By Sarah Kloss (V)

When reminiscing about a time before masks and social distancing, I think back to the Model UN trip right before lockdown. Actions like packing 30 kids into an elevator or gathering in groups to discuss resolutions seem almost unimaginable nearly a year later. The possibility of students from all over the country and the world coming together at a convention now feels shocking and is a reminder of how much the world has changed. Even before the trip, the virus had already begun to have an enormous impact on my life. A couple of days before I went to New York for the trip, I learned that the French exchange program that I planned on attending was canceled because of positive COVID-19 cases in Lyon, France. I was surprised and confused because I didn’t think that the virus was serious or dangerous enough to warrant the program’s cancelation. