Antonella never imagined her first year at Commonwealth would unfold quite like this. Given the pandemic, she has been a fully remote student since the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year, learning at home in Arlington, Massachusetts. Not one to be deterred, Anontella has brought an infectious energy to finding new and novel ways of engaging with her classmates and teachers virtually since day one...
Getting to Know You
What is bringing you joy right now?
Going on walks. It's a nice way to get out of the house and be active. Because otherwise, I'm stuck at my desk and in severe need of nature.
What do you think is the most intriguing paradox?
Oh! The chicken or the egg! I know it's a bit silly, but it's interesting to watch people fight about it. In my opinion, the egg came first, because, technically, the genetic variation that marked the difference between a chicken and not-a-chicken would have come from an egg first. So that’s the evolutionary response.
What is your favorite comfort food?
Clam chowder. It's warm. It's classic. It's homey.
What was/is your favorite class (at Commonwealth or elsewhere)?
This one is hard. I'm tied between two: either the City of Boston class here at Commonwealth or this seminar I took last year that was basically solving different types of math problems plus normal Algebra II. We'd solve cool math problems and do really advanced stuff. We also published a paper in the spring, which was pretty fun.
Pen or pencil?
Well, pencils, you can erase, but the aesthetic of a fountain pen… *sighs wistfully*
Life as a Commonwealth Student (and Beyond)
How has Commonwealth compared to your expectations?
This is a bit blunt, but when I first came to Commonwealth, I thought, “What a bunch of nerds”—but I’m a big nerd, too. So I felt at home.
At lunch during my visit day, they were literally just talking about math. At my old school, that would never fly. That nerdiness has held up, especially in the Discord server [which Anontella started to stay in touch with her Commonwealth classmates outside of school].
What is it like being an all-remote student?
It can be nice. I get to wake up later. I can spend all day in pajamas and a sweatshirt if I want, and I can get coffee and eat at any time. But then again, I'm in the same place with the same people all day, so that can get a bit repetitive.
Classes are going really well, actually. I never thought virtual learning could be this good. Part of that is because of the uniformity of the Virtual Commonwealth platform. I like that the kids who are in person and remote are taught in the same room. It works really well for me because, while I might not be getting to know them all like I would usually, it helps to see their faces, you know?
What has your extracurricular experience been like thus far?
Some of my activities, like fencing, have come to a halt, unfortunately, due to the pandemic. I used to row crew with my old school, which had a really great program. That also helped a lot with my leadership skills. But I have yet to find another club, so we'll see how that goes.
I'm still doing Math Team through school, which is a lot of fun. We get to do competitions, and I really like it. It's great to be able to bond with other people at school over this kind of stuff. I'm in a math club outside of Commonwealth too, and that's just a lot of fun. We like to publish papers. My group recently finished one on efficient strategies for the Toblerone game. We did an inductive proof with multiple types of steps.
Also, I teach a now-virtual class of five students who live in an orphanage in Peru. It used to be English classes, but I'm not a great English teacher. You know, sometimes you just can't English! But now I’m teaching math, pre-algebra, and it's going great.
How has Commonwealth colored the way you learn and look at the world?
I came in expecting it to be the math classes that impressed me—and, yes, math here is amazing. But what really blew my mind was the humanities programs. Ancient History is insane. I just love it.
Also the City of Boston class was amazing, because you talk not just about Boston but civics in general. It's fascinating, trying to see an order in the chaos of politics, and the class forced me to confront biases that I have. I can be very, very stubborn about my ideas, but I’m learning to be more open minded.
What's your advice for prospective students considering Commonwealth?
Please, please don't be afraid! I remember when I visited Commonwealth, I was just like, “Oh, my God. Everyone's so smart. Everyone is taking a bajillion extracurriculars. And they all have their life together.” Then I actually came here, and, yes, there are lots of brilliant kids, but they're also really nice and actually human! So don't be intimidated.