Columnist reflects on two perspectives she developed on new students.
by Callia Peterson, ’22
I was never really the new kid. But as I unpacked our white SUV, stuffed to the brim with boxed-up utensils and bins full of clothes, I realized that on Aug. 16, I would walk into a new school for the first time with that infamous title.
I’ve lived in two places before Columbus. I was born in State College, Pennsylvania, and we moved to Lawrence, Kansas when I was 4. Now, years later, my parents are continuing to pursue their professional goals at their third university and my third city.
From age 4 to 15, I was in one place. My brother was born a few days after we found a permanent home in Lawrence. My older sister graduated high school from Lawrence High. I spent elementary, middle, and freshman year of high school in the same city and district, where I saw classmates come and go numerous times.
New kids were exciting, something to interrupt the perfunctory realities experienced every day at school.
Emily, a friend of mine, was one of those new kids. She sat across from me during seventh grade English, and I introduced myself promptly after noticing her. The other girls at our table followed suit. She later revealed to me how thankful she was for that simple interaction. She was nervous on her first day, and I impacted her more than I could have imagined.
But now it is my turn.
Since I lived in Lawrence for the bulk of my childhood education, I never had a reason to feel like the “new kid.” This made the idea of being one absolutely terrifying.
However, when I applied for Arlingtonian, I was welcomed so warmly. Editors reached out to me through social media or text and even met me for coffee before school started.
I started to understand the feeling of relief and gratefulness that Emily felt when I spoke to her on her first day. It has allowed me to feel less and less nervous about beginning the new school year.
What is fascinating about the label of “new kid” is that we will all have it one day. Even if it does not happen during your childhood, you could go off to college and be in a sea of new kids or start a new job with no one you know.
It is important we understand that perspective. Not just so we are prepared for being the new kid, but so that we can help others who are being one now.
I’ve gone to school recognizing almost every face in the hall and with at least one friend in every class, and I watched as new kids found their place in my school. Now, I will take the opposite position. I will transition to a new school where I’m constantly learning names, seeing unfamiliar faces, and be the new kid for lifelong Golden Bears to watch.
For the first time, I will take on the challenges of being the new kid. The idea is still terrifying, but I am comforted with the fact that others have or inevitably will go through it all too.