I am delighted to share the following reflections submitted by my students as part of Global Student Project My Return to School During Covid19. My students look forward to reading their peers’ reflections from other Jesuit schools around the world. Thank you!
Returning to School: Abbe, 17, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA
Obviously, this summer has not been the most normal of things recently. With all the disarray happening in the world due to COVID-19, many routines that seemed natural to us before this pandemic were now thrown out of the natural balance. To add on to this imbalance, quarantine made every obsolete thing even more obsolete and boring. Lying in bed became repetitive. Scrolling through TikTok or Instagram became tiring. I became bored of everything I did during stay-at-home orders. Even things I wouldn’t normally be bored of, especially getting ready to “get back” to school, I became bored; I remember when August would hit every summer besides this past one, my heart would race a little faster knowing that I would get to meet new people and regain a long-waited routine by the time school started. I didn’t have to wake up at 1:00 pm nor feel sluggish every day anymore. However, COVID-19 changed all that. Knowing that school was all going to be online, I had nothing to look forward to; I wasn’t going to see anyone, meet anyone new, bond with them, nor make new and meaningful friendships. Instead of waking up at 6:00 am, taking a shower, making the journey to school, and breathing in the campus, I just needed to wake up at 8:50 am, get out of bed, and sit myself in front of my computer to virtually join a class. To this day, this routine seems so meaningless and lackluster to me; it’s unbearable.
What’s even worse with this situation is this growing insecurity and anxiety that I have gained during this quarantine. During so, I was stuck with my thoughts and wasn’t surrounded by my supportive friends, so my mental health and body image since then have steadily decreased, eventually leading me to develop an eating disorder and body dysmorphia. These may seem out of the blue, but they become so much more relevant when you spend more than six hours sitting in front of a computer while next to a sliding mirror closet. Going through this process every day for virtual school became surprisingly difficult; I never thought that something so miniscule as looking at a reflection on the mirror would become so strenuous. Right now, starting the first days of school have been a challenge because as my teachers were explaining a topic or telling their life story, this new version of myself would then look at the mirror, cancel out all incoming noise from my computer, and stare at himself. I personally hope that this isn’t the life that I live from now on, and I certainly hope that it’s not the fate of others. COVID-19 has definitely changed life as I know it for a good while. However, I actively try not to let these changes and developments control me because I ultimately know that I’m the one that controls my life. Despite what COVID-19 has done to the world, I feel like it has given us many opportunities to learn new topics, discover things about ourselves, and, most importantly, reflect on the memories that we have made before life and ourselves had completely changed.
Returning to School: Alex, 17, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA
The changes I have experienced so far in my return to school have been unorthodox to say the least. The introduction of a new school schedule combined with the already confusing and difficult learning experience of taking online classes has made me feel uneasy about whether or not I will be able to receive the grades I need in order to achieve my goals for the future. These changes are very different to what I was originally expecting. I went on a three-week break from the internet in Montana over the summer, and I went into it thinking we would still be spending some time in person at school. However, that changed, and when I got back from my break, I was shocked because I spent so much time preparing myself for a hybrid system, yet now it is strictly online.
The challenges from this situation are still unknown. I wouldn’t say I have spent enough time in school this year to determine what the challenges are, but I do know that it certainly won’t be easy learning online. Learning online is always tough because without the option to meet in person, there are some obstacles technology will offer, which can get in the way of a student’s learning experience. This makes me unsure about the future, mainly because I don’t know how colleges will react to grades students get, or if I will be able to take the SAT, something I have been studying for over 6 months, because I feel it is an important addition to influence colleges into accepting me.
Returning to School: Nate, 17, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA
My return to school after an entire summer overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic has met me with many new challenges. Even after experiencing some online learning during the end of my junior year I have still found some things that have changed since then. For example, I feel as though I have a completely new outlook on my learning for this year. By the end of the last semester of the 2019- 2020 year, I had lost a lot of my drive to complete assignments and my overall passion for learning. Now however, I feel as though I have been reinvigorated, and I am ready for the school year. If I am completely honest, this change from last year caught me off guard as I was expecting to feel less encouraged to complete assignments rather than more encouraged.
Despite my newfound drive, I still feel challenged by how many distractions there are in this type of learning environment. For example, during class my phone is so accessible that it can readily cause me to avert my focus from the teacher to some arbitrary notification, which can negatively affect my learning in that class.
