AFH Photo // Jiayin Zhou
When I moved to the United States from Bangladesh, I was shocked to see how different the houses are here than in my country. Often times, the architecture of houses in Bangladesh represents the type of people that live in them. In Bangladesh, the houses are made of brick, rock, stone, and other similar materials. 
Homes in Bangladesh have four or five floors in just one house. Houses have a lot of space in the front and back yard. Usually, we have a lot of furniture like couches, beds, and decorative mirrors throughout the house. The kitchens are built with tin roofs and the stoves are made of sand. The stoves are underground with holes in them. They are used by putting wood and oil in the hole and lighting it on fire. Also, there are many windows in every room so the sunlight comes directly into our houses. Temperatures get really hot because the brick walls never let air come in. Fans rarely work because most of the time electricity goes away.
Before I moved to America, I thought houses here would be made by rock and brick like the houses in my country. I also thought they would be big and strong because the United States is a rich country so I thought the houses would be nicer. But when I came here I was shocked seeing the houses. The architecture, the shape of the houses, the floors and the rooms are all the complete opposite of my country. 
In the U.S. houses are mostly made of wood and are insulated. Even the stairs inside the house are made of wood. When I walk on the stairs, the wood creaks and makes so much noise. The weirdest thing to me is that most houses generally do not have more than three floors. Also, the kitchens are really modern with stoves. It is strange to me that most houses only have one kitchen. Sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like if more than 10 people lived in a house here, like in Bangladesh. 
My house in Bangladesh had three floors, 13 bedrooms and four bathrooms. I loved it because in that house, wherever you go, there is a lot of light because of the many windows. Twenty-six people in my family -- aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents -- all lived together in my house. It was fun because it was always loud. Most of the time we all went outside and had fun playing in the rain. 
So when I visited my aunt’s house in the United States for the first time I was really surprised to see the stories, rooms and even furniture. The furniture seems like it is built-in and connected to the walls, like the closets and some shelves. In my country, furniture is separated from the wall. 
I prefer my country’s houses because that is what I was born and raised in. I experienced many birthdays and holidays in that house, and it’s what I am used to. 
In my country, most of the houses are designed the same so you don’t really have to tell the architect what you want; he already knows what to build. I prefer to live in the style of Bangladesh because the things I care about, I got from my house. I was loved by family and all my cousins and even friends in that house. In our houses we experience much of our lives and our houses help to shape those lives and experiences. 
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Dear 9th grade Jada,
Can you believe you made it? Freshman year is essential in deciding whether a student drops out or stays in school. At this point, you have developed lots of integrity and grit. Why? Because, you’ve made it to high school! How do you feel? I bet you thought you were the stuff when you walked into high school, trying to act all tough because you heard people were going to try and punk you, but don't worry about them.
You probably have realized that things are different now. The work is harder, teachers are strict, and the deadlines for assignments are short. Because of this, you are often stressed about your grades. Freshmen year is not an easy game to play. You need to prepare yourself for challenges in life and learn to always have a growth mindset. 
You and your peers might think freshmen year is a joke. You think you have time to play around with your friends and that your work does not really count. It does! I bet you have heard your teachers say, “Freshman year is very important, like the rest of your journey in high school, so make sure you're up to date because you can fall behind.” Colleges look at your ninth grade year because they want to see how you start off. You have to put all those bad habits from middle school behind you and make your actions speak louder than your words. Be a leader because it makes you a very powerful and strong young woman. Show your teachers you got this.
My first piece of advice to you is always stay positive! Being positive can get you a long way. Trust me! If you come to school every day and say “I don’t want to be here,” or “why do we have to do this?” then you are not going to enjoy the journey of freshman year. Don't be a Negative Nancy. It will get you nowhere. If you're negative most likely you're going to hate your classes which is not beneficial for you or your teacher. On the other hand, if you go into class with a positive attitude, you actually might end up enjoying it.
