Starting fresh

Transfer students’ experiences switching schools
Senior Grace Fan performs her choir piece at her old school, Beijing 101 High School. She looks forward to joining choir at Bellaire as a way to continue her passion.
Senior Grace Fan performs her choir piece at her old school, Beijing 101 High School. She looks forward to joining choir at Bellaire as a way to continue her passion.
Provided by Grace Fan

She attended school on a 50-acre-campus complete with a lakeside view and 90 lunch dishes served daily. Senior Grace Fan was surprised when arriving at her new school of just nine acres. 

Junior Essam Zaman immediately fit into his new environment, picking up right where he left off his sophomore year, just at a new campus. 

Transfer students Grace Fan, Maurya Manjunath, Essam Zaman and Sophia Pulido switched to Bellaire at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year. Some came because of their parents’ jobs, while others switched for the wide range of organizations and sports Bellaire offers.

Senior Grace Fan transferred from Beijing 101 High School to Bellaire this year. She wants to experience the diverse community. (Hanh Nguyen)
Grace Fan, 12

She attended Beijing 101 High School for the past three years. She saw alpacas feeding on grass and deer chasing each other behind barns. She walked past rows of flowers and trees on her way to classes from her dormitory.

Now senior Grace Fan takes short walks under the blazing Texas sun getting to Bellaire from her house. 

With barely a month since she moved to Houston from Beijing, Fan faced her first challenge at the start of the school year. She couldn’t find the notification email regarding her enrollment status and she missed her first day of school. 

“I was a bit lost and confused since I never got any notification emails, but I got a temporary schedule for the day so it was fine,” Fan said. 

To Fan, Bellaire’s diverse community drew her to the school, influencing her decision in selecting which school to spend her senior year. 

“I visited Tompkins High School and Seven Lakes High School in the beginning but their environments were too competitive and strict for me,” Fan said. “But when I came to Bellaire, the registrar in the office was very nice and the environment was really diverse.” 

While Fan had some problems transferring credits from her previous school, she said choosing courses for her new schedule was an exciting experience. 

“There are many choices here and you have more freedom to choose what you want and explore yourself and your interests. Even with STEM courses, there are more activities and labs, which make them more interesting and inspiring,” Fan said. 

In addition to getting used to her classes, Fan said she looks forward to getting involved with the Bellaire community through clubs. 

“I need more time to learn English, especially with courses I should be good at like math, I still need to learn the terminology,” Fan said. “But I heard that there’s a Chinese club, Japanese club and choir club which sound really interesting, so I think I’m going to check them out. I also really want to be in the student council if it’s not too late” 

Fan advises new transfer students to be open-minded to changes and embrace them with positivity. 

“Speaking from the perspective of international students, there might be cultural conflicts, and there will be many things that you need to get used to in your new environment,” Fan said. “But you should always try to find the similarities between them and embrace the differences with an open heart.” 

Senior Maurya Manjunath plays the electric guitar for the Jazz Band. Manjunath’s previous school, Ardee, didn’t have a jazz band. He is one of eight members of Bellaire’s. (Smruthi Garlapati)
Maurya Manjunath, 12

Two months have passed since senior Maurya Manjunath moved to Houston. If it was up to him though, he’d be spending his senior year in New Delhi, India at The Ardee School

“I came to Houston for my dad’s job. I didn’t have a choice,” Manjunath said. “If I did, I would have stayed [at my old school], but there are some advantages to coming here as well.” 

For Manjunath, who had always planned to attend college in the United States, the biggest advantage to moving was better access to colleges. 

“UT Austin is a really good school, and getting into UT Austin from a Texas high school is much easier than as an international student,” Manjunath said.

At Ardee, Manjunath followed the British-based curriculum International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). While his previous school focused on studying for a major end-of-year final, Manjunath said Bellaire includes more projects and assignments throughout the year, leading to a greater workload. 

In addition, taking in the size of Bellaire was “a lot” at first for Manjunath, who moved from a school with around 500 students in grades K-12 to Bellaire with over 500 students in just one grade. 

“With 3,000 kids, it’s hard to find someone you don’t vibe with,” Manjunath said. “It has not been too hard to find friends for me, and there’s a lot of people to talk to.”

Along with his favorite classes, AP English Literature, AP Calculus BC and AP Physics C, Manjunath must also fulfill state requirements with classes such as physical education, health and government. 

