I hope I’ll be able to maintain [out-of-school] friendships through high school, but I’ve already drifted away from most people due to time apart.”

As a replacement for finding time to meet in-person, social media often comes in handy. “I don’t hang out with either of [my out-of-school friends] in real life much,” Rahman said. “I’ve managed to stay friends with them throughout high school through the use of social media, specifically Instagram and Discord.”

Out-of-school friends can be hard to maintain without being proactive “In school isn’t hard at all since you just coincidentally run into people. On the flipside, out of school, there are some relationships where, if say I wasn’t to go rock climbing for a month or two, then it makes sense to be intentional about maintaining those friendships,” Agnihotri said. Even so, he also acknowledges the benefits that come with maintaining friends in today’s online world. “Covid also helped a lot because now you had all this time that’s digital and so it didn’t really matter where these people are or what they’re doing in the world because you just hop on a phone and call and that became normal.”

Others are more hopeful, with many out-of-school friendships thriving despite differing schedules. “My closest friend is from my elementary school and we live close, so I see her really often and I’d say we got closer over the past few years,” Salman said. “Of course, many of my old relationships are more circumstantial where it feels like it pauses and picks up when we see each other, and I have other friendships where there’s been some drifting.”

Many would agree that friendships come in many forms, from the friends some have had since diapers to 27-year-olds that others go rock climbing with. Reactions to the ebb and flow of many friendships can vary greatly, from resentments of the Kardashian scale to acceptance of a friendship’s evolving nature.

Regarding the ebb and flow of in and out-of-school friendships in high school, Salman has few regrets. “People change, and I think that while drifting is sad at first, there’s nothing we can do to stop it from happening, and growing apart doesn’t take away from the time we had.”