Saturday, April 21, 2018

Moving beyond awkward start

Lunchtime can be the worst when you're the new kid at a new school. No one to sit with, no one to talk to.

But for Samhaoir (pronounced "Summer") Ruland, lunch was nothing, compared with another new-student trial during her first week at Palm Harbor University High, where she transferred after a year studying abroad.

Sleepy from waking up late one day, she headed for the ladies' room. She dropped her backpack, looked for the stalls and faced a wall of urinals.

"No one saw that. Just walk out like nothing happened," Ruland said she thought to herself.

She walked out and headed for the women's restroom, just as multiple people strolled past her.

"My face was bright red," she said. "I was keeping my head down from embarrassment.

"Heard about the new girl?" Ruland heard junior Abby Miller ask Emily Hartranft, also a junior, during third period.

Hartranft silently pointed at Ruland, who was doing work at her desk. A not-so-comfortable start to making friends, Ruland said, but nonetheless, she finally had someone to talk to in school.

Ruland, who was born in Miami Beach and six months later moved to Malta, an island off the coast of Italy, is no stranger to starting new schools.

After some time in Malta, she moved back to the United States to be with her grandparents, then returned to Malta to be with her mom. Before studying abroad in several countries with THINK Global School, she came to Tampa, where she attended Berkeley Prep and aspired to be an Olympic gymnast, then transferred to Alonso High so she could focus more on gymnastics. Next was homeschooling, to allow even more time for practice, until a bad ankle break. The quest to see the world replaced gymnastics.

Once she returned from THINK Global School, which was an International Baccalaureate program, Ruland enrolled at Palm Harbor as an IB junior, just like her cousin, Marisa Ruland. Because the usual cutoff for IB is second semester sophomore year, everyone was surprised to see a new face in the halls.

"I was so afraid of being the awkward new kid that no one liked," said Ruland, who describes herself as "incredibly clumsy and awkward."

But things are so much better now, Ruland said. She has been making more friends every day.

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