Being The New Kid

“I’m 15 and I’ve lived in the same small rural town since 1st grade! My family’s moving a few hours away to be by my grandpa (he’s sick) and I’m going to be plopped into the middle of a big (to me haha) city high school that’s twice the size of my old one… I’m kind of nervous as I’ve never been a “new kid” before. So how do I make friends and deal with the first few days when I don’t know anyone and am sitting alone at the lunch table? I’m not sure how to deal with leaving all my friends behind.”

I don’t know whether saying this will make you feel better or worse, but trust me, this is not a problem that only occurs when you’re in school. Any time you move — whether that’s cities, houses or jobs — you will face this problem. The good news is that once you know how to deal with it, you’ll have a plan of attack for the next time, so it does get easier!

I never moved town as a child. I moved house once — just down the street! I remember walking the distance, holding my Santa bear & my mother’s hand. It was quite exciting, really. I changed school once too, when I was 12. That was pretty scary. There are so many things to contend with that it’s hard to feel good about it straight away.

However, there is a major bonus to moving city/school/job: it’s a blank slate. No one knows who you are, or where you’ve been, or what you’ve done. If at your old school you were known as the prom queen, or the chess champion, or the really quiet girl, or the class clown, you have the opportunity to remove that from your history altogether. You can be whoever you want. If you’ve always wanted to be confident, athletic, intelligent, well-spoken, popular, friendly or thoughtful, this is your perfect opportunity to become that person. All you need to do is decide that that’s who you’re going to be. You might find it difficult to “be” that person sometimes. A good trick is to think of someone who personifies those traits, or who you want to be like, & then ask yourself what they would do in that situation. (At the moment, my person to think of is Madonna, but your mileage may vary!)

When I moved to Melbourne, I really appreciated the opportunity for a new beginning. I had changed my name a few months beforehand, & it was incredible to introduce myself as “Gala” & be called that straight away, & have no one calling me my old name by mistake. It seems like such a small thing, but it really helped emphasise that I truly was beginning a new stage of my life!

You’re never really going to know in advance what your new school/job/city is going to be like. You might hear rumours or stories, but that never gives you a true picture — not to mention, everyone perceives things differently! All you can do is take it as it comes!

Other than that, here’s how to make the most out of your situation:

Be yourself as much as possible. Trying to change to “fit in” to a group of popular kids is always a waste of time! (Not to mention, it’s the misfits who have the most fun…)

Take the opportunity to create a really positive impression. You might have had a science teacher who had it in for you back home, but things don’t have to be that way! Start fresh.

Be nice to people! When people speak to you, make the most of the situation. Smile, make eye contact, & ask them questions — if you do, people will think you are a fantastic conversationalist. Ask people what they think of their teachers & school if you can’t think of anything else to say — everyone has an opinion on those subjects!

Don’t take it too personally if people don’t warm to you straight away. Sometimes it takes time to meet people who you really connect with. I’ve lived in Melbourne for almost a year now & it’s taken me much longer to make friends than I thought it would! Realise that friendships take time to build & if they don’t, it is not because you’re flawed — it just wasn’t meant to be!

Remember that you are probably not the only “new kid”! There will be other people in your school in the same position — & everyone was a “new kid” once! We all eventually get past the hurdle of everything being unfamiliar!

Get involved in your new city! Exploring a new place is really fun. Find a cafe you like, go window-shopping, visit art galleries & museums & parks. Take up whatever activities you used to do, or start something you’ve always wanted to try, like ballet, yoga, playing piano or circus classes! Getting involved in activities is a great way to meet new people.

Don’t feel like you are being tragic if you cry when you leave your home for the last time! I have moved city twice & both times I went to the airport blubbing! Uprooting your life is hard work & it’s completely normal to feel sad, distressed, confused or irritated by the whole thing. Don’t punish yourself for having feelings, & know that any angst you are feeling is temporary & will lift.

Keep in touch with your old friends from home. Given the distance, things will naturally change, but that doesn’t mean you should never speak again! Send emails & packages. I often think that one of the best things about moving is that you start to receive really great mail!

Start creating an environment that makes you happy. For me, this means sticking up the pictures I like, plugging in my stereo, putting my pink-striped sheets on the bed & hanging up fairy lights. It is always wonderful to have somewhere beautiful & relaxing to come home to!

Good luck to you, sweetie-pie! I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself & make some marvellous friends!