Changing My Definitions of Friendship

I returned to the Lawrenceville campus after my IV Form year abroad during House Banquets in June 2019.

I returned to the Lawrenceville campus after my IV Form year abroad during House Banquets in June 2019. After being away from the School studying in Spain for nine months, I was excited to reunite with my housemates, but I also felt slightly overwhelmed with all of the new faces of III Formers I had not met and lived with. Although I still wanted to be part of the House, I was unsure of how I would fit back in with the girls, both new and old, after being away for so long. I wondered if I would be viewed as an outsider. Yet the minute I stepped back onto campus, Ms. Hall, the McClellan Housemaster, wasted no time making me feel comfortable, introducing me to the House as a “guest more special than Beyoncé,” and encouraging the III Form girls to get to know me. As nervous as I was by the prospect of “restarting” Lawrenceville, this warm welcome set the tone for the upcoming school year and showed me that McClellan would always be home, regardless of where I was or how old I was.

My best friend Cate Levy ’20 was a prefect in McClellan this year; thus, I would often migrate to McClellan during the evenings to finish my work or study with her. As a result, I ended up spending more hours in McClellan than any other building on campus, giving me the opportunity to get to know underclassmen whom I would never have encountered in my classes or extracurriculars. An escape from the V Form year college admissions mania, my underclassmen McSisters provided countless fun memories, ones that I may have skipped out on during my time abroad. Occasions such as witnessing a Friday night improvised ear piercing session done with a safety pin and ice cube, sitting down to watch the presidential primaries, peer editing, sharing takeout food, or even taking study breaks to play each other on Club Penguin made me feel as if I was part of McClellan again, even if I did not physically live in the House. I tried my best to help with homework or be a listening ear for the craziness of III and IV Form years, and as I did so, I truly felt like a member of the McClellan community.

In February, the whole House was abuzz, getting ready for the annual McLovin dance. Between the glitter, the purple and gold bead necklaces, and the temporary tattoos, I witnessed how lucky I was to be a part of this amazing community of girls. I thought the House experience was something I had left behind as a sacrifice for doing a year abroad, but there I was, enjoying McClellan’s magic mix of artists, track stars, club leaders, and overall compassionate and talented girls. Life had been a series of unpredictable changes since I first entered the McClellan House in the fall of 2017, but one thing had remained constant: The friendships formed in the House were a source of joy and discovery. The beauty of Lawrenceville’s House system is its ability to foster phenomenal support systems across all grade levels. Given that we collectively have such a wide variety of talent, perspectives, and experiences, we each have so much to give to one other. This constant exchange of strengths is what makes our House bonds so unbreakable.

The fact that I was able to find a new place in the House after being gone for a year is a testament to the way the House system grows with you at the School. Even as new girls flow in and out of the Houses and students cycle through Lawrenceville over the years, the strength of the community remains constant. My experience in McClellan redefined friendship for me, teaching me what to look for in friendships and showing me how to be a more kind, considerate, and caring friend. McClellan showed me the best in people—I came back from Spain with low expectations, but throughout the year, I was treated with kindness and made to feel like a valued part of the community. Despite being physically apart due to the pandemic, I know these friendships will last beyond graduation because of how the House system brought us together.

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