Freshmen Experience Difficulties Navigating Campus for First Time

Emma Leibowitz, Opinion Editor

Starting March 16, for the first time in their high school careers, freshmen began learning on campus after more than six months of experiencing Miramonte online. As they arrived at school, many felt nervous, especially about finding their classes in a brand-new school and navigating the halls with the recently-added system of arrows. Suddenly, freshmen were scrambling to find the perfect outfit, organize their books, and get ready for what felt like the first day of school, all while worrying about becoming “real” high school students in a physical classroom. However, this anxiety was mixed with excitement as freshmen prepared to finally have the high school experience they had been waiting for.

After graduating middle school, some felt no noticeable change in the transition to high school academics with the absence of upperclassmen roaming the halls and the quad, spirit events like rallies, and other staples of high school. “It was very different starting high school online. We didn’t get the change of scenery and what it was like to be on campus. Also, the social aspect changed a lot because we couldn’t see upperclassmen. It didn’t feel like I was truly in high school, it just felt like I was still in middle school,” freshman Clara Grenning said.

Many students did not enjoy fully remote learning, but for freshmen, this system was even more challenging. With limited ability to form connections with other students and even teachers, distance learning was perhaps the most challenging for the incoming class of 2024. “Making connections with classmates and teachers was really difficult for me. The lack of connections with my classmates made it really hard to work together in breakout rooms and the lack of connection with my teachers made me less comfortable asking questions and participating in class,” freshman Jason Wagner said. The normal lack of confidence freshmen experience simply from being the youngest students on campus made starting high school even more intimidating as they stared at their peers and brand-new teachers awkwardly in Zoom meetings and silent breakout rooms.

But when the district announced their plans for school to resume two days a week in person with the hybrid schedule, freshmen met the news with mixed emotions of excitement and nervousness. “I was happy to learn that we would be returning to school because I wanted to take that first step in returning back to normal. I wasn’t really nervous on the first day of actual school, but I was hoping I wouldn’t get lost,” freshman Nicole Guo said. It was incredibly strange for all students, but especially freshmen, to have a “first day of school” in March, and it felt like school had only just begun. 

On campus, freshmen were faced with a new challenge: navigating a school that they had never attended in person. “Coming to Miramonte on the first day did feel like the first day of school. I had a hard time finding some classes and got lost a couple of times, but the staff were really helpful. Being the first time, I didn’t know where I was going to meet up with friends for lunch but we figured it out pretty quickly. So although it was hard at first to find my way around campus, pretty quickly I became comfortable with walking around,” Wagner said. Following the first day of hybrid school, many freshmen managed to adapt to the physical layout of campus, and many feel those first-day jitters every time they revisit tangible, in-person school after being cooped up at home on Zoom.

But still, after a year of distance learning, adjusting to the basics of high school academics was quite difficult. “I think the most difficult part of the transition was waking up that morning before school. You can’t just hop on Zoom anymore; you actually have to get dressed, eat breakfast, and go outside. I was slightly nervous about finding my friends during lunch and finding a place to sit, but I’m happy it worked out. It most definitely did seem like the first day of school,” Guo said. For many, it was strange to be isolated from other grades during the lunch and academy periods, which are separated between underclassmen and upperclassmen. This system was helpful for some freshmen, though, because it provided more seating on the quad and none of that dreaded competition between freshmen or sophomores and juniors or seniors for tables.

But for most freshmen, returning to in-person classes has been incredibly beneficial and has really helped them feel like high schoolers. “So far, the hybrid schedule has been pretty enjoyable for me because I am able to not only see friends at school, but have the opportunity to meet new people. I also think it is important to be on campus because it provides me a reason to get out of bed in the morning and being somewhere other than my room makes me feel productive throughout the day,” freshman Mira Haldar said.

Even though adapting to in-person school is a learning curve, freshmen look forward to finally feeling like high school students for the first time ever. “I am most looking forward to receive the “high school experience” as well as participating in competitive high school sports. It does feel a little strange that I have been a freshman for 6 month and have only been on campus for a couple days but I am hoping that my sophomore year will return back to a normal school setting,” Haldar said.

As they walk through the hallways, the freshmen are less noticeable than they were at the beginning of hybrid school. Instead of frantically looking for classes and meeting up with friends, they have become fully integrated into the Miramonte community, and, finally, they have officially joined the rest of the student body in person.