LOS ANGELES, CA– 14-year-old Carter and 11-year-old Griffin stare at their Zoom screens filled with blank squares and tired eyes. They don’t recognize the faces and worry that they won’t make any friends. They’re the new kids at school after all.
The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, moreso for those who were forced to move to a new school. However, with intentional connection, the move can be made easier for old and new students alike. Moving to a new school is challenging no matter the circumstance and many are left feeling like “outsiders.” With the barrier of a screen blocking human contact, feeling like an outsider was almost inevitable this past school year.
“It was harder because we weren’t in person,” stated Griffin Miller, who switched schools for fifth grade in the middle of the pandemic. “It was a screen instead of actually being there.” After moving from Chicago to Los Angeles only months prior to the beginning of the pandemic, Carter Mitchell similarly explains that it was hard to become friends with people who weren’t in her classes. “If they weren’t in my class, they weren’t my friends.”
Before school started, Griffin was assigned a host family who had a boy his age. Griffin explains that “over the summer he [my host brother] introduced me to new students and made me feel welcome into the school before the year started.” Because he knew people before actually going to school, the transition was easier for Griffin, and he felt more connected to the other students even if they weren’t physically together.
Carter recounts a different experience. After moving, Carter went to Culver City Middle School (CCMS) where, “No one knew I was new unless I had a conversation with them… they assumed I was a loner or didn’t really want to make friends.” This remained the case throughout the six months she went to CCMS and only changed when she started attending the Windward School. Here, “everybody was super nice… tons of people reached out to me. I was able to get close to them being a new person, which was really nice.”
While on Zoom, the situations Carter and Griffin faced were fairly different. However, they both happily explain an almost identical situation when they returned to in-person school. In-person school made it easier for them to make more friends. As Griffin explains, “it’s hard to see a person’s personality through Zoom and how they are as a person. And you can see that when school went back in person.” Carter goes on to say how she “was able to make way more friends in person. I was seeing them in between breaks,” something she did not have online.
As shown in a study by myhome and allconnect, many more people moved during the pandemic than you could have ever guessed. These companies collected data from USPS about changes of address from February to July 2020. Comparing data during the same period of time, there were over 600,000 more requests sent in 2020 than in 2019. So while you might feel lonely after moving during a time as crazy as the COVID-19 pandemic, remember that there is always someone who shares a similar experience to you. And even in a time of isolation, you are never truly alone.