My second piece of advice is to set goals. This is the process of identifying something that you want to accomplish and establishing measurable outcomes and timeframes. This can help you get good grades. For example if you have to do an essay due a certain day, try to finish it a day early and then maybe show your teacher so he or she can offer you feedback. On the day it is due it will be even better. You might just ace that essay. 
My last piece of advice is to always be respectful. Treat people the way you like to be treated. When you want to be respectful, try to put yourself in someone else's shoes and behave in a way that shows you care. At its heart, being respectful means showing that you value other people's perspectives, time and space. Show kindness and courtesy because it is good manners. Being respectful starts with a basic consideration of other people's feelings. Ask yourself how you'd want to be treated in a given situation and make an effort to treat other people that way. Treat everyone you encounter this way: strangers on the street, coworkers, classmates and family members. Being polite is a good way to make friends. It is also a matter of etiquette; it's about being considerate of people's feelings, culture, and values. It does not seem difficult, but for many people it remains a challenge. If you're reading this you're probably wondering how you can improve your etiquette. At the very least, you might want to know how to avoid being rude, which can put off the people around you. Try not to discriminate or be judgemental. Be respectful to everyone and not just people you know or those you perceive as having a higher status than you. Many people save their respect for people upon whom they want to make a good impression, and they're less respectful  to everyone else. But there is truth in the saying, "You can judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.” In other words, be a nice human.
Let’s review: the three most important actions you can take in surviving your freshman year of high school is stay positive, set attainable goals, and be respectful to others! It’s really as simple as that. People make high school look all big and bad, but it really isn’t. I was scared and nervous entering my first year of high school. I had no idea what to expect, but once I made a couple friends and started to get to know my school, I got comfortable, and I actually enjoyed the experience. So don’t let high school get you down, be proud, because the next place you go to is college! If you've made it this far… you’ve got this! Just work on these small improvements and you will see the results!
Have fun and be yourself.

Sincerely,
Jada Robinson 
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Dear 9th grade Brian,
Ignorance was truly bliss for you, but now that you are starting high school, a lot of information is being blasted in your direction. High school is way too much to process on your first day. From class to class, your bookbag is filled with consent waivers, syllabi, and just three more binders more than recommended in the list of school supplies. It took you three hours to get home from school because learning the T was hard ( don't worry, we got that down to an hour and a half!). High school is intimidating. It is such a large building, everyone stuck with their friends from middle school. It took you a while to find your niche in the jungle.
Like always, you maintained high expectations for yourself in order to succeed, but were unaware of the unhealthy repercussions of focusing on your flaws. Your mom would tell you that God does everything for a reason. At the time, you saw being at Urban Science Academy and moving to Boston as more of a curse than a blessing. Trust me, that ideology will change by the time freshman year ends.
Accepting how unfair the world can be is hard. Just like how it's hard to find out that you didn't get accepted into the technical trade school of your dreams and that you are moving to Boston, a city hundreds of miles away from all of your family.
Once you made your peace with your situation, you ended up being presented with an astounding amount of options at USA. Available was an array of sports - especially with the school having built a new sports field. There were after school clubs and programs from every corner of Boston also available. It was quite overwhelming at first. 
One day, in computer science class, you met someone who you felt a peculiar familiarity with, and agreed that we had met somewhere before, but could not recall where. This strange familiarity instilled a quick friendship. This new friend invited you to her robotics team at Northeastern University. The invitation spiked your interest as you always loved technology. You ended up joining the the team. Then, your humanities teacher would call your mom at least once a week asking if you could join the debate team as well. Ultimately, you said yes. But, you had barely any time for yourself with prior obligations and other school commitments. Your week was always jam-packed, and during the weekends, you were either at your father's house or catching up on work/studying. This led to the last thing you need in high school: stres. Stress can normal, but it ended up getting to a point where you couldn't manage time well. 
