Meet Commonwealth Students: Markus '21

Markus ‘21, of Everett, Massachusetts, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is a self-proclaimed humanities student at Commonwealth. A writer with a love for all things poetry and prose, he also constantly listens to music and taps into emotion as part of his creative process. He raves about Art History with Ms. Dale and the treasures to be discovered within a painting. That’s not to say he doesn’t find joy in solving math and science problems, though, as Commonwealth—and its enthusiastic teachers—has broadened his comfort zone. 

Read on to learn more about Markus’s creative journey through Commonwealth’s close-knit community.

Getting to Know You

What is bringing you joy right now? 

Music! I spend so much of my waking hours (and sleeping ones, too) listening to music because it is an essential part of my creative process. It allows me to easily enter a headspace where I can focus on writing or doing whatever it is I need to do, like studying. My favorite artist (currently) is Phoebe Bridgers, and my favorite genre is folk-rock.

What are you doing to recharge?

I like to do a bit of cleaning and decluttering to give myself more room physically and mentally for when I need to get back into the flow of working.

What is your favorite book (or a book you’ve re-read)?

For poetry, it’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong. For prose, it’s A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I’ve re-read each book around fifty times (hyperbolizing!), but I don’t go back to read from the beginning to end, but rather I go back to a chapter, a scene, or a line from a poem that calls to me at a particular moment and I read from there. I reread sometimes because I’m in a certain mood and I open the book to be in sync with my emotions, and other times I read because I’m in search of things I haven’t seen before.

What do you think is the most intriguing paradox? 

The Fermi paradox. It examines the probability of alien life existing. I spend a not insignificant amount of time thinking about the universe beyond our lovely, little, and, unfortunately, dying planet. 

What are your favorite comfort foods? 

Anything made with potatoes. Mashed, fried, baked, steamed, whatever. Would I eat an uncooked potato? Maybe, but I’m also not that brave.

What was/is your favorite class (at Commonwealth or elsewhere)? 

The humanities electives at Commonwealth are all pretty great, but I would like to give a special shoutout to Art History with Ms. Dale. For a semester of the class, we looked at American artists from Thomas Cole to Thomas Eakins, examining the sublimity of landscapes and the warmth of portraits and figures. What makes the class so special is Ms. Dale’s eager invitation to every student to share their thoughts, even the ones that could be considered absolutely absurd (which tend to be mine), and she uses them to build towards a collective understanding of the paintings. 

Pen or pencil? 

Pencil. Revising your own work is key to good writing, and if you’re like me, that revision sometimes happens in the middle of a forty-minute in-class essay, so it’s good to have that pencil/eraser combo ready!

I don’t go back to read from the beginning to end, but rather I go back to a chapter, a scene, or a line from a poem that calls to me at a particular moment and I read from there.

Life as a Commonwealth Student

What was your first impression of Commonwealth and how has it mapped to your experience? 

On my first day visiting Commonwealth, I thought, “This school is really small.” Over the years, I’ve grown to really appreciate the tight-knit community that can only be built at a place like Commonwealth. Teachers, students: we all know each other, whether by being in classes together or hearing each other’s names echoed off the walls of the Cafegymnatorium everyday at 10:00 a.m.—the splendid recess routine. Some of my closest friends at Commonwealth are those I have never taken a class with. But that’s not to say friendships can’t sprout in classrooms. Those moments when I snapped to a great point someone made in class and then having that follow-up discussion with them after class have laid the foundation for many of my lovely friendships.

What has your learning experience been like as a fully remote student?

It has been difficult to not be able to have that Commonwealth classroom experience of sitting at a round table and hearing others talk back and forth. Virtual Commonwealth comes close to replicating that “vibe” and that lively feeling, but it is difficult and isn’t as easy to chime in with all the muting/unmuting/virtual-hand-raising technology. But I appreciate that the teachers have been able to magically (magical to me, at least; them, it probably is a lot of work, but they have made the transition feel very smooth) adapt their curricula to a virtual environment and are very understanding when a student is having a tough time adjusting.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in? 

Apart from a lot of my independent writing and research, I run the school’s literary magazine, Helicon! My goal for the magazine is to have it be a creative outlet for Commonwealth students—especially since some of us can occasionally become hyper focused on academics. I also want it to serve as a platform for people to hone their writing skills, show off their narrative voices, and find joy in expressing themselves creatively. 

How has Commonwealth colored the way you learn and look at the world? 

My Commonwealth experience would not be the way it is without all of the teachers who are so enthusiastic in their teaching that it becomes infectious. Even as a self-proclaimed “humanities student,” I still crave the feeling of successfully solving a math or physics problem because the teachers have made the content so enjoyable to learn. In my search for a college to attend for the next four years of my life, I wanted somewhere that has a strong core curriculum that engages with all areas of the liberal arts as enthusiastically as Commonwealth and pushes me to to travel outside my “just-a-humanities-student” comfort zone.

What’s your advice for prospective students considering Commonwealth? 

Be prepared to fail at least once. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t really matter.) From that failure, you will be able to see just how many resources are available to help pick you back up (not something people really look for when they think they’re acing a class), and you will know to use those resources again in the future when you’re struggling.

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