Overall, I think it is pretty hard to feel optimistic about the world around me and my future. With raging wildfires, an unsettling political environment, and an all-encompassing pandemic, I feel more and more uneasy about where I am headed not only in the immediate future but in the distant one as well for it is hard to tell how long lasting the effects of the coronavirus will last.
Returning to School: Nathan, 17, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA
What do you think of when you think of a pandemic? Many think about COVID-19, which is problem that has touched almost all the lives of people around the world. It has really changed our world: from the mandatory use of face coverings to the need to work at home. Furthermore, the need to keep up one’s health and hope has become a necessity. This change has become even more prevalent in the times of summer and times of returning to school. As a student at Bellarmine College Preparatory, I have always valued education, as it has been a means to strive for greater heights among my peers.
Due to increasing cases, my school decided to start the year with online learning. Although it came as no shock to me, really experiencing it has really put into perspective how nice it was to be in an actual classroom, physically talking with my peers, having in person discussions, and even joking around a bit.
One of the biggest changes for me was the learning piece itself. Being a physical learner, learning online has been a major struggle for me. I feel that the in-person connection beats all other methods of learning, although I do understand the circumstances for the current situation. Many of these changes were things I was not expecting, although in hindsight, they are somethings I should have expected. For example, my hope was that we would be back to normal at the start of this year. I was especially wanting this because it is my senior year. Upon finding out about being split up in different groups for partial in person learning, I felt crushed, as almost all my friends were in the other group. Furthermore, feelings of anger and sadness pushed through especially with the decision to go with full online learning for most of the year.
This different change really shattered my expectations of having a “normal” senior year and pushed me to realize that the world is never going to be the same. It had made me feel worried about the future: How are we going to get through this? What will life be like after this? With all this in mind, I eventually realized that importance of having hope, of trusting that God will guide our world along the right path as long as we trust in Him. And in that realization, I began to muster some optimism about the future. Sure, the pandemic has really limited what we can do, yet I discovered the silver lining within the situation. Going back to school online has allowed me to grow closer to my family. Even though both my parents are serving on the front lines, the ability to see my parents more and talk with them more has given me a sense of peace and happiness despite the adversity of the pandemic.
With all these factors in mind, I feel worried about the future, especially for those who are suffering as a result of this. Yet, I feel hopeful, being at peace in the fact that God is with us, no matter how hard times may be. Although it is hard to see that at times, throughout this pandemic and especially in “returning” to school, I believe God’s presence is as strong as ever.
Returning to School: Nick, 18, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA
As a senior, not being at school in person is quite unwelcome. Senior year is supposed to be the accumulation of your growth in high school and it is unfortunate that the climax of my teenage years is a worldwide pandemic. However, I am also greatly appreciative of online school because I can still have a senior year experience, no matter how unordinary and crazy this one might be. It serves as a reminder to be humble and understand that you still have, whatever that may be, while others’ homes and lives are being uprooted by fires and disease.
Online school also reminds me to stop thinking so selfishly and to empathize with those in worse positions. In a world where so many are always focused on themselves and how their investments may grow and whether they get those sweet new rims, a wake-up call to be humble should always be welcome. With that said, being humble should not prevent anyone from sharing their emotions because there is no competition of who has it worse, who’s struggle is the most damaging. Pain is pain and anyone with any problem, even those selfless enough to risk their lives to stop a fire or treat sick in a hospital, should share it.
Returning to School: Parker, 17, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA
Since this is senior year, I knew this time would be special. The beginning of the school year would mark the beginning of the end of my time at Bellarmine. Like many of us, when we entered this new year, I was hoping it would be better than the last one. It’s no secret that junior year is difficult, and my hope was that, by the time August rolled around, I’d be seeing my friends at the dawn of a new school year and taking the final steps in my college admissions process. Obviously, none of that happened. By March, we were in quarantine, and since my mom is a frontline worker, we don’t leave the house often. Instead of going to the local amusement parks with my friends, I was stuck at home in the sweltering heat. Rather than the optimism of a new school year, I was met with uncertainty. I didn’t know how school would operate (the administration just made changes to go to virtual learning for the first quarter). I still don’t know what my SAT situation will be like. I don’t even know how to do the once miniscule task of staying close with my friends on a daily basis. It felt like a giant mess.
My family is extremely religious. Before quarantine, my grandparents would go to church daily, and they’ve virtually adapted since. I, on the other hand, have honestly forgone the Sunday mass requirements. Since I don’t have to physically be present at church, I’ve decided to not be virtually present. Granted, I do try to “go” to mass, but it’s not as often as it used to be. One late Saturday night in August, I was roped in to watching the Sunday mass that was recorded in the Philippines. The gospel was the famous story of Jesus walking on water. The priest’s sermon was about trusting in God. He talked about the storms and trials we face, especially today, and that God will be right by our side helping us through it. I never had an epiphany during a sermon before, but this one seemed to be memorable. It gave me hope that I’ll be alright. Still, as the first week of school came to a close, I had immense stress. I went to my dad’s house over the weekend and realized how much pressure I had and how difficult this year will be. I remember being extremely angry on the drive home since I couldn’t find another way to let everything out. Then, my mom told me that it’s in the times we don’t know what will happen or don’t have control over things that we should trust in God the most. I immediately thought back to the priest’s sermon a couple weeks before. It dawned on me that these were probably signs from the man above about my fear of the unknown and the future battles I will face. I might not be in control of this situation, but I will try to remember and apply what a coach consistently told me: “The things you can control are your attitude and your effort”. And, for the things I can’t control, I hope and pray that the big guy can help me out.
Returning to School: Ryan, 18, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA
A change that I have experienced in my “return” to school is that I have been receiving a lot more homework. School is turning into an all-day thing, meaning we have to go to school and then do more school on our own for rest of the day, and I have not had much time to relax or spend time with my family or close friends except for on Saturdays.
I was expecting to have more free time as I was when online classes first started in the spring. Some challenges in this current situation is finding ways to entertain myself. This current situation makes me feel sorrow for the future because I do not feel like this will end anytime soon although I do think it will end eventually.
Returning to School: Tony, 17, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA
After spending most of my summer in doors at home and work, I was happy to find out that summer is ending, and school is about to start back up. At first, I was hoping that Covid would clear up by now so we can go back to school, but it seems as if that might now happen for a while now. Still I was excited for school to start back up and see old teachers I have had before in the past, so I do not have to struggle getting to know a new teacher through a screen. The first couple of days were a bit confusing because of the whole technical difficulties and not knowing how to connect to classes. But after the third day or so we got the hang of it and classes are starting to pick up on lessons we must get through.
In all honesty I rather be in school than be stuck at home with your siblings or cousins everyday can be a struggle especially if you do not have a huge house. I usually go to the back yard and use a table we have out there for my classes so I don’t stay inside all day long. Sadly, the fires have ruined that for me and now I have to have classes with my cousin in the room but it’s not that bad. Overall quarantine could be a lot worse and even though my family annoys me sometimes I feel blessed to be able to be with a roof over my head and with enough to eat.
Returning to School: William, 17, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA
With the news of the COVID-19 epidemic in March, it felt like a surreal dream with zombie apocalypses and an end of the world vibe. Conspiracy theories were made and the industry of toiletries and hand sanitizer went to chaos. The stock market went down with the unemployment crisis, and many people started garnering negative views towards my own race, the Chinese race. During the last few months of online learning for my Junior 2019-2020 school year, it has been difficult learning abroad with teachers being unable to control their class at times (as seen through people turning off their cameras) to making it harder to teach material online (for example sharing a whiteboard that constantly has technological issues). I was especially afraid for the upcoming AP tests and whether the amount of information I learned would be sufficient to get a passing grade on the test. As the school year steadily went on, I kept hoping that the pandemic would soon end and that a cure would be found, but instead I find in the news of people arguing with each other, especially with the upcoming election, political turmoil is at its highest with many people disapproving of Trump and criticizing him of his passiveness. There was even a proposed cure, such as benzodiazepine, which could lead to an increased risk of heart attack. Overall, the experience was unfathomable and it really opened my eyes, and probably the eyes of others, of the insecurities and corruption of this world, and how a technologically advanced society of the 21st century is no different than a mid-14th century country during the black plague or the early 20th century Spanish Influenza.
Now, as summer has passed and we have continued lockdown, I was extremely anxious about my “return” to school as I missed my friends and teachers, and longed to socialize and meet in person. I was excited when it was announced a few weeks before the start of school that we may have in-class meetings, however was disappointed (but not ungrateful) as the pandemic continued to surge the countries and California continued lockdown. However, I am grateful for the efforts of my school to keep us safe and for their accommodations of extracurricular activities, such as limited robotics meetings and, from a recent email I read, “socially-distanced pre-season training” for cross country. Even though I wasn’t expecting the pandemic to last this long, I am still hopeful that we will get through this together and that in the end, we will reflect upon this event as a learning point for future disease prevention and other measures of society.