Andover, I Love You

There are a couple of things that the Phillips Academy information session will not provide you with. One of them? How to survive the first couple weeks of school, especially a New England prep school thousands of miles from home where the closest thing to Mom is a familiar face blurred by a bad Skype connection. Being new is difficult for everyone, but especially new uppers. Juniors get off easy, since every other 14 yearold around them is also new and anxious. I can tell by the way they skirt around me on the path like I am a crack in the cement that they were always told to jump over. The new Lowers join a class yet to be molded. New Uppers are a rare breed: a jumble of twenty something students who plucked ourselves out of our comfortable lives at home to enter a different world. After a couple of weeks here at Andover, I can officially say that my new world has begun to take shape, but the process was, and still is and will be, nothing short of strenuous. I am reminded of this by an odd and scary feeling. When despite the rush of people all around you and the few friends that you’ve already made, you still feel completely and utterly alone. Prior to my arrival, I read the graduation speech delivered by Malin Adams ‘09, and I vividly remember his description of his first few weeks at Phillips, where he found himself wandering about the campus pretending that he had something to do. I understand his sentiments. I wanted to assimilate into the Phillips community as quickly and as easily as possible. I hoped to wake up to a day where everyone remembers who I am, where I come from and why I would travel across the country to join them. Andover is this beautiful and amazing place, one full of opportunity and greatness, one with chandeliers in the cafeteria, a clock that glows blue in the night and buildings with soft pink walls and black and white marble flooring. However, when you’re new, it is also a place with a one-way window, where you can see everyone, but no one can see you. We must do all we can to show Andover who we are. While standing in line for an omelet, I met a former new Upper. Several minutes into our conversation, she asked me what I was here for. All new Uppers ask each other the same thing, “Why did we decide to come to Andover? Why this year?” Each one of us has our own special interests and pursuits, but at the core, behind this curtain of individuality, we were all the best. We depleted the resources our schools had to offer us. Our wells had gone dry. We found this place where we feel we belong. We discovered the chance to receive an extraordinary education in classes taught by an erudite faculty who are masters in what they do. We encountered a place to hand us the tools for our journey to achieve our dreams. It took me approximately ten days to realize that the best part of this place is the splendid fact that everything is here for us and more. I can strive to improve in poetry, in creative writing, in helping the world one step at a time. I can also direct a play or perhaps make a movie. What isn’t here, I can help to create. I can also come to call this place my second home. I can find a new family in the girls I live with day and night. I can find friends from all walks of life. Age or grade is irrelevant. I can greet a teacher who gifts us with a knowledge that others outside the Andover community could only dream about. I know it will take several weeks to feel comfortable and confident here at Phillips. It takes a few instances of frantically looking around the dining hall to find someone to eat with, multiple schedule changes and many club sign-up sheets with one’s name scribbled on them. It takes time to fully answer your own question of why you came here. But I think the day of true acceptance will come soon. Every day Andover becomes a little less scary, a little less unfamiliar. Every morning I greet a day where I become a little more familiar with Andover, and Andover becomes more familiar with me. I will never forget the moment when I passed a tour group on my way out of GW. I will never forget the way the group looked at me, or how each pair of eyes gave away his or her thoughts. She goes to Andover. Their reaction also gave me a twinge of reassurance. I too took a tour of the school once upon a time, staring at not only buildings but also students, teenagers that seemed to have it all. Now I walk the paths on campus, take my seat in centuriesold classrooms and mingle with some truly great people. I read and analyze World War I memoirs and British war poetry by day as well as snuggle up and watch horror movies with seven or eight girls by night. I am finally here. I go to Andover. It was the best decision I ever made. Cammy Brandfield-Harvey is a new Upper from Houston TX.