New ASD students face challenge making friends during pandemic

Two+students+awkwardly+social+distancing+and+not+knowing+how+to+interact.

Photographer: Acila G.

Two students awkwardly social distancing and not knowing how to interact.

Nina M., Junior Editor-in-Chief

Moving to a new school and making friends can normally be a challenge. Fast forward to doing all this during a pandemic, which alone can be exhausting; add in physically distancing, virtual learning, and wearing masks … It can feel overwhelming and nearly impossible. However, it is possible to build friendships even when the new normal is not so normal. 

Social relationships are incredibly essential for forming bonds and, believe it or not, helps us build up who we will become. Interacting with friends, playing on sports teams, and having hangouts are incredibly important in shaping our experience at ASD. 

 

The American School of Doha had several new students join our community this academic year. Some transferred from other schools within Doha, while others are new to Doha, with younger students just starting high school for the first time.

Sanchez (’23), a new sophomore this year, is currently living through the impacts as a new student during COVID to the max. From our conversation, she admitted that she had not been in Qatar this whole first semester, meaning that she has been learning virtually all the way from her hometown in Katy, Texas. “I haven’t moved there [Qatar] just yet. I’m actually leaving tomorrow!” she stated during the interview. She continued to describe the impacts of both being across the world and learning virtually. “It has definitely been very hard for me because for three months I’ve been doing school from the other side of the world, and I’m very tired, but virtual learning has been simple and accessible so far!”

Additionally, while social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and GroupMe can make it easier to connect with peers, it can be difficult to know where and how to start reaching out. Making friends this semester requires more effort since casual interactions are less likely to come by, even for students who are already outgoing.

‘I’ve been making friends more from social media rather than virtual learning, but zoom has helped me connect with other students,” Sanchez explained.

Without the casual interactions typically found in the commons, at breaks, and during sports events, first-years now have to set aside time specifically to socialize and meet new people, which can be much more difficult.

“You get a lot more friends online, but you get them only at really the surface, which I think is kind of problematic,” one senior noted in an interview. “If you are having conversations online, people are not going to share personal things.”

 

I spoke with numerous teachers, principles, and directors about what they are doing to welcome new students and make them a part of the community… They all had similar responses and advice.

“This year, due to the pandemic, [which] modified our usual orientation process,, we tried to provide our newest Dragons with a warm welcome to ASD!” Director of Admission, Mr. Scott Barnwell exclaimed. “As a school, we plan and organize a formal ‘Orientation Day’ for all newly admitted students and their families. Orientation day provides students with a ‘welcome bag’ full of goodies and access to their DragonCards! Our newest Dragons also take a tour of our campus [provided by our Student Ambassadors], have a ‘Meet and Greet’ with their classroom teacher, take part in divisional assemblies, as well as interact with our parent volunteer groups.

“Our school provides numerous learning opportunities for students, both in and outside of the classroom. Get involved, try new and interesting things, have fun, make as many friends as possible, and take full advantage of your time here as an ASD Dragon!” Director of Admission, Mr. Scott Barnwell continued.

”Advice for new students?  Be open to new experiences!  We have a great group of people in our MS, and most recall what it feels like to be new to the school, so [they] are very welcoming.  Take chances and get to know one another.” Mr. Robert Gohr, the Middle School Principal, advised.

 

All in all, it is understandable that life during the pandemic is not ideal for new students right now. But it will get better. Things can only go uphill. So what if there are bumps in the road? It’s a step down for a bigger step up, and you are what you make it. Make the best out of the situation.

As a community, ASD is doing everything they can to welcome students and try to create a safe and welcoming community through virtual learning. We all also have to remember this is not forever. It is merely a point in time that will eventually pass. For the time being, however, let’s make the most of it.  Put yourself out there, talk to new people, try new things, and you might be surprised at the relationships that can be made over the silliest things. Truly, some of the strongest friendships are formed out of the unexpected.

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