Experiencing “normal” high school for first time, sophomores face major transition


Even masked, sophomores Piper Peterson and Hannah Kogan are happy to participate in an after-school club.

Amy Chookaszian

The last school year we had in person was 8th grade, and now all of a sudden we’re sophomores in high school? New Trier sophomores have had a unique experience with school due to COVID-19. Many of us had little, if any, time on the freshman campus and are already here at the Winnetka campus. Sophomores have gone through multiple transitions in a short period of time. From Zoom to in-person learning, Northfield to Winnetka campus, freshman to sophomore year. All of this evokes a variety of feelings from New Trier’s sophomore students. 

A common initial feeling towards last year’s experience was a distaste for online learning. Students were Zoomed-out.  Many felt cut off socially and alone. 

“I’m a pretty social person,” Asher Alcantara said, “so it was kind of hard to be over the screen and not interacting with your peers in person.” This wasn’t an uncommon feeling.

Michael Dolan said, “It was just Zoom class to Zoom class, looking at a computer screen.” 

Not to mention the social aspect of the pandemic. 

“It’s made my sophomore year feel kind of like a freshman year, kind of like a fresh start, especially because it’s a new campus but also because I didn’t really get to meet that many people last year.” Alcantara explained. The pandemic was isolating for everyone, but New Trier sophomores experienced a different isolation with the loss of time at the freshman campus. It’s where you’re supposed to find your new social group and learn the ways of high school. But with that stripped away from students, effects on social circles are prevalent. More kids than usual are still friends with their middle school friends rather than branching out. 

Dolan found COVID to be a shared experience with his friends, bringing social circles together. 

Ginny Peterson agreed. “I think I wouldn’t be friends with the same people, because I think part of how me and my friends are friends is that we became closer over quarantine.” She added, “but also I’ve made a lot of new friends this year.” 

It’s made my sophomore year feel kind of like a freshman year, kind of like a fresh start, especially because it’s a new campus but also because I didn’t really get to meet that many people last year.

— Asher Alcantara

Jasmine Fang also found it hard to keep in touch with people with the lack of real life contact. 

“If those friendships are strong then they’ll bounce back, and if they don’t, you’re honestly better off without them,” Fang said.

The pandemic also made academics completely different from previous years, making this year’s adjustment challenging for many.

 “Last year a lot of teachers were like, ‘Oh, you have it so good this year in terms of the workload,’” Alcantara said. “But, I feel like they should know that they were going easy on us academically for a reason, just because the mental and emotional toll quarantine took on us sort of balanced out the easy work load… so it wasn’t easy!” As Alcantara explains, students experienced a huge emotional toll from the lack of socialization or going outside, and the general upheaval of COVID, which made academics harder. 

The difference in how learning was taking place last year created more uncertainty in coming into this year, with everything nearly “normal.”

 “Everything was low-stakes… especially tests and quizzes because a majority of them were all open-note. That’s a big change this year because everyone’s in person so you’re actually gonna have to study a bit more for your tests and quizzes,” Fang said. She added that her teachers have been understanding of the adjustment after the pandemic. 

With all this there’s one thing for sure: students are happy to be back in person now.