The high school cafeteria can be one of the loneliest places for new students.
The high school cafeteria can be one of the loneliest places for new students.
Yasemin Kalpakci

“Anyone who has ever moved schools knows the feeling of dread”

What it’s like being a new student enrolling at MHS in the middle of the school year
A view of the author’s packed-up bedroom in Greenville, South Carolina, preparing to move to Peachtree City. Kalpakci moved over the Christmas holiday break. “I didn’t have any Christmas decorations or anything. It was so sad.” (Yasemin Kalpakci)

Anyone who has ever moved schools knows the feeling of dread upon entering a building full of students and not knowing a single one of them.

That was the case for me as I entered McIntosh High School on the first day of the second semester. The experiences I have been through at McIntosh have created a mix of both thrilling and upsetting experiences due to my having come from out of state to my new start in Peachtree City.  This move has been mostly uncomfortable and awkward; there’s moving to a new house down the block and then there’s moving to a new place so far away from all you used to know.

One thing that has eased my mind about McIntosh are the teachers. While not every teacher has been great at teaching, overall, teachers seem to be accepting of new students.  While accommodating students is a teacher’s job, those teachers been great at getting me caught up but they have also been helpful at making me feel welcome in the class, and supporting my struggles as a new student.  Not all teachers display willingness to help a new student. One teacher, when I got into the class,  she said, “Sit down over there,” and she didn’t tell anyone my name. People kept looking at me like I’d committed a crime by entering class.

Having been only at McIntosh for a month, I cannot say whether it is the fact that I am new or the fact that a class in particular has simply not gotten along all year that makes some of my classes a bit unpleasant. Quite a few of my classes are very quiet and students in the class seem to know few people. 

Changing schools can be tough. I have been through it many times even having changed schools from one continent to the other.

I feel the need to point out that the awkwardness between students does not exist in all of my classes, only some. This awkwardness strikes me as odd, because before enrolling at McIntosh, due to the switch from a block schedule with four classes per semester to a seven-period class day all year. Almost all of my classes were very tight-knit, especially my core classes, despite my classes only being a semester long and very large. At my previous school, it was abnormal for students in my classes to not have any friends, which could definitely be attributed to the types of assignments we were given – which is another difference between my previous school and McIntosh.

The amount of group work we had to do with new partners every project, because we had a new project every week, so we had to spend time and work with all types of students and talk to them – from the project, we would talk about the things we enjoy, what our weekend plans were, we’d go to one another’s houses to to work on projects, and eventually, we became friends. Over the course of the semester, we had a project a week, with a new partner every week.

I used to constantly complain about the projects at my last school, but having come to a new school where projects are not considered important, I feel that my opinions have changed. I have come to regard projects as excellent tools for education, and also a time where I learn to get along with people I dislike, and figure out solutions for real world problems much like many jobs require you to do. At McIntosh I find that a lack of group-based projects decreased my ability to branch out to new people.

I used to constantly complain about the projects at my last school, but having come to a new school where projects are not considered important… At McIntosh I find that a lack of group-based projects decreased my ability to branch out to new people.

Project-based learning (PBL) involves students designing, developing and constructing hands-on solutions to a problem. The educational value of PBL is that it aims to build students’ creative capacity to work through difficult or ill-structured problems, commonly in small teams,” according to Boston University of Teaching and Learning.

Classes have not been the only awkward, friendless part of McIntosh. At any high school, lunches are the worst experience, not for any greater reason than the loneliness of it. It seems to me that in every school I have been to, lunches are organized completely differently, whether it is the cafeteria lines or seating. At McIntosh, seating seems to be the biggest issue.  The confusing part of McIntosh’s lunch is that none of their tables are facing each other in the cafeteria, causing friend groups to either sit in one row or take up two tables, which makes it difficult to talk to one another. The table situation not only causes seating problems within friends, but it also leaves about a foot of table space to eat on, creating a struggle. 

On top of the loneliness I faced in the cafeteria, two weeks into my initial schedule here I was scheduled into another math class, which changed my lunch period from B to D, so in order to just avoid the whole lunch situation, I have chosen to eat in another class, where I can peacefully enjoy my lunch and finish my work for other classes.

The complete change in schools has created a massive problem for me at McIntosh with picking classes. Coming from a school that did block scheduling and coming into a seven-period school day  has allowed me to finish some classes for the year, like Chemistry, which allowed me an extra elective in my schedule this semester. I took a full year of English and AP US History class combined, so thankfully I could continue those two classes like normal.  But coming into McIntosh and not starting other classes for the school year, like Algebra II, means I started with zero but my classmates had been in the class since it started in August.

But coming into McIntosh and not starting other classes for the school year, like Algebra II, means I started with zero but my classmates had been in Algebra II since August.”

When I registered for classes, my counselor and I decided to place myself in the Accelerated Geometry/Algebra II class because the individuals in the class had only been doing Algebra for about a month and a half instead of the beginning of the year. The class was also split into parts A and B, for each semester, meaning that I would have to take part A during summer school because I only arrived for the second semester, which was part B. After two weeks in that class, my teacher spoke with my guidance counselor, and it was suggested I be removed due to the fact that I simply could not remember Algebra, after not having taken the class in more than two years, and due to the fact that I would have to take summer school anyway.

Having to change from one schedule to another, changed my classes around which was upsetting to me as I had to leave the classes and friends I was beginning to make behind. This was upsetting but I do know that if I had stayed in the math class I would have failed. Despite all of these events, I am happy that I am going to join a class where I can review Algebra at my own pace to remember the material, and also not have to take summer school in order to take Algebra II B. 

Writing this story is when I learned that McIntosh has Ambassadors, students who volunteer to welcome students to school through showing them a tour of the school and walking their schedules. Some Ambassadors introduce new students to other students, like at lunch, to help find friend groups. I had mentioned to my counselor that I knew someone who went to MHS, and she suggested that my friend could show me around. I would have enjoyed having the Ambassador experience had I know about it, because maybe I would have had some classes with that Ambassador or get introduced to other people.

Changing schools can be tough. I have been through it many times even having changed schools from one continent to another. I appreciate the consideration of teachers and other students but I do wish McIntosh had better organization for new students especially around class changes and scheduling, because the stress of moving is already frustrating for students, especially at the high school level about credits and graduation.

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