“Most kids have already [earned those credits] in ninth and 10th grade, [but] I have to do it right now,” Manjunath said. “It’s tedious.”

Although Manjunath said his first week was tough, by his third week, he was “feeling pretty good.”

“Be ready to move around classes, to chase your counselor down and get them to do what you need,” Manjunath said. “Things should smooth out in one or two weeks, and then you should be a bit more relaxed.”

Esaam Zaman, 11
Esaam Zaman gets first place in his track competition as a sophomore at Carnegie Vanguard. Zaman hopes his transfer to Bellaire will give him more time to participate in track and field and cross country. (Provided by Esaam Zaman)

The anticipation caused sweat to gather in his palms as he repeatedly checked his email for a message from Bellaire administration. Two months ago he applied to transfer to Bellaire, and he just got his acceptance email.

Junior Esaam Zaman transferred from Carnegie Vanguard High School. Zaman transferred this year for a less substantial workload, more sleep, higher grades and to participate in track and field.

“I feel like I was doing a lot of nothing [at Carnegie],” Zaman said. “It was a huge workload, and I wasn’t sleeping much.”

Starting at a new school didn’t scare Zaman. Instead, he was excited to meet new people and find new opportunities. He already had a few friends before his first day from middle school, so he was met with some familiar faces.  

Zaman decided against transferring after freshman year because all was going smoothly. But when he began to struggle in sophomore year he decided to make the switch to Bellaire.

”I feel like I could have been doing better somewhere else with a better environment, and I also wasn’t enjoying Carnegie, “ Zaman said.

Despite facing some setbacks, Zaman said he has an overall positive feeling toward Bellaire. 

“Certain organizations like yearbook only recruit past Bellaire students, so I missed out on the opportunity to be part of that, ” Zaman said.  

Zaman said his favorite place on campus is the weight room because Carnegie doesn’t have one. He utilizes the weight room for training and improvement in track and field.

Zaman advises students who have doubts about their high school to transfer as soon as possible. 

“Make sure that you do better at your new school than at your old school,” Zaman said. “If you do the same as you did at your previous school there’s no point in transferring.”

Sophia Pulido, 10
Sophomore transfer Sophia Pulido with friends at Sharpstown High School where she spent her freshman year. (Provided by Sophia Pulido)

Just three miles from each other, but completely different. After a year of waiting, the school three miles away would be hers. 

Sophomore Sophia Pulido spent her freshman year at Sharpstown International High School, but transferred her sophomore year to Bellaire after getting accepted through the International Baccalaureate program. Pulido said she wanted to attend Bellaire since middle school, but missed the lottery.  

For Pulido, Sharpstown was a positive, social and emotional experience. Pulido called Sharpstown “a stress reliever.” At Sharpstown, she focused on friendships, easing into high school and took a break from homework. Compared to her middle school, Pulido had a two-hour decrease in homework load. As an IB school, Sharpstown offers pre-IB courses but no AP classes. In contrast, Pulido said Bellaire has a greater workload.

“The second I started [at Bellaire], procrastination disappeared,” Pulido said.

Another difference for Pulido was the larger student-to-faculty ratio at Bellaire. 

“It was easier to have a one-on-one with a teacher [at Sharpstown],” Pulido said. The teacher to student ratio at Sharpstown allowed teachers to build an individual relationship with their students. 

With a majority 79.7% Hispanic population at Sharpstown, Pulido said Bellaire contains greater student diversity. Bellaire’s student population has more balance, with a 40% hispanic population and 20% white and black populations

“Diversity plays the biggest role in the difference between schools,”  Pulido said. 

Pulido shared similar experiences for her first days of school both at Sharpstown and Bellaire. 

“I didn’t know anyone and I just walked in completely new,” Pulido said, describing her experience at Sharpstown. 

Pulido remembers getting lost due to the sheer size of the building and experienced difficulty making friends.

“If I was a freshman here it would have been easier to make friends because everybody’s new,” Pulido said. 

As a sophomore transfer, Pulido said most people already have their friends and have formed groups that are difficult to join without a mutual friend. 

“I’ve met a lot of new people, but becoming friends with them, that’s different,” Pulido said. 

Pulido said adapting to Bellaire’s workload and environment is easier as a freshman versus as a transfer student. 

“The transition from Sharpstown was a big difference,” Pulido said. “[But] don’t be scared of how big the school is. Eventually you’ll make friends.”

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