Home is wherever I’m with you

Noa Schwartz

I got home from my first day at Harvard-Westlake and immediately rushed to my room to document the moment with Photo Booth selfies. Clearly, I was, and still am, an absolute dork. In that moment, my confidence was through the roof.

An hour later, though, I was sobbing. To clarify, absolutely nothing bad happened to me that day. The tears came after I remembered my experience buying lunch in the cafeteria. I tried and failed to create something resembling the lunches my mom lovingly packed me for all of elementary school. Bottom line: I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the cafeteria, overwhelmed by my classes, overwhelmed by the older kids and overwhelmed by the thought of my fleeting youth (sadly, not a joke).

I went to bed that night not knowing how I would ever come to find my place in such a strange environment. Luckily for me, that fear has been progressively eradicated every day since.

I will gladly tell anyone who asks how much I love HW. Coming here every day has opened my world on an extreme scale, in ways both obvious and subtle. I chose to attend HW with the understanding that I’d be an average-sized fish in a gigantic pond. My cheesy metaphor has proven to be true–I am surrounded by extraordinary people.

HW is often thought of as a cold, competitive place with little sense of community. I most definitely have not loved every second of my time here, but in my case, this reputation could not be further from the truth. The people I’ve met and connected with here comprise the best community I could have ever asked for. Every student has a passion, which is inspiring beyond belief. Contrary to popular opinion, your classmates genuinely want to see you succeed. As I often say to each concerned parent that approaches me, everyone individually is doing something really hard, but we’re all going through it together and boosting each other up in the process.

For most people, high school serves as the jumping off point for figuring out who they are and who they want to be. I’m no different. However, not many people can say that they found “their people” in high school–people who understand and care about them on a fundamental level. I can. I probably sound incredibly naive, and I’m sure I’ll meet friends who change my life just as much in the future. But for now, the best friends I made here are my favorite people in the world. I could not feel any luckier to have grown up surrounded by people who are so intelligent, driven, hilarious and caring.

Reflecting on the fact that HW was initially the place I felt least comfortable is beyond bizarre. As I’m getting ready to graduate, I can say with confidence that there is no place I feel more comfortable or supported. I’ve challenged myself, I’ve grown as a person and I’m extremely proud. While I’m definitely ready to leave, I wouldn’t change anything about my experience here for the world.