I Stuy With My Little Eye

The hallmarks of a Stuyvesant student.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Scientists say scent and memory are closely linked—in fact, among the five senses, smell is the most closely intertwined with memory. With that in mind, what scent comes to mind when we think of school? What sensations do we associate with Stuyvesant? Perhaps it’s the fragrance of the school cafeteria. Maybe it’s the odor of chlorine from the first floor pool. Or maybe it’s the scent of your deli roll, being made right before you go to school.

For Albert Zhang (‘19), these are the steps he retraces when thinking of Stuyvesant. As a member of the class of 2019, it’s been two years since he attended Stuyvesant. However, that time doesn’t stop him from visiting and showing his friends his alma mater. “Whenever I swing by Tribeca and Stuy, I always point out [Stuyvesant] to my friends,” Zhang said. He added that his friends had only seen the building in video games like “Marvel’s Spider Man” (2019), in which fans can explore the streets of Manhattan as the titular superhero. “I show [my friends] how the game is missing the bridge that leads from the sidewalk directly into the building and how a river of students would emerge every morning and afternoon from the bridge,” he recalled.

For Zhang, the building manifests intense nostalgia. When thinking back to his time as a student, he remembers the diversity of talents within the student body, applauding the range of activities students undertook. “At Stuy, there are so many people who do so many different things, it’s hard to explain—let alone come up with—a stereotype of a Stuy student,” he stated. Nonetheless, he still sees a unifying characteristic within their work. “The typical Stuy student is somehow adept at procrastinating assignments until the last minute and still managing to finish and do well,” Zhang added.

For senior Carina Lee, this knack for academia is deeply tied to the Stuyvesant culture. “Stuy kids are really hard working but in a way that is really not obvious. You might think someone has a lot of free time and hangs [out] with their friends a lot, but they study for tests instead of sleeping right after hanging out,” she remarked.

This proficiency for education was also witnessed by Andy Zhou (‘18). While recognizing students’ strengths in school, Andy Zhou recalls the competitive nature of his classmates. “Everyone humble bragged and was constantly trying to impress each other,” he said. On a more lighthearted note, though, Stuyvesant also reminded Andy Zhou of something more homely: “If you asked anyone what you should get for lunch, it would be a bacon guacamole chipotle from Ferry’s.”

The Ferry’s that Andy Zhou refers to is Battery Park City Gourmet Market, a grocery store across from Stuyvesant. “I like explaining Ferry’s to people because it’s such an important part of the Stuy experience, but the deli isn’t even called Ferry’s,” alum Alan Zhou (‘18) said. As alums, Andy Zhou and Alan Zhou are all too familiar with Ferry’s significance, as well as the friendly yet longstanding divisions between Ferry’s and another deli next to Stuyvesant, Terry’s. With Battery Park City Gourmet Market adopting its nickname as a portmanteau of “Fake Terry’s,” it, along with Terry’s, would engrave itself into Stuyvesant culture.

Ferry’s has long stood as a place of comfort for students in a work-heavy environment. For senior Russell Low, these traits are factors he associates with Stuyvesant students. “Afterschool vibes brought out the most nostalgia for me,” Low recalled. He thought back to the smell of food and the smiles of friends, contributing the laughter and funny conversations that often brightened up his days in school.

Additionally, Low shares Zhang’s views in applauding students’ abilities to function under stress. “If our school had an aesthetic, it [would definitely be] thriving through chaos,” Low said. Nonetheless, he also recognizes its more negative traits. “We are all obviously smart and driven, but I think our worst shared quality is our low prioritization of mental health,” he added.

Many other students share this sentiment, citing how Stuyvesant bears a reputation for constant fatigue. “The epitome of the Stuy student would be someone barely dragging their feet to first period holding a half-drunk iced coffee,” junior Krista Proteasa remarked, describing how students would then participate in long hours of activities, fall asleep on the subway home, fall asleep struggling to do homework, and then continue this cycle. “[We are] a truly remarkable species, all in all. I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Proteasa joked.

Although Proteasa described Stuyvesant life with nostalgia, many onlookers view this cycle as daunting. “Since [Stuyvesant students] go to school in the city and get a workload that is difficult, they always seem like they have no time to spare and need to do things quickly—just like a true New Yorker,” Jeffrey Tung, a senior at Brooklyn Technical High School said. Tung also noted an elevated sense of academic excellence its students seem to strive for. “They’ll usually meticulously make their digital presentations look perfect while adding more and more images or designs with diminishing returns,” he added.

Tung’s archetype of the excessively diligent Stuyvesant student is prevalent among students in other schools. To Staten Island Technical High School senior Sharon Zohirova, who rarely interacts with Stuyvesant students, Stuyvesant still maintains a reputation for its workload. “The overall stereotype of Stuy kids tends to be the overworked nerdy students,” she commented, admiring Stuyvesant students’ work ethics but also remarking on a darker underbelly. Just like Tung, Zohirova noted the school culture’s detrimental emphasis on grades. Although students busy themselves with academia, such perseverance has taken a toll on the student body.

Though Stuyvesant’s unrelenting workload has its downsides, Proteasa finds solace in the camaraderie formed between students while overcoming these challenges together. “I get nostalgic whenever I recount my late night video call study sessions with my friends that usually never resulted in stellar scores on whatever test the next day,” Proteasa recalled. “Those, along with team bonding dinners with my beloved fencing team members will always take me back to the simpler times of when I was a freshman.”

Through memories of late night study sessions or long hours spent on extracurricular activities, the dual nature of Stuyvesant pushes many students together, unifying them in their academic struggles and creating countless friendships and memories. Whether it’s the smell of halal carts or the sight of a Ferry’s roll, students and alumni will always be brought back to their time in Stuyvesant.