The first step I took onto campus after months of online schooling set my heart racing. We were already a few months into the school year, but I didn’t know a single person. I was studying at Milton Academy, a private boarding school in Boston, eight thousand miles away from my home in Hong Kong, and for the first time ever I was heading into Norris House, a place I would call home for the next four years. Creaking up the wooden staircase, I felt beads of sweat form on my forehead and my pulse pump in my wrists. Older students passed, greeting me with a quick “Hey, how are you!”; I responded with an almost inaudible “excited to be here.” As the number of my dorm room got closer and closer, my legs shook enough that I couldn’t stand properly.
When I opened my door for the first time, I saw my new roommate sitting on his bed, seemingly without a care in the world. He smelled like fresh-cut grass and a terrible cologne. With a wide smile, he jumped up to help me with my luggage. He said his name was Melvin. Tall and quite muscular, he told me he came from India.
After I finished unpacking, he brought me to meet the other freshmen on our floor. I was tall too, for a freshman that is, so seeing other kids tower over me was intimidating. We sat in a loose circle, but still feeling uncertain, I kept my chair a couple of feet back from the others at first. We went around the circle, saying our names and where we were from. There was Sam from Jersey, with long red hair; he became one of my best friends later on. Next, a kid named Jonah introduced himself. He was a D1 prospect in hockey from the West Coast. Melvin introduced me to Charlie, a six-foot beast with short curly hair. Charlie had grown up in Newport, Rhode Island, and his family was very well-off. He wore neatly creased burgundy chinos and boat shoes as if he’d just stepped off the family yacht. A kid from Dubai called Navid introduced himself to me. Navid had well-styled hair and occasionally lived in America. Last came Liam. Liam had long hair and turned out to be an amazing gamer, almost a professional. He was a relatively quiet kid but everyone loved him.
With the introductions finished, the group grew quiet and just sitting there started to feel kind of awkward. Melvin suggested we step out on the quad to do something, and there were nods and grunts of agreement. The quad is a huge patch of grass in the center of Milton. Faculty members take their dogs on walks there and squirrels and birds call it home; the quad is always full of life. As we stepped outside our dorm together, the quad seemed almost like a secret forest, with huge trees and the red-brick dormitories surrounding like symmetrical castles. Although I was new, I could already tell that the quad was someplace special for Milton. I was excited too, at the prospect of playing sports that is, since it would be a great way to bond. However, when I stepped onto the grass prepared to do just about any activity, someone shouted “heads up!” and I saw a football flying my way.