You were stressed about being ready for robotics, having time to study debate notes, getting work done, and having time to be with friends and family. Despite the stress, you felt you were in too deep into activities to stop, so you continued on without trying anything different, or finding a solution. This was seriously the worst thing you could do to yourself. It lead to you being a disorganized person. You suffered from a lot of headaches and never felt good at all. It's always important to set time aside for yourself to get organized and to relax, which is the one thing you never did, and suffered immensely because of it. It’s okay sometimes to miss a meeting  in order to recuperate and get back together. It's important to be organized and to prioritize yourself. If you always put yourself last, nothing good will come of that. 
Think of failure like a spider. Spiders are mostly harmless unless it's poisonous. Failure, in most cases, is blown out of proportion. If you fail, you should be fine, as long as you make an attempt to improve yourself.
Every time you made a mistake your mind would flood with pessimism: “Why can't I ever do anything right?” or “I'm honestly not normal, what is wrong with me?” You  couldn't live with yourself because your obsession with success was creating unrealistically high expectations, which led to more stress. You ended up being constantly angry. With time, you learned to control your thoughts and become satisfied with yourself. 
I don't want you to think that you shouldn't set high expectations for yourself. But, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you aren't good enough, nor tell yourself that. As a freshman, all the work may seem overwhelming. Seek improvement within yourself but also think realistically.
Like animals, we either adapt to situations, or we don't. In the case of this analogy, your experiences were near-death but at least you’re alive! Coming soon will be the end of freshman year. You have hopefully made friends that you can confide in for the rest of high school. 
Ponder on how not only you adapted, but how you thrived within your freshman experience and what opportunities have come to fruition because of it. Keep in mind to take advantage of opportunities presented to you, manage your time well, stay organized, and keep realistic goals for yourself. In short, never be afraid to make mistakes despite your ambitious attempts at success.

Sincerely,
Brian Estevez
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To 14-year-old Jeisabela:
Bruh. Stop playing right now! You were the slacker in middle school and I know you’re telling yourself that you’re not going to do it again… but you are. You’re going to start off strong but once you get comfortable, you’re going to fail. You’re going to skip class, talk back to your teachers and hang out with your friends instead of getting your work done. I know you think you’ll be able to handle your friends and your work (and you can), but you won’t, and you know it. 
Let me explain a few things you should do to make it through the school year. You should do your work, stay out of trouble, and manage your time because, if not, you’ll be stuck with the slacker grades. 
First off, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASEEEEE, do your work! 
LITERALLY. Do. It. 
Don’t go out after school. Don’t do sleepovers. Sit in a quiet space alone and not with friends. You don’t have to completely isolate yourself, just know your limits. Sit next to someone you know won’t distract you in class, or friends that won’t distract you. You may think just because it’s your freshman year you can chill and do whatever, but you’re just making it harder on yourself in the long run. Start off strong and finish strong. You don’t want a low GPA or to have yours be lower than your friends. They may be able to get their work done and hang, but you can’t. Having a low GPA will make sophomore year harder for you. 
Second, stay out of trouble. Skipping class is all fun and games until you’re caught and you’ve landed yourself in detention. Your friends will hang out after school and you’ll be alone in detention with other people who didn’t make great choices and are probably not doing well at school because of their behavior and mindset. Why would you do that to yourself so early in the game? Talking back to teachers will get you nowhere. They’ll stop respecting you and they won’t be recommending you for anything because they can’t trust or see potential in you. Show you’re a bright student through your actions. Don’t hang out with people who don’t act smart and do things like talk back to teachers, because that's how you’ll pick up on it and develop a really bad habit and character. There’s a book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. READ ITTTT!
Third, manage your time and don't procrastinate! Don’t get into the habit of making unimportant things a priority. Don’t think things like “I will just do my homework after I go to the mall.” NO! Instead, think “maybe I should get my work done before I go to the mall.” Thinking like that is more mature and is a better plan that is more in touch with your goals. Always be proactive and don’t blame your friends for your failings. It’s no one’s fault but your own. You could’ve said no to the mall and went another time because the mall will always be around, but that work has a deadline. Besides, if they are your friends they will understand. If they don’t, then you don’t need them because the types of friends you need are the ones who want you to be successful. Friends that don’t are only gonna hold you back.
