Transferring to BHS in 2020: experiences of an Iowan new kid


Photo: Jackson Haugh

Jackson Haugh

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and at the start of my senior year, I transferred to BHS from Roosevelt High School in Des Moines Iowa, a school halfway across the country. 

Extended summer had come to a close and there was still no comprehensive plan for the 2020-21 school year. On top of this, while most states were recovering from the pandemic, Iowa was reaching its pinnacle and leading the nation in cases per capita. I spent a lot of time working, biking on my own, and trying to avoid the Iowans who seemed unconcerned with the pandemic and just carried on normally: no masks, no quarantine, no care.

So, I left to live with my mom in Vermont. I fast-tracked the transfer process, said goodbye to my friends and my dad, and hello to the Green Mountain State. I had a natural fear of the East Coast instilled in me from Hollywood movies like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver (1976).

My drive to Vermont was over 20-hours-long and, once I got past Ohio, quite beautiful. The mundane cornfields of the Midwest transformed into the expansive forests and imposing mountains of upstate New York and Vermont. It felt like leaving a Grant Wood painting and entering a Bob Ross one. 

Shortly after arriving in Burlington, I got some school supplies and braced myself for the year. Then, an email appeared in my inbox. In person school was canceled. 

Being the new kid at school for your senior year is tough. That challenge is underscored by the fact that I’ve never met my classmates in person. Ironically, as the doors to BHS closed, the school I used to attend decided to go forth with hybrid learning. This closed off my main avenue for meeting new people and required me to look beyond the lunch table to make new friends.

The way I’ve been able to socialize has been through cross country. I’ve gotten to know the team by running and talking with them, but I will admit, I have struggled to understand some of what they say. I’m still getting versed in the Vermont vernacular. People here talk about “grinding” Spikeball, being “tough” at ultimate, and there are about four different uses for the word “tight”. At other times I went from being confused to the confuser.  Apparently, no one here drinks “pop”(soda) or knows what the famous RAGBRAI is (a legendary bike ride).

Moving is never easy, especially during a pandemic. I’ve been in Burlington for two months now and am still coping with the feeling of isolation and being a stranger. The idiom “trouble in paradise” comes to mind when I think of my experience as a new student thus far. There are so many cool outdoorsy activities to do, and so many cool places to do them here. The Causeway and the Intervale’s awe-inspiring views are nothing like Des Moines’. At the same time, there are so many challenges I face as a new student during a pandemic. A piece of advice I would give to someone going through the same thing is to keep an open mind and seek out new experiences and not to hide from the adversity.