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Jul 17 2015
by T. Nadkarni

How I Learned from My High School's "Clumped" Environment

By T. Nadkarni - Jul 17 2015
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We all know it. Cliques are normal, natural, even. Just as the movies claim, high school students often seem to group themselves into four or five generic categories: the popular kids, the jocks, the nerds, the artists, etc. However, in my high school, I saw something different.

In some ways, my school seemed to be a real-life episode of "Orange is the New Black." No, it wasn’t a prison or an emblem of corruption. It was divided. Sure, in some ways, the athletes hung out with other athletes, the artists hung out with other artists and the smart kids hung out with other smart kids. But oftentimes, these specified interests were not our only dividing factor. In many ways, our races were.

I’m not saying my student body was not diverse. I feel so lucky to have attended such a culturally accepting school. But acceptance is not the only variable in fostering a strong kinship. In some ways, a general understanding of one another can cultivate a different kind of friendship than an acceptance of one another can. And for this reason, I would often notice just how meticulously the large cafeteria at my school was laid out.

Race.

I want to make it clear that racial differences would never prevent me or anyone else in my school from getting to know one another. But it was often a distinguishing factor amongst each table, peppered about my school’s huge cafeteria. A table filled with Asian students sat here, a few of Hispanics sat there, African Americans sat over there and Caucasians sat right here. Much like those at Lichefield prison, we were, on a smaller scale, clumped.

But, why? Why does race matter?

According to a Stanford Report, placing students on certain tracks based on academic abilities can foster racial cliques. In addition, a bigger and more diverse student population may result in self-segregation as opposed to smaller, more elite schools, which may already be segregated in the first place.

And it’s normal, healthy in fact, to make friends with those who are similar to you.

I’m not saying that every kid in my school of 3,000 plus students were clumped or restricted in such a way. Personally, being from an Indian background, many of my closest friends were Indian as well. But I also had plenty of friends from various different backgrounds who I could relate to just as well. However, when looking at the bigger picture, clumping seemed to be somewhat of a commonality.

I can’t help but wonder how this overarching elephant in the room, this subtle sense of segregation, has affected my personal outlook on cliques or the natural way we group ourselves.

I am in no way insinuating a trend. Diversity is important; it is the cornerstone of healthy communication. And I don’t think these sporadic "clumps" were intentional. But, when it comes to cliques, is it natural?

As we embark on this new chapter of our lives, I encourage all incoming freshman to break this occurrence, however natural it may be. Branch out — make an effort to understand those who seem completely different from you. Of course, perhaps it is just my town, my school, my class that was, at times, "cliqued" in such a way. Only time will tell. But I’m glad to have had the chance to observe and learn from it and I am excited to grow further during my college experience. "Clumped," no more.


Lead Image Credit: Tilted Productions and Lionsgate Television

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T. Nadkarni - New York University

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