Meet Our Students: Anya ’25, Learning the Steps

Students come to Commonwealth for the academic challenge, excited to have their minds stretched. Of course, that level of intellectual rigor takes some adjusting to—and, believe it or not, Commonwealth students “aren’t the superhuman machines that they sometimes seem!” And, as Anya ’25 can attest, that’s okay! Now, this junior from Ashland, Massachusetts, can look back at her ninth-grade self and see how much her confidence has grown—thanks, in part, to more than a decade of classical Indian dance training. The Commonwealth community has been lucky enough to see years of talent show performances from Anya and, more recently, learn from her how dance can be one of many beautiful connections to one’s culture. Keep reading to discover how. 

Getting to Know You

What is bringing you joy right now?

Getting ready for my arangetram, or my graduation from dance.

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

Good Omens, by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaimen

What are your favorite comfort foods? 

Amti Bhat, which is a dal that my family eats with rice. Whenever we come home from a long vacation, it’ll be our first meal. 

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

So far I’ve really enjoyed all of the science classes, especially the two I’m taking this year: Physics and [The Science and Art of] Materials.

When do you feel the most enjoyably challenged? 

In all of the science classes I enjoy. 

What never fails to make you laugh? 

My dog, especially during the winter when she gets to play in the snow.

What are people most surprised to learn about you? 

I did horseback riding for almost five years. 

Pen or pencil? 


Coffee or tea? 

Coffee in the morning, and tea throughout the day.

Fall, winter, spring, or summer? 


Life as a Commonwealth Student (and Beyond)

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

When I was first introduced to the Commonwealth, I thought it was going to be a bunch of really smart people who did nothing but school work. It was really intimidating, and I got a huge amount of imposter syndrome from this, despite being accepted. That imposter syndrome and other anxieties have definitely been a huge part of my experience, but I’ve gained close friends and a lot more confidence since I first started here.

Using metrics besides grades, how do you define “success” in your classes? 

I would say it’s based on how many questions I can ask and understand about the material, as well as how much independent work I can do without the help of the teacher. 

How do you spend your time outside of Commonwealth? 

I devote a lot of time to dancing, but I also enjoy going on walks with my dog or friends. I’ve also recently taken up knitting and sewing, which I’ve found very calming, but I don’t know how long that’ll last!

What drew you to dance—and what keeps you in it? 

I’ve been dancing since 2014, so it has almost been ten years now. I originally started because my mom put me into it. She did kuchipudi [Indian classical dance] when she was little, and when she moved to the United States, she also learned bharatanatyam and odissi. I kept it up when I was little because it was a big part of my social life, but there were a lot of different times where I considered giving up. But every time, I looked back on what I had done and the amount of fun I had with it, and I continued, even when it got extremely hard to keep going. Now, I’ve found a teacher with my best interests at heart, and I’m going to be dancing at my graduation in July, which, for the last few years, has been a big motivator for me. For now, I’m excited to begin a new chapter in my dance career and maybe foster the same love of the art that I gained at a young age in other little kids.

You recently delivered a workshop regarding Staying Connected to One's Cultural Identity for Commonwealth’s Diversity Day. What inspired this workshop, and what did you learn from the experience? 

When I first thought about the workshop, it was mostly an excuse to talk about dance for an hour! However, through doing it, I was able to talk to a lot of different students with the same experience as me. Having parents who moved to the United States before you were born isn’t exactly rare, and I found it really interesting how many unique ways there were for people to connect [to their culture]. It really depends on the person, and I wasn’t the only one experiencing the disconnect that I sometimes feel.

What’s your advice for young people wondering about how they can further engage with their culture? There’s always something for you. For me, that was dance, but it could be anything, from cooking, to history. Or just ask the people around you, they might be able to tell you stories and introduce new things as well.

When do you feel most connected to other students (or teachers/staff members) in our community? 

I’ve always felt most connected to other students, specifically, when talking to people in my classes about work. Sometimes I’ll be working on homework and find it super hard, and then I’ll talk to someone about it and they’ll back me up and tell me they struggled a lot as well. Everyone at Commonwealth is really smart, so when everyone is struggling, it reminds you that your classmates aren’t the superhuman machines that they sometimes seem! 

I’m also a part of the school’s Environmental Club, and I always really enjoy those meetings. Everyone’s really nice and fun to be around, so it’s a great way to just let go of school stress sometimes.

Related: Sustainable Commonwealth: The Latest on Our Carbon Footprint

What’s your advice for prospective students considering Commonwealth?

You aren’t as great as you think you are—and that’s ok. When I first came to Commonwealth, I thought I was amazing at everything, and Commonwealth really humbled me. And it’s alright to acknowledge that, because I’m still great at some things, and it’s not the worst thing in the world to need to work on others.

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