Zaara Hussain Ahmed ‘25
Life is full of twists and turns, changes and transitions that disrupt our lives and force us to adjust to new realities. How we react to these transitions builds our character and shapes our identity.
I balk at saying that transitioning from middle to upper school is a pivotal turning point in a student’s life. We are likely to experience many others that are far more dramatic, such as leaving student life behind during online school, starting a family, moving to a different country, perhaps even facing another pandemic.
To my 13-year-old self, though, the transition to upper school seemed like a defining moment where I left my childhood behind and officially “grew up.” I was full of high expectations of hanging out with older students, sipping tea and lounging on the chaise in the library during free periods, forging new friendships, and most importantly, having greater independence and control over my life.
Of course, I expected the courses to be more challenging. But I was not quite prepared for the abstract concept of Upper School Physics, despite being mathematically inclined. It’s early days but I’m still waiting for it to become magical, as I am told it will. The rigors of Physics compounded by the demands of History text/context/subtext (TCS) analysis, sports, service, clubs have left me gasping for breath, while my social life is in tatters due to the pandemic. The chaise… who has the time? My free periods are spent either studying for a test or doing homework. I cherish every minute I can sleep.
Not quite what my 13-year-old self was expecting. But I am not the first freshman to navigate academic demands, extracurricular activities and other school-related work. My cousins who live across the world tell me that they are also grappling with the same demands: too much homework, too little fun, pandemic, lockdown, and virtual hugs. Life is not a bed of roses.
There are a few things that I have learned one month into Upper School that are helping me keep my head above water and may help others in the same boat.
Firstly, stay positive and be confident in your abilities. We are all “smart, confident, creative, independent and resilient.” Those words describe the typical NCS student on our school website. Indeed, we were all admitted into this school after a competitive process. So, we “got this!”
Secondly, lean on your support system. Do not shy away from asking for help. Office hours with teachers really help when I am frazzled and overwhelmed. I get an emotional boost from my parents and friends when I feel caved in. My family keeps me grounded and reinforces my belief in myself. Try ending the day with a dance-a-thon. It can be exhilarating.
Thirdly, I have identified what’s important to me—my health, happiness, value system, life goals—in that order. I am grateful to have the opportunities that many do not, and I am determined to make the most of them. But my goal is to live up to my own expectations only. What’s yours?