Freshmen Face Social Hurdles in Distance and Hybrid Learning


Pete Zivkov

Freshmen socialize at lunch wearing shirts designed by the seniors for their first day back to hybrid learning on Feb. 1, 2021. Photo courtesy of Pete Zivkov.

Tatum Herrin, Staff Writer

Making friends over Zoom can be difficult, and starting the year online has proved to be a social hurdle for new freshmen at Menlo. For many students who didn’t start school alongside familiar faces, online classes are isolating, and breakout room conversations are painfully strained. Some new freshmen have struggled not only with the dullness of taking a course without friends but also the insecurity that comes with lacking a social life. However, in-person classes during hybrid learning have permitted new friendships to blossom.

Freshman Nikhil Chopra started Menlo only knowing two other students, acquaintances from his middle school with whom he shared no classes. As a result, he didn’t have anyone to request as a partner or to text with during lectures. Quickly, school days grew lonely.

“It’s really stressful, scrambling to make friends,” Chopra said. His hope to find companionship turned into a source of anxiety for him during his first few weeks of high school.

Freshman Arthi Abyhanker shared a similar experience, entering the school without knowing many other students. Similar to Chopra, school days dragged on with little to no excitement or companionship, according to Abhyanker. 

However, things quickly began to look up for the two students once they started in-person school. Though their first days on campus were nerve-racking, they ended up satisfied with their new friendships. 

“It was definitely scary because it’s like everything that you’re like doing online is building up for this moment,” Abyhanker said. 

Chopra agreed, though his excitement for new beginnings eclipsed his fear. “I was really excited because I just wanted to meet a lot of the people who I had kind of talked to in online school, and [I was excited to] make friends I didn’t have classes with,” he said.

Once Chopra and Abhyanker stepped foot on campus, their impressions of the Menlo experience dramatically shifted. While Abhyanker was used to spending passing periods snacking and watching TV, she was now chatting with other students and laughing on the quad.

“In-person [classes] totally lived up to my expectations, if not beat them,” Chopra said. “I’ve made friends who I didn’t even know were in my grade just a week ago.” Both students were elated to finally have some typical social interaction after so much time spent alone at their desks at home.

Still, the start of hybrid learning was not completely flawless. First days are always stress-inducing, especially for more introverted students, according to . “I think it would be cool if there were more ice breakers for the students just to help things go more smoothly,” Abyhanker said. “If the school could try to make it easier for us to get to know each other, that would be great.”