GDS Newcomers, I’ve Been There

Freshman new to GDS gathered in the high school library for the Summer Bridge Program. Photo by Olivia Brown.

Dear new freshmen,

Welcome to the GDS community! As someone who was new in 9th grade, I know that coming from another school to a place with hundreds of new faces can be intimidating. You may feel nervous, excited or both—feelings all new freshmen have experienced during their first months. Don’t expect your year to be perfect; it will take time to become acclimated. Everyone’s experience is different, but hopefully reading through my reflections of ninth grade will help you better navigate this year at GDS.

GDS’ Summer Bridge Program and freshman orientation aren’t the only times you will make friends. During Bridge week, I found a sizable friend group of new freshmen, all of us excited to have a fresh start in a different environment together. We would hang out all the time in the weeks before school, wondering what the ninth graders from the GDS middle school were like. At the time, I thought that those friends would be my closest throughout high school. But as the school year commenced, they began to break off into smaller friend groups with other students due to differing schedules and interests. It’s natural for that to happen—high school at GDS offers such a diverse range of opportunities to explore your passions that it can lead people down different paths. 

I had a difficult time making friends in my first semester. I was friendly to everyone, saying hi in the hallways and talking to others about classes and homework, but I didn’t really make any deep connections. At times I wanted to go back to middle school—back to my old friends who provided comfort and familiarity. 

When I joined the fall production of Marie Antoinette, I got to know many cast members outside of my grade. I didn’t really think at first that it was possible to become friends with people who were older, but tech week proved me wrong. I learned a lot about my older castmates, beginning with conversations about our favorite characters in books and TV shows, and grew close to many of them. I began to see them in other settings such as clubs, a cappella rehearsals and affinity groups. Soon enough, a large chunk of my friends at GDS turned out to be sophomores! Don’t be afraid to branch out to people in other grades—inter-grade friendships are very common at GDS. 

I found myself making friends a lot more easily in the second semester. My ninth grade history class allowed me to make friends with people who I hadn’t necessarily thought would have a lot in common with me. Thankfully, GDS is unlike the stereotypical high school with closed-off cliques; most everyone is sociable and willing to learn more about you. Having conversations with people with different interests may lead to lasting friendships, like it did for me. 

Before coming to GDS, I didn’t fully anticipate the level of academic rigor. In middle school, I had at most twenty minutes of homework per night. And with COVID moving much of my time in school online, the workload was often even less. I missed out on learning important time management skills and, unfortunately, suffered my first semester here as a result. 

I still remember the week of my Romeo and Juliet test. I wasted time cramming unnecessary information and worriedly rereading the whole text hours before the test. Needless to say, that did not work and I ended up performing poorly on assessments in other classes that week. As time went on, I received helpful advice from my older peers and began making study groups and talking weekly with my advisor about academic concerns. Start forming productive habits early on to avoid struggling in class.

I have not yet found the key to being a perfect student and classmate at GDS. I’m constantly learning new ways to guide myself through school. At times GDS still feels unfamiliar to me—it takes a while to get adjusted to a completely new environment. But know that high school will only get better; look forward to those moments of growth and use them to your advantage. 

Sincerely,

Aymaan Enayetullah ’25

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