Four New Andover Students Offer Their Perspectives On Adjusting to The Phillips Academy Experience

This year, The Phillipian will be following four new students, Alec Weiss ‘11, Sara Bakrow ‘10, Rebekah Wickens ‘09 and Stephane Philippon ’08, as they experience their first year at Phillips Academy. Although students are officially initiated into the Andover community through orientation and the matriculation session, adjustment to the new environment spans more those first few days of school. This year, Andover welcomed 350 new students into its midst, as 74 percent of admitted students matriculated. Alec Weiss, from Andover, MA, initially had some reservations about coming to Andover. “My family was interested in me looking [at Phillips Academy]. This was my first choice but not my only choice,” he said. Weiss ultimately decided that Andover was the best option for him, and he looks forward to the change from his previous school. “I expect Andover to have more cultured and mature kids, and I expect classes to be more stimulating,” he said. Sara Bakrow, a new Lower from Greenwich, Connecticut, did apply to other boarding schools, but she knew that PA was right for her after her first visit. “The first time I went to Andover was my interview. I spent the night at the Andover Inn and I remember big fluffy snow. The lights from the dorms were shining on the new snow. I thought it was absolutely gorgeous,” she said. Bakrow also admired the prestige and accomplishments of notable alumni. “So many people have gone places from Andover,” said Bakrow. Rebekah Wickens, a native of Montreal, Canada, saw Andover as more of a refuge. A transfer student from Northfield Mount Hermon School, she found some recent dramatic changes within faculty and the current upkeep of facilities disconcerting at NMH. Wickens, who had visited Andover when applying to schools as an eighth grader, had felt that the attitude among students at NMH was not as academically driven as she would have liked. “When applying to NMH, I thought Andover would be too stressful. After NMH, I saw the other side of the spectrum and it did not fulfill my desires,” she said. Stephane Philippon is a post-graduate student from just outside of Nice, France. He applied to Andover after being nominated by his English teacher for the Kemper Scholarship, which allows European students to study at Andover for a year. Philippon, a Kemper Scholar, said, “It’s a really big opportunity that doesn’t arrive all the time.” Philippon participated in an exchange program last year in America and knew that he wanted to spend this year at Andover. “It doesn’t bother me to leave home for a while. I like to see other people and places,” he said. Philippon, however, acknowledged missing French food, a stark contrast to Commons fare. All of the students thought that the orientation was helpful, but are having some difficulties with adjustment. Philippon has struggled with speaking English exclusively and having to take classes with varying vocabularies in English. “It is difficult especially during some courses. Students speak so fast and with accents,” he said. For Weiss, adapting to the Andover community as a day student has been an effort. He said that orientation was definitely geared toward boarding students. Wickens has bonded with other new Uppers but has had trouble getting to know the returning Uppers. She said, “I mostly hang out with new Uppers. I haven’t met the real leaders of the ’09 class. I’m hoping we will have an opportunity to meet together.” Bakrow has no complaints about adjustment and sees her dorm, Adams, as the hub of her integration with the school. “I love dorm life. I love the fact that there are 36 girls crammed into a building. You can just walk into a room and ask someone for help,” she said. She added, “I miss having food at hand to snack on and my parents, but I have absolutely no regrets about coming.” The new students are already taking part in the many additional opportunities that they now have at Andover. Bakrow said that she signed up for over forty clubs at last Sunday’s club rally. Philippon was not able to take Chinese and piano when he was in France, but is now pursuing both. Weiss is on the JV3 soccer team and hopes to get involved in some student publications. Wickens is already a member of Chorus and Fidelio and plans to audition for Azure.