Effects of the COVID Pandemic from a High School Junior

Elianny Hezheng

Rewinding the timeline to December of 2019. An unusual case of pneumonia has been reported in Wuhan, China. Experts were startled by the strangeness of this new virus, and thus it was given the name COVID-19. It did not take long for the virus to spread in China. But at that time, despite seeing overwhelming reports of the pandemic on the Chinese internet and anxious people panicking about the outbreak, I never imagined that this would lead to such a significant change in my life. I am literally an ocean away from the epicenter, I thought to myself.  Whatever this thing is will probably be gone by Lunar New Year (which is in February). All this chaos will be over and I will be completely unaffected. And needless to say, I was ridiculously wrong. 

Fast forward to March, 2020.  The Coronavirus pandemic is aggressively spreading in New York. All NYC public schools buildings were shut down due to safety and health concerns, and this marks the beginning of our year-long and still-lasting struggle with the Coronavirus. Having already witnessed how terrifying the pandemic could be, my family and I were in complete lockdown as my remote learning experience started. 

Resuming the timeline to present-day.  The fight between humans and the virus continues. Quarantine had already locked me inside the house for almost a year, in which I strongly felt the need to give some thoughts to the changes that happened during this time and reflect upon my experience. The effect that this pandemic brought me was complicated. In fact, this 10 month lockdown had changed me more than the two previous high school years did, partly because of the changes that happened in my life during quarantine and partly the quarantine itself. 

The biggest challenge I personally faced as the pandemic started was the exacerbation of my insecurities with my social skills, particularly those that involve English. Since English was not my first language, I have always been unconfident about my communication skills, especially speaking, where I always thought my pronunciation had an accent. Before the pandemic began, I tried to compensate for my linguistic disadvantages by listening and speaking as much as I could in an English speaking environment, which plausibly seemed like an effective solution. Yet as quarantine began, I started losing opportunities to interact with English speakers, as I am completely soaked in a non-English speaking environment at home. I started growing more and more resistant to speaking English again because I thought my skills would become so poor after being disengaged for such a long time. This challenge was also a major factor that brought down my academic motivation and performance. 

When I was in school, it was easy for me to stay engaged during class. So when quarantine initially began, I was confident that I could maintain my good grades. I thought remote learning was going to be so much easier than going to a physical school, since it is literally “learning from home”, but it did not take long for me to realize that I was terribly wrong. For me, remote learning definitely required a lot more motivation and effort to stay engaged in class. During in-person school,  I took notes, stayed engaged and participated in class.  However, it’s so easy to get distracted at home by just about anything: phone screen lighting up when receiving a notification, distractive thoughts coming to mind when I have a hard time concentrating, procrastination taking over motivation when I felt weary. 

The pandemic also had a significant impact on my peers. As students, one of the most important concerns for us is our academic progress during quarantine. With our school closed and our SATs cancelled several times, more and more students are getting anxious about our future. This pandemic is lasting so long that so many of us are wondering if it will ever be over and our lives will ever be normal again. Still, we are trying our best to endure through the obstacles despite so many uncertainties. 

Looking into the future. We as students are not able to predict when the struggle will end, but what we can do is adjust our mindsets and lifestyles so that we can progress in our emotional lives, continue our academic careers and persevere, even during the hardest times.