Sofia Johnson manages to stay connected with family and friends despite moving schools mid-year


Born and raised in Okemos, Michigan, freshman Sofia Johnson has been surrounding herself with family, friends, and sports for as long as she can remember. After her father got a new job in Grand Rapids, though, life the way that she knew it ceased to exist.

In January, Sofia, her younger brother, and her dad began the move from Okemos to Grand Rapids. For Sofia, this move was not a necessarily enjoyable experience.

“I’ve heard of people who move every year, but moving is so hard,” Sofia said. “I hate it. It took so long, and I don’t like doing work like unpacking boxes. [Moving] was okay, but I would have rather moved at the beginning of the year instead of the middle. I could have stayed [in Okemos] if I wanted to, but I wanted to have friends for summer.”

This whirlwind of change separated her not only from friends but also from her family. Her mom and brother decided to remain in Okemos until the end of the school year, which came as another added challenge to Sofia’s transition.

Instead of being upset about the situation, though, she decided to keep her thoughts on the positive side of things.

“The distance is helping us be closer because we’re always at each other’s throats when we’re all together for a long time,” Sofia said. “Sometimes, I feel like distance is good.”

Yet another example of this is demonstrated by her relationship with her older sister, who is living and working in the Netherlands as an au pair, and she has also become closer to Sofia after her move across the globe.

“I’m really close with my sister,” Sofia said. “Even with the distance, we talk a lot more now that she lives in the Netherlands. When we were kids, we would always have lemonade stands, which I really liked. When she got older, and it was just me and her, we would drive around and listen to music. We used to share a room, and I miss her being able to drive with me. But, now that we’re not always in each other’s spaces, we are able to appreciate each other more.”

Another thing that Sofia is able to appreciate now that she has moved are the bonds that she has been able to create on her sports teams. After playing soccer for seven years, she found herself getting tired of the familiarity of things. Now, three years later, Sofia has been participating in water polo since sixth grade and remembers the story of how she got involved fondly.

Sometimes, I feel like distance is good.”

— Sofia Johnson

“One of my friends, who was really good [at water polo] and had been playing for 6 years, told me to try it in sixth grade,” Sofia said. “[She told me to go to] some of the splashball classes just to try it, and [by the end], I thought, ‘Oh, I like this. This is really fun.’”

Now, after her first season on the water polo team, Sofia has already been pulled up to varsity. According to her, being pulled up was exciting; however, she wished she would have gotten the chance to participate in a game situation.

Her favorite part of the sport, though, is something she values in everything she does: the relationships she has been able to create with fellow teammates and coaches.

“[I really] like the team [aspect],” Sofia said. “You get really close with the team because you’re going to tournaments and games and because of the bus rides.”

Sofia says that she feels a deep connection to the sport and plans to further her water polo career into college because she wouldn’t want to spend so much time on it just to stop after high school.

Other aspects of being enrolled in FHC are not so appealing, though. As a freshman, Sofia says that classes can be stressful, and there is a lot of pressure put on students. She does, however, like the amount of freedom that high school has been able to provide.

“I like the freedom [of high school],” Sofia said. “There’s more than there is in middle school. It’s a lot more stressful because it’s less structured, but it’s nicer to be able to choose what you want to do. In my old school, you only got one elective, so there’s more freedom here.”

The opportunities also call to her, since Grand Rapids holds larger high schools than her previous town.

“There’s a lot of opportunities here, like scholarships since its a bigger school,” Sofia said. “And, since the school is bigger than Okemos, it has a bigger name and might have more [opportunities] for colleges or be looked at for colleges.”

She plans to make the most of the rest of her time here by improving her relationships with friends and teammates.

“I think once I have established better friendships, it will be easier because I will be able to talk to more people,” Sofia said. “I’m just going to hang out with people I already have friendships with to make them better and stronger.”

Now that she has been able to settle into Grand Rapids, though, Sofia has been able to cherish the beauty the surrounds her not only in the people but in nature as well.

“I liked Okemos because it isn’t as spread out [as Grand Rapids],” Sofia said. “Everything is kind of condensed. There were a lot of things to do, but here it takes me 15 minutes to ride my bike to Ada. At my old house, it took me two minutes to go into town. I like the scenery [of Grand Rapids]. Okemos is flat and industrial, but here it’s nice, and there’s lots of nature.”