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Being the New Kid in Class: Tips on Coping

Updated on February 23, 2015

Having lived in 7 countries before the age of 15, being the new kid in school became a pretty common experience for me. It's not an easy experience to undergo, especially for more introverted kids but through trial (and many errors), I've learnt a few things from my experiences that hopefully will be useful to others:

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1. Different is different, not necessarily wrong.

Be open to new cultures and new lifestyles, which is especially helpful if you're shifting from a different country. Even moves to another school/environment within the same country may mean immersion into a new subculture exclusive to that new environment. Conversation topics, style of dress, personal interests all may be different to what you are comfortable and familiar with but learn how to be cool with the norm. This doesn't mean conforming to what you personally do not agree with- it just means keeping an open mind and being willing to see things from someone else's perspective.

2. Ask open ended questions

Questions are a good way to break the ice with peers and also to find out what the norm is (see above). Most people like feeling that someone is taking an interest in them, and you asking them questions about themselves gives them an often eagerly seized opportunity to talk about themselves. Now, questions are good, but open ended questions better. Questions that lead to one word answers can be conversation killers. Open ended questions also save you from making (awkwardly) wrong assumptions.

Compare:
Q1: Hey, you're tall, do you play basketball? We should shoot some hoops together sometime.
A1: Uh, no I don't like playing sports at all (person likes participating in photography, and probably has heard the tall+basketball comment a million times).

Q2: What do you like doing for fun?
A2: We've just started up a photography club so most of our time after school is spent with that- hey, you have a camera? You should join us. I got into taking photos after this one time when...

3. Be interested in other people:

Surprisingly (or not), most people do like talking about themselves, especially if there is a non-judgemental listening ear available. While you initially might not be endlessly fascinated by their passion for the record breaking sports statistic or anime episode that just got released, learning to appreciate their passions and their differences goes a long way - genuine compliments and interest goes down very well. Listening and understanding what is important/interesting to other people also makes it easier initiate conversations in the future as you can revisit topics.


4. Get involved somewhere or try a new activity

Do something that immerses you in a community. I moved to a school where horseback riding lessons were offered so I had a go at that and became tight with my peer riders and horse riding instructors. Even though I was quite shy and unwilling to speak much, I became comfortable with my peers and teachers and them the same with me. While it may feel instinctive, safe and oh-so-tempting to scuttle home each day and get away from the new-ness of everything, you'll be surprised at how you might enjoy something new and also how you may make friends with people you thought you had nothing in common with. I took a lot of Arts classes (Drama, English, French, History of Art) which none of the sporty people seem to prefer so playing sports allowed me to meet and interact with them in a team environment.

5. Put your differences in a positive light

Person: I love the combination of peanut butter and jelly in a sandwich!
You: *gag* That's really gross..

Yes, honesty isn't a bad thing but sometimes a little bit of rewording can be beneficial:

Person: I love the combination of peanut butter and jelly in a sandwich!
You: I've had that before but it's not really for me. But what you SHOULD try is peanut butter and tomatoes...really, it's so good. I'll bring it for lunch tomorrow and you should try some.

Of course, once you get to know people more and your friendship reaches a stage where teasing and blunt comments are the norm, go for it. But in the initial stages of getting to know people, blunt honesty can be a double edged sword.

6. Confidence

In the new school that I entered, I was typically the only foreign student and people often would approach and pepper me with questions because they were curious about my differences (different looks, different accent, different way of saying things, different lunches I brought to school, different brand clothing... you get the point). After two weeks or so, my novelty of differences would wear off and I transformed from being "the cool new kid" to the "that Chinese person who brings strange lunches".

Differences that had initially made me attractive and interesting eventually became perceived as differences that separated me from the larger student body. Even though people can be flagrantly rude (I once was interrupted in the middle of reading a book passage aloud to the class with "You talk funny! No, really, she does! Doesn't she, Miss?") and unsubtle in their ignorance, learn to look past the negatives and not let insecurity and timidity dwell. Confidence is attractive- simple things such as smiling at others, making eye contact, being aware of one's body language makes a difference to your overall appearance of confidence. Sometimes you have to "fake it til you make it"- even though you may feel uninteresting, out of place and utterly not confident, keep your chin up. Faking confidence isn't about fundamentally changing who you are (if you like peanut butter and jelly, that's awesome) but simply giving nerves and insecure thoughts a kick on the backside and being bold in spite of how you feel.

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Everybody has a different personality and goes through their own unique experiences so it'll be great to hear from readers your own experiences. Maybe there'll be good memories, maybe there'll be bad bad ones but all hopefully helpful to others out there. The short video below is well worth the watch- though most of us who have experience transition may not have come from such an extreme background, the sense of anxiety of being the new kid is relatable.

Just out of interest..

The number of schools/universities that I have attended is

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    • profile image

      Gwen 6 months ago

      I am currently in a new school. I have tried these tips, and things are going.....fine. My old school closed and all of my friends split up! I guess I just really, really miss them. My new friends are nice and all, we just are not that close. Do you have any advice?

    • timepop profile image
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      timepop 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Great, it's encouraging to hear that- thank you Angela!

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      I remember reading something like this when I was young and it really helped.