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NICHOLAS MERCER: A new school brings with it some new experiences

Next week, students of all ages across the city and province will start a new school year.
Next week, students of all ages across the city and province will start a new school year. - 123RF Stock Photo

The step from high school to university is a big one for even the most prepared student.

The structure and friendliness that exists in high school doesn’t necessarily translate to the post-secondary world of education.

Class attendance isn’t mandatory, and the professors don’t always form lasting bonds with their students as the names on their class lists stay at just that.

If you’re coming from a small town, university means moving at speeds you can’t possibly keep up with at first and sitting in classrooms next to people you’ve never meet before.

Pasadena’s Sofia Helgeland has been talking to people she knows who have already gone through their first year of studies.

“I’m kind of freaking out,” she said. “It's new and something that I haven’t experienced before.”

Part of that nervousness comes from the idea that young people headed to university are expected to have the rest of their lives mapped out.

Helgeland is taking some courses that lend themselves to a Bachelor of Science, while also throwing in a couple of general ones into the mix when she starts classes at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook.

She’s testing the waters, so to speak.

Aside from having  a firm direction she wants her life to take, Helgeland is wary of trying to establish relationships with her professors and sitting in classrooms with students she hasn’t been with for several years.

“It's intimidating because I’m going to be in classes with people who know what they want to do,” she said.

Still, there is a silver lining to heading to an institution of higher learning — there are new social groups and pairings to explore.

***

No one wants to be the freshman.

It's an inevitable part of school life as a student moves from Grade 9 to Grade 10.

They’re freshmen. The new kids in school and the ones who occupy the lowest rung of the social hierarchy that is high school life.

Heading into high school at Corner Brook Regional High, Jay Miller is looking forward to leaving his time at Corner Brook Intermediate behind him.

He associates high school with some more freedom both academically and socially.

He’s looking forward to starting fresh in his new academic digs, but he knows there is more school work coming his way.

The 15-year-old figures he’ll try out for the basketball team when the dates get posted early in the school year. A solid athlete, there is probably some school softball in his future as well.

As the summer winds down and the first ring of a school bell just around the corner, Miller and his friends group are sure to be talking more

“I’m not nervous,” Miller said. “Some of my friends are though.”

***

Heading to a new school means meeting new people and having new classmates.

That’s not entirely the case for James Taylor.

The soon-to-be Grade 7 student will know plenty of people when he walks through the front doors of Corner Brook Intermediate in the coming days.

That’s because the young Taylor plays plenty of sports — baseball, basketball and hockey are at the top of the list — in the city and knows plenty of his teammates will be his classmates for the first time this year.

This reunion is sure to lead to a number of recess and lunch conversations about what happened on the ice the night before or the upcoming road trip to a tournament out-of-town.

Chances are, those conversations will spill into the classroom at times. Hopefully, they’ll be in hushed tones and out of earshot of the teacher if they do happen.

Even with the incentive of going to school with his sports friends, Taylor still has some nerves about walking the halls of his new digs.

There are new people to meet and what is sure to be a higher workload of school work as students prepare for high school, as well as cafeteria food and a start time that is an hour later than his time at Sacred Heart Elementary in Curling.

“I have to get the bus to school,” he said. “I’ve never been on a bus to go to school before.”

***

The last time I remember feeling nervous about heading to a new school was moments before heading to my first class at the University of King’s College in Halifax several years ago.

I was there to do my journalism degree and had only been formally accepted to the program a week-and-a-half before classes were set to begin.

The self-doubt and a twinge of social awkwardness fueled the apprehension I felt that first morning.

That subsided as I got acquainted with the work and got to know the classmates who were finding their way in a new city and new vocation just as I was.

I understand where these students are coming from.

It can take a lot of mental preparation when you start classes in a new school. You have to be prepared for new teachers, meeting new people and entering into new social situations.

It is not all gym class and chicken nuggets in the cafeteria.

It is fresh, it can be scary, but you’ve been here before.

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