When Freshmen and Seniors Are Friends…

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Cameron Cozzi  For current sophomore Bianca Voss, being the only freshman on her Project Week trip to Peru last year was daunting and left her nervously anticipating the trip. This nervousness dissipated shortly into their trek through the Amazon, Bianca recalls, when a senior on her trip fell into the river while trying to swing across it on a rope. This incident immediately became an ongoing joke for those on the trip and allowed Bianca to bond with others, including this senior, over the humorous moment that they had all witnessed.    As we all know, Project Week is quickly approaching, and within a matter of weeks, we will all be exploring various parts of Chicago, the United States, or even the world. It is safe to say that the majority of us are eagerly anticipating the commencement of this important Latin tradition. For freshmen, however, this excitement is often paired with a sense of nervousness for what is to come, especially given that this may be the first time that many of them have traveled out of Chicago or the United States without their parents. And, by the time Project Week rolls around, many freshmen may still be trying to get the hang of high school. The seniors, on the other hand, are well into their last semester of high school when they leave for Project Week, meaning that they are in a very different place in their lives than the freshmen. And, given that each senior has completed projects for the past three years, most of them generally know what to expect from the trips. Considering the contrast between the points in life where the freshmen and seniors are at, many wonder where the common ground is. And, with the amount of time that group members on Project Week trips spend together, from sitting next to each other on long flights to eating together for every meal, some may wonder: how well are the seniors and freshmen really able to get along on these trips? For all out-of-town projects, the trip starts with hours of travel, giving the group time to acquaint themselves with each other. For Bianca Voss, this travel time allowed her to bond with her group members. Bianca said, “Being the only freshman on my trip, I was super intimidated and nervous. Within the first day of long travel getting to Peru, I ended up becoming really close with the seniors on my trip. We still talk to this day and have become really good friends.” Current sophomore Ioannis Paranikas agreed with Bianca, explaining that the three-year age gap between himself and the seniors on his trip to Guanajuato last year “wasn’t bad at all” and definitely did not prevent them from becoming friends. For Ioannis, however, this bond was not formed during the hours of travel to Mexico, but rather was formed due to their housing accommodations during the trip. Ioannis explained how he was able to connect with the older members of his trip when he said, “All the boys lived in a house together so for two weeks we were together 24/7. In the beginning it was a little awkward, but after a day or two we all got along. I still talk to them.” For both Bianca and Ioannis, traveling  abroad for their projects helped them bond with the seniors, despite that they were only freshmen at the time. And both explained that these bonds still exist, both over text and in-person when the now-freshmen in college are home, even though the trips took place a year ago. Ms. Bunger, an experienced Project Week leader, credits the ability for students who are at such different places in their lives to become friends to the fact that the seniors are often looked up to and, in turn, want to “take the freshmen under their wings and really look out for them.” For current sophomore Henry Markarian, this proved to be true on his trip to Paris last year. Henry explained, perhaps unexpectedly, that he found that it was easiest to bond with the seniors on his trip because they “acted as a sort of guiding figure towards [him].” Henry also explained that “the lack of constant teacher oversight probably caused us to hang out naturally.” Ms. Merrell, who led a trip to Peru last year, agreed with Markarian, but explained that it is hard for teachers to truly know how well freshmen and seniors get along during Project Week. Ms. Merrell described that the interactions between the 14-year-old freshmen and the 18-year-old seniors “seemed relatively normal,” but added that “it really depends on who the seniors are.” So, no matter what trip it may be on, it is not unreasonable to expect that the freshman and seniors will be able to coexist harmoniously for the week that they spend together. However, this relationship may be more of a mentorship led by the older student, rather than a friendship in the form that you would find it between two students of the same age. ]]>