I would be a fool to say that Stuyvesant High School is awful and terrible and disgusting. For those of you who plan on taking the SHSAT, it’s a good idea to take it. It’s a personal decision. Put Stuy as your first choice. Get some options. Drive yourself nuts over those options. But I went to Stuyvesant and I returned and have reasons, of course, so I’m going to offer an inside look into that huge building that is dubbed the ‘best high school in NYC.’ I am somewhat qualified to write, because I spent three weeks learning within its walls.
Stuyvesant has an amazing building and location, and an avalanche of different courses, clubs and sports. I was promised these things upon entering and to be honest, I was in no way disappointed. In the first week I encountered flyers on the escalator, the steps on the bridge and the door of my history classroom that advertised Model UN, Speech, Congress and Debate and a really cool Red Cross meeting in the library that I never really got to go to, along with a million more extracurricular activities that I really wanted to attend but couldn’t (due to my other engagements with Model UN and the Lincoln-Douglas Debate team). Shortly before I left Stuyvesant I also had a meeting with my guidance counselor, one of maybe twenty in the department, in a small group. Their view on college astounded me, as well as scared me a little. Their college process involves compiling individual teacher recommendations into one guidance counselor recommendation, pulling together files of extracurriculars and community service hours, and the huge excel sheet of college acceptances for each college, with the lowest averages accepted and the highest averages rejected and the push to take the SAT subject tests as soon as you complete the class. Everyone was so on top of things. I never concerned myself with college and I probably couldn’t tell you the first thing about what colleges wanted but they knew everything and gave me a comprehensive overview of what I needed to know in one compact 41 minute lunch period.
I think something didn’t fit between Stuy and I from the very start, but I had left BSGE promising myself that no matter what, I would find a way to make it work and never give up on Stuy. Someone had told me before I left that I wasn’t going to do well there because I was Alice and I demanded a different atmosphere than the learning environment in Stuyvesant. Since this was a person I respected, I was very hurt and I felt the need to prove them wrong. I promised myself that if anything ever went bad I would just cope, pick up a book and start reading, ride the subway to the last stop. So I put on a happy face and walked into the doors of the bridge.
The first thing that hit me was that they didn’t teach in the way I was used to or even in a way that was effective. My schedule was packed with ten 41 minute classes with unenthusiastic teachers stuffing information into our heads. Instantly I got lost in Physics class and found myself dozing off instead of taking in any information. In most classes I stopped raising my hand because I didn’t know what was going on. In the classes where it was clear to me – I wasn’t allowed to raise my hand. Then came the emptiness. I made friends at Stuy, some that I still talk to today, but none were really mine. I noticed a difference between students who came from normal schools to Stuy and the students who formerly graced the halls of BSGE and Hunter and transferred to Stuy. Most of the kids who came from regular schools felt that Stuy was heaven and could cope with anything it threw at them because they were not aware that something could be better. But my lunch group solely consisted of those who had transferred from BSGE and Hunter, and we felt the gap. We understood what it meant to be taught by good teachers and have time to process what we learned. We had something to compare it to and – as Vivien once brought up – something to return to. But I frequently skipped lunch, which was of course rather beautiful since we ate in one of Stuy’s surrounding parks, because I was afraid of slacking in my classes. I couldn’t study in front of my friends, and so I hung out in the library, checking out textbooks in order to complete homework, or just reading. Their library was huge and I loved it. It was the only place in the building where I could access the Internet and read to no end. But it was a temporary escape, just like the hour-long subway rides that I could use to control runaway thoughts and tiredness.
The day I decided that it really wasn’t worth my time to be in a school I didn’t like in order to save my pride and my image was a day I had left after eighth period instead of waiting for my friends or going to the model UN meeting that evening. It was all a bit too much. The idea that no one gave a damn about me at Stuy, and that there were people who had cared that I had abandoned at BSGE was catching up to me. Instead of sitting on the E train that day, I sat down on the 1 and transferred at Times Square to the N. I felt like being alone and longingly staring at the door would cure all the feels. But the door was opened and I realized that it really wasn’t worth it to torture myself if my home would take me back. One thing led to another and now I’m here at BSGE.
I don’t know if it was a good choice. There is the possibility that Stuy would land me in a better college. I know I messed up with a lot of my friends before I left, and the BSGE I was longing for is different now. But I also know that this was my decision. I don’t regret it, because in reality it was the first independent decision I made a stand for. I came back from Stuyvesant with a new outlook on life and school, and those of you who want to be that Stuy kid – go. You will do well if you try. But if you’ve never dreamed of being that kind of kid, don’t go. Don’t push to make yourself uncomfortable because of what other people think.