Friendship at Stuyvesant: Stories of Origin

Students share their experiences about forming and maintaining friendships at Stuyvesant.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Many Stuyvesant students will surely agree that attending this school would be almost intolerable without the friends that they have made. Stuyvesant is well known for its academic rigor and competitive atmosphere—so much so that the multitude of opportunities for social engagement is often overshadowed. Surprisingly enough, Stuyvesant students are not robotic scholars devoid of desire for social interaction. Indeed, they do have friends, and they find them in a variety of places.

The primary and most obvious setting for meeting new people at Stuyvesant is, of course, the classroom. “You meet your best friends through your worst teachers,” claims junior Asa Muhammad. There may be some truth to this statement, but unpleasant class experiences are only one route to bond with a peer.

Junior Krista Proteasa met her first close friends at Stuyvesant in her freshman year classes, and though some of those connections aren’t very strong anymore, one person has remained a close friend. Proteasa credits seating arrangements and luck for that friendship. “We were in a group together by our teacher’s wishes, and we started bonding in the group chat we made for the one project. Then, we found out we shared the same lunch period, which is where most of the bond-strengthening happened. […] Now, we [don’t] have to talk about school-related things, but we [can] talk [to] each other as humans and just connect,” Proteasa said.

Junior Ashley Tian met one of her good friends in her drafting class the fall semester of her sophomore year. She vaguely recognized him among a class full of upperclassmen and chose to sit next to him, though she found him intimidating. In time, she realized he was not, in fact, intimidating, and they bonded over loaves of Whole Foods sourdough.

Clubs and other extracurricular activities are also prime modes of social introduction at Stuyvesant. Sophomore Isabella Chow was introduced to some of her close friends the summer before her freshman year at auditions for Stuy Legacy. When she arrived at tryouts, she was vaguely familiar with some of the people there through Facebook or Instagram, and the group started talking and spending time together throughout that week of auditions. “We all got really close during that week,” Chow said. “And while some of the friendships didn’t work, it was pretty cool.”

Proteasa made some of her closest friends on the girls’ fencing team. “When I first joined the team, I was intimidated by everyone, and I just felt very nervous,” she said. “[However,] we could all relate in our late-night subway struggles and any muscle soreness from the previous day [...] We could gossip about teachers and just let loose during practice,” Proteasa continued. Her closest friends at Stuyvesant are the three other girls on the team that are also currently juniors because as freshmen, they shared the same experiences and naturally tended toward their own “little freshmen bubble.”

Sophomore Anisa Gao made her best friends during freshman year by pulling what can only be described as a prolonged prank. She shrouded herself in mystery and spoke as little as possible with the sole purpose of confusing her classmates. When the second semester began, she made a sudden effort to talk as much as she could in order to stun her peers. However, when remote learning began, the jig was up, and she found herself in need of help with geometry from two classmates. Eventually, she grew very close with these two, assisted by FaceTime and cat photos. “I still don’t believe it was possible for me, obnoxious and creepy, to make such wonderful friends,” Gao said.

Senior Grace Cantarella wasn’t close with her present best friend until the beginning of her sophomore year, even though the two of them had both known of each other. “We had two classes together but never really spoke all that much until she sent me the longest, kindest, most heartfelt birthday message I’ve ever received,” Cantarella said. “I was caught completely off guard by it, but in a good way—it showed me the type of person she was, and I instantly knew we were going to get closer eventually.” During the spring of their sophomore year, they bonded over their shared anxieties of tests, college, and the future, and became best friends. “I think we realized that we were honestly the same person. Our personalities clicked beyond perfectly, we were always there to make each other laugh and to hold each other up when we were down,” she recalled.

This year’s freshman class has experienced unique conditions due to the pandemic that has prevented many of the more traditional routes to making friends. Freshman Chloe Tom came to Stuyvesant already knowing a few people from middle school and elsewhere, but she has managed to make new friends remotely as well, despite the limitations. “It's a lot easier when the teachers put you into breakout rooms so you can actually talk to people,” Tom said. “Most of the time, I asked classmates for their social media, and then we were able to talk more through group chats and DMs.”

Freshman Lesley Lo has had a great deal of difficulty befriending other students from her classes, but she has a number of friends who she met in an Instagram group chat that she was added to in May. “Surprisingly, the group chat is still alive, and we all talk a lot even if we don’t have classes together,” Lo said.

Freshman Erica Chen made friends from similar group chats over the summer but has also managed to befriend some of her classmates. Namely, she’s gotten to know her lab partners in AP Biology very well. Ultimately, however, Chen thinks that social media has made more contributions to her social life at Stuyvesant than breakout rooms, which she finds awkward.

In our present era, in which COVID-19 has created circumstances that would have been unimaginable just a year ago, students have had to adjust accordingly to maintain their friendships. Senior Mitchel Fogel has a very tight-knit friend group that he stays in touch with through a group chat and FaceTime calls on an almost daily basis. Chow has also relied on texting and FaceTiming. In addition, the occasional friend group meetups are feasible but infrequent. Though the pandemic has tested some friendships, it may have strengthened others. Tian explained that she wasn’t particularly close with one of her now closest friends until quarantine started, and they began to have deep late-night conversations. Cantarella was nervous at the prospect of drifting away from her best friend but found that the opposite happened. “We would go for weeks at a time without talking or seeing each other, but each time we did, it was like we never missed a beat and always picked up right where we left off,” she said.

In the face of such adversity presented by the coronavirus pandemic, Stuyvesant students have exhibited resilience in keeping one of the most important elements of the Stuyvesant experience alive: the bonds. Not those studied in chemistry classes, but the ones that life at Stuyvesant would be unimaginable without—the friendships.