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How to cope when you’re the new girl at school

The start of the school year always brings new things. New shoes, maybe a school bag, and definitely loads of stationery. But it can also bring a new school – and if you’re joining at any point other than the very start, then you’re the ‘new girl.’

Once upon a time, I was the new girl. I joined my school late after returning from living in Australia. I had a funny accent, weird clothes, and no idea which classroom I was meant to be in. Everyone else, meanwhile, knew everything – each other, how to find the lunch hall, and a lot more French.

As my accent and I learned, it’s not easy being the new girl. I did a particularly bad job of it – especially when a game of ‘piggy in the middle’ with my notebook led to it flying out the window and landing in a puddle right by the headmistress’s window. I was promptly taken to see her and told that my lack of respect for the school was unacceptable, and if any of my belongings ended up in places they shouldn’t again then I’d be looking for another new school. Sure, because that’s fair.

Thankfully, the rest of my books stayed where they were meant to and I didn’t get into too much more trouble. Mostly. But it took me a while to find my place, and I sometimes found it tough.

I hear from other former new girls, though, that getting to know a whole new bunch of people can actually be fun. So, if you’re the new one this year, here are a few tips to help you on your way:

1. Don’t feel like you have to cling to the first person who shows interest.

When you first turn up there’s likely to be one person who’s really keen to befriend you – they might just be really lovely, they might be a bit lonely, or they might think you look like someone they’d like to be friends with. And that’s great. But don’t feel like you have to cling onto them and not get to know the rest of your new classmates. It’s worth taking the time to find the people who will be your new BFFs for reasons other than they got there first.

2. Sometimes first impressions can be wrong.

When you’re in a new class there are lots of people to get to know all at once, so it’s easy to stick with first impressions. But it’s not always wise – some people might be having a bad day, or aren’t sure what to ask you, or are a bit shy. Give them a chance, and get to know them a bit. And don’t worry too much about what impression you make. I’ve been told that the first thing most people thought about me was the I had a really weird fringe, but thankfully they moved past my odd hair and got to know me. And then told me my fringe looked stupid.

3. Be ready to answer the same questions a lot.

Where have you come from? Why have you moved? Is there some dark secret about why you’ve turned up late? It can’t be as simple as your family just moving house, or this seeming like a better school for you. Nope, you must have done something so appalling at your old school that you’ve had to change schools. And maybe your name.

Obviously it’s tempting to make a story up (both my parents are SPIES!), but keeping up with your own lies gets tiring. Just stick with the truth instead.

4. Got a talent? Use it.

One of the easiest ways to make friends is through clubs and teams. Or so I hear – I’ve always been so appallingly terrible at sport that the chances of my making it onto a team were slim-to-none. I did try to play tennis one lunch, but swiftly got banished from the courts when it became apparent that I couldn’t even hit the ball. My sister-in-law, meanwhile, has been blessed with the gift of coordination, and after changing schools at 14 found some of her best friends in the hockey and netball teams. So if the thought of someone hitting or throwing a ball at you doesn’t make you want to hide or cry, then go try out.

5. Be yourself.

It can be tempting to try and act like someone else if you think that’ll get people to like you, but it’s just not worth it. Keeping up that pretence is exhausting. I’m speaking from experience here – it was only when I stopped pretending to like boybands, dyed my hair black and wore of a lot of angry band t-shirts that I became friends with the girls I still love to this day (they invited me to join their band, because I had the right look. Never mind that I couldn’t really play guitar.)

There are bound to be people there who’ll like you for you. After all, if people liked me when I was a strange goth with a weird fringe, there really is a place for everyone.


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Image: Hailey Hamilton

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