I know that I am only one year older than you are now, but trust me, if you follow these three pieces of advice, you’ll get through your freshman year with good grades and straight priorities. Good luck!

Sincerely, 
Jeisabela Teixiera
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AFH Photo // Christie Andre
Dear 9th grade Madashley,
Remember when you stepped into Urban Science Academy with your hopes and promises? The promises you’ve made to yourself that you will bring your GPA up, or that you’ll challenge yourself to be more optimistic? The promises you’ve made to not be reactive, but instead to be proactive and stay after school to make yourself better? The promise you’ve made to challenge yourself, to participate in activities instead of taking short cuts? The ultimate promise that you'll try your best to get to Yale University, because you'll do anything to become an anesthesiologist?
But what happened? Well, you got lazy, that’s what.
Instead of seeking more, you settled for whatever life threw in your face. One thing I want you to know is that it is okay to feel confused, but it is not okay to not ask for help. Another thing you will notice is that everything changes in high school, and sooner or later, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. For me, when everything seemed to move too fast, I was afraid. I was scared and lost, and what’s worse, I felt alone as if there was no one to help me. Now, the advice I would give myself is that it is alright to lose some friends, what matters is for you to be successful at finding your own path.
Freshmen year was terrible, although you managed to pull yourself out of it. You slacked off because you got comfortable. You wanted to challenge yourself, but were worried that people would think that you were trying too hard. Instead of making your own decisions you preoccupied yourself with the opinions of others. By the first term, you knew you could have handled some AP classes, but you settled for advanced algebra instead! You knew you could replace your A’s and B’s with A pluses. Deep down, you knew what you were capable and you had the confidence, but you didn’t take action. Despite what it may feel like right now, high school is an opportunity to get to know your inner self.
In hindsight, I was petrified when it came to challenges, but in time I had to learn to overcome those fears. Young freshman! Learn from my experience and face your fears now. Overcome your obstacles because there is always a way out. Begin with the end in mind; always set goals; visualize your future and the steps you have to take to get there. Make things happen!
Freshman year is always stressful. Not only do you have to worry about yourself academically, but you have to make sure that your emotions are in check. The funny thing about being a freshman is that you don’t always get it right; this is why you have your peers and teachers to guide you. I learned the hard way, I wanted to do everything by myself, but sometimes you have to learn to collaborate and see others’ points of view. Sometimes being independent is not enough, you need to learn to synergize, to cooperate with diverse groups and different opinions. Two heads are always better than one. If people looked at me they would have said that I knew what I was doing when in reality I had little to no idea of what I  was doing. Do not be scared to ask for help because you think that if you ask for help then you are not equally as smart as the other students who seem to catch up fast.  All brains are different and have unique structures, you just have to find your own way of learning.
When you leave junior high you bring your previous identity with you, but at the same time, you leave your past behind, maybe even some of your friends. When I started high school, my friends and I started as a united group, but then everyone ended up going their own way. Everyday I found my social circle shrinking. I had to accept it. I did not want to lose them or leave them behind but for my own sake, I had to. Sometimes the things you want in life happen, but they don’t always happen the way you wanted them to.
Time is precious and every time I look back to see what I have accomplished, it always leaves me a little disappointed. You don’t have unlimited time. Challenge yourself. Don’t waste your freshmen year because later you’re going to regret it. Ask for help when needed, including helping out others. Work hard all the time, not only when report cards are coming out. Remember to pick your friends wisely. I always thought being independent was being able to do everything by yourself without help, and that if you got help it was not the definition of being independent. That’s where I was wrong. This year is not going to be easy. Keep your head up. There are a lot of distractions and sometimes you will feel like crying and that’s okay. Don’t get too comfortable. There are some things that you cannot control in life but accept it. That’s what I did and I am going to be fine. So take my advice and you will be, too.

Sincerely,
Madashley Cajuste

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