Finding a home away from home

Beginning as just a speck on the vast horizon of a typical high school career, the concept of “adulthood” becomes tangible by the time senior graduation rolls around, when seniors are forced to confront the reality of becoming an adult.

Independence marks the beginning of a life free of nagging parents, restrictive schedules, and the overall inconveniences of being a high school student. Under this pretense, adulthood may sound like a reprieve from the last four years, but for some students, life after high school is anything but. 

“People give you more responsibility, and it feels weird,” senior Aren Nayak said. “You’ve been dumped into the real world, and it’s impossible not to miss the past.” 

High school students are highly interconnected, which is partly due to the number of extracurricular activities accessible to students. Nayak has had the opportunity to participate in the debate team for a substantial amount of time, and participating in clubs, sports, and school initiatives are what brought him and other students closer together, and when bonds are stronger, it is extremely difficult to part ways.

“It  will definitely be hard. But honestly, most of [my friends] are going to UCF so it’s not that crazy of a difference,” Nayak said. “But still, it is shocking, but it’s part of the process.”

Like many others, Nayak defines adulthood as a “first step in life” that signifies the beginning of both newfound freedoms and hindering responsibilities, the most common being taxpaying, time management, and even

cooking. These tasks are commonplace during adulthood,  yet are what students are least prepared for during their high school career. Few students move out knowing how to fill out tax forms, much less financially manage their rent or mortgage. 

“I wish that we had learned more about taxes and finances in high school before moving onto college” UCF sophomore Maya Pommet said. “I’m still struggling to learn those, yet they are an essential part of adulthood.”

Financial management comes into play long before any student moves out. Throughout their high school career, eligibility for scholarships and financial aid is highly encouraged as financial preparation becomes necessary in order for a high school graduate to move out as soon as they would like to. Recently, students who are planning to leave home and take residency on a college campus have been put under yet another stressor, with Senate Bill 86 threatening to reduce the financial aid allocated for BrightFutures funding. 

“I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship that covered housing and tuition fees,” Pommet said. “I would be lying if I said it was attainable for everyone but if you get scholarships, have a job, get parental assistance, or some combination of all three, I think it’s doable.”

The struggles, preparation, and responsibility that leaving home requires still does not outweigh Nayak’s yearning for independence. 

“I definitely want to move out soon. It appeals to me because I’m doing my own thing, and whatever happens, I’m living my life,” said Nayak. 

Nayak will probably experience similar struggles as Pommet, and he knows just what to expect upon moving out. 

Meeting new people and becoming familiar in new social environments is a struggle, often overlooked when starting adulthood. It takes time for a student to find their place in a foreign  setting, whether it be in their large college class or on the unfamiliar street in front of their new apartment.  It is especially rare to find a college campus that is as interconnected as a high school’s student body because of the surplus of students. 

“You have to go out of your way to talk to people instead of relying on teachers to group you in class,” Pommet said. “While it’s great to not have to talk to people you don’t like, it’s hard to make connections with people you do like.”

Gaining a stable, social footing becomes even more difficult in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions such as mandatory quarantine, virtual learning, and social distancing that might make it difficult for a student to make friends. 

“Living independently, I feel like loneliness will be a challenge, but I will do my best to combat it. Despite these fears, I will try to push myself to try new things and meet new people,” senior Tai Markman said. 

As concerns about the future arise, independence begins to look more like a fatal blow to their stability than a fleeting chance of freedom. The thought of leaving high school and taking off into the unknown territory of independence is slightly unsettling to both Nayak and Markman, solely because of the heartfelt memories and strong friendships that they’ve made at home.