Illustration by Michael Shum
“The freshman class.” The phrase itself triggers scenes of fresh-out-of-middle-school students obnoxiously blocking the hallway and walking with an air of superiority around them—head high, chin up.
The stereotypes associated with this class are clear, but I made it my mission to delve deeper, past the surface of generalizations to explore the larger implications of this message.
First, I interviewed Mrs. Stanhope, an HKIS humanities teacher. “We like the idea that freshmen are usually more excitable, a bit more hyper and a little louder than the upperclassmen,” she said. “They tend to do their work more and are not quite so jaded. [With them,] it’s not just the question of “is it formative?” ”
Mrs. Stanhope categorized social stereotypes of the freshmen into two sections. “One is that they don’t want to say anything for fear that it’s not going to be cool. And there’s the other side that they’ll just say anything that is on their mind, and therefore get looked down upon by upperclassmen.
“I can see a lot of upperclassmen [say “freshmen are obnoxious”] as a blanket statement,” she said. “But I don’t actually see that to be true of many because their confidence isn’t high enough. I think it’s more of a hierarchical kind of thing…where it’s like a caste system. When you are no longer the freshman, it’s just such a relief so you then want to pick on them because you were picked on.”
“[The teachers] love the freshmen. I love their energy, I love their quirkiness and their awkwardness too,” Mrs. Stanhope added.
To get the perspective of an older student, I talked to Jaeryung Park (10) on her attitude towards freshmen. The first few words that popped into her mind was “try-hard”, “overachiever” and “lazy,” a set of contradictory terms that showcases the diverse personalities of the Class of 2023.
“I think they work hard in a good way. They want to work hard for their future and experience a lot of high school activities for their future’s sake,” she explained.
When asked about the truthfulness of these stereotypes, she said, “Stereotypes are difficult to overlook, but they’re oversimplified. People should view freshmen individually and respect their unique characteristics and personalities.
The freshmen themselves had a few different perspectives on how they are viewed. Adele Rai (9) said, “People will call us “freshies” and whenever a freshman doesn’t know something, it’s like,”oh, freshmen”. We’re kind of like the new people who don’t know much about highschool and are pretty dumb in general. Most freshmen don’t care [about these stereotypes]. Freshmen, in general, have a bad reputation but I think that happens to everybody.”
Kevin Chen (9) provided an additional unexpected reason for the perception of awkward male freshmen. “We can’t get girls because we’re young,” he said. “I guess it makes freshmen more nervous and less wanting to hit on older girls.”
It’s clear that no stereotype about freshmen will ever be unique to any one class, no matter what generation. Every freshman class embodies different characteristics and various quirks, bringing out the best in the community and in ourselves.