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Blue Keys Help New Students Adjust to PA

Most Phillips Academy students cannot forget the first day driving to campus with their bags and parents in tow, only to find hordes of screaming Blue Keys waving signs reading “Honk If You Love Andover,” dancing and blaring pop music from their post on the corner of Salem and Main Streets. Students respond to the impassioned goading in one of several ways. Some pass by with astonished expressions, while others wave along eagerly with their parents. Still others shrink into the backseat while their parents pound the horn. “I’m dead.” Calista Small ’10, a new Upper in Paul Revere Hall, explained. She said that meeting the many members of the Phillips Academy community requires a lot of energy. She admits that even though the Blue Keys have been helpful in showing her the ropes she still finds the campus size a bit intimidating. “I just want to go to my classes now,” she said. Serena Gelb ’10 described her orientation experience as “intense.” For her, one of the most helpful parts of orientation was seeing the classrooms and getting a better feel for the campus layout. “I came to Summer Session at PA,” she said, “but I’m still directionally impaired.” Gelb said the biggest adjustment so far has been getting used to being without her seven dogs. “It’s kind of weird not having them here,” she said. Sometimes, the transition to a new school seems to be tougher on parents than on their children. “My mom calls all the time,” Elizabeth Paul ’12 said. Paul, who arrived early for varsity field hockey tryouts added, “I was really nervous at first, but now I feel like I’ve been here awhile.” Postgraduate Ruaridh Hamilton, ’09 said he was surprised by the friendliness of members of the PA community and the willingness of people to meet new students. “Everyone is really nice, a little too nice,” he said. In some cases, new students were not quite so new. Lavonne Carpenter, mother of Shelby Carpenter ’12, and Cassidy Carpenter ’08, said that dropping off her second child for orientation to PA felt different from the first time she left her Topeka, Kansas home for the town of Andover, Massachusetts. “We’re more comfortable with the school now, we know coaches, faculty, and house counselors, know what to expect.” Carpenter said. “And since we’ve seen that [PA] is such a positive experience we come in self-assured as parents. It’s the known versus the unknown.” As new students eagerly awaited meeting faculty and fellow students, Abbot Blue Key Head Nadine Khan ’09 enjoyed a different kind of anticipation. “It’s so different being in the leadership position and really feeling the class spirit,” Khan said. “Your time has come; there’s nothing like it.” Pine Knoll Blue Key Brianna McCarthy ’09 also enjoyed reminiscing while fulfilling her Blue Key duties. “The best part is seeing the kids in the back seat of the car when they first drive up and their parents are really excited and honking while they just try to hide. It takes you back,” McCarthy said. “This year’s new student orientation was the best run program since I’ve been here,” Cindy Efinger, Director of Student Activities said. She said that the Blue Key Heads and Blue Keys were “amazing,” and added that the programs ran “like clockwork.” According to Efinger, new student orientation has not changed in the last five years, after it was cut from two days to one because the new students were so exhausted after participating. Students continue to attend Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD), community service, language, and technology orientations, a campus walk, Search & Rescue teambuilding ropes course activities, and the Thinkfast game, which Efinger identified as a popular highlight of orientation. Even though the program does not change from year to year, each year brings new surprises and new stories. This Saturday, as Blue Keys greeted new students, an unknown woman flashed them from her car. Mark Adamsson, ’11, a new Lower from Stockholm, Sweden, attended the International Student Orientation. He said the program involved “lots of name games, lots of new faces, and lots of fun.” Adamsson remembers playing one name game in which one of the new students had a name that was difficult for the other students to pronounce. The student fell asleep during the course of the game, later to be woken up abruptly when one of the someone finally called that student’s name. Adrian Stone ’12, a Junior in Rockwell, said that his hall has been “tight” after he and his dormmates bonded while playing with a freestanding mini-hoop on Saturday. Stone thought that orientation was easily laid out, simple, and altogether relaxing, and he found the Blue Keys very approachable. Aside from nearly missing dormitory sign-in, Stone said that his transition to Andover has gone smoothly. “I want to keep meeting more and more kids and I’d like to get to know most all of the class if that is physically possible,” he said. “I’m souped to start the whole Andover cycle and get into my rhythm, know the teachers, and enjoy life.” Stone mentioned that it seems as though with all of the activities of orientation, students do not have time to think about home or feel homesick. “I haven’t even called home yet,” he said, “I should probably do that.”