The Impact of COVID-19: Senior Year

Tim Schietroma, Guest Columnist

A year ago, the notion of wearing masks, distancing from friends and family, and the world shutting down was unthinkable. Yet today, we are constantly wary of an invisible enemy grasping at any sense of “normalcy” which may still linger. 

We took for granted that normalcy because, well, it was normal to us. Even the most minuscule details of a previous life occupy our minds on a daily basis – be it a smile in the hallway to the, at times, chaotic all-school meetings in Founders Hall. Those smiles may be covered now, the seats of Founders may remain devoid of life, yet remarkably, we’re still here.

Gone now are the U-shaped classrooms. In their place have come plexiglass and owl-cameras. Gone now are the crowds at games and audiences at performances. In their place have come live-streams and virtual compilations. Gone now are so many of the traditions we have held dear. In their place have come new ones – albeit strange ones, but new ones nonetheless – which can hopefully be carried on. 

The first impact I personally felt from COVID was a lost spring break school trip focusing on Human Rights, which would have visited the Hague in the Netherlands, as well as – ironically – the World Health Organization in Geneva. In those first few weeks, as I found myself watching updates from the very places I was supposed to be visiting, I became increasingly frustrated. But that was just the beginning. From the already stressful college process to online classes, from the extracurriculars modified and lost to the struggle to simply maintain a social life: my senior year was not exactly what I expected. 

Yet in the face of seemingly everything disappearing in an instant, I was able to recognize something I likely wouldn’t have even a year prior: I was not alone. When I was unable to leave the house for weeks on end, I was not alone. When the months wore on and hanging out with friends became a distant memory, I was not alone. When I saw the country in turmoil struggling with itself on the issues of racial justice, I was not alone. 

At every turn I witnessed smiling faces on screens, passionate emails, and spirited socially distanced gatherings. People, who despite the curveball the world threw at them, were not only determined to push onwards and make progress, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to retain what was important to us. It seems impossible to forget all of that now. 

Yet I’m confident that most of all I’ll remember that simple truth: I was not, I am not alone.”

I’m sure that I’ll remember all the awkward moments on Zoom when I spoke at the same time as someone else, or the constant conversations about how many colleges are being more selective than ever this year. I’ll certainly remember the soccer season lost, and struggling to sing in chorus with masks. I’ll remember the community around me that made me see that the teachers were trying their best to make a Zoom class interesting, and chatting with classmates on FaceTime for hours.

Yet I’m confident that most of all I’ll remember that simple truth: I was not, I am not alone. That is without a doubt the single most important lesson which I’ve been able to learn from this crazy, crazy, year. That needs to be what my classmates and I carry with us both to college and beyond – a simple truth, yet a powerful one – and hey, it only took a global pandemic for it to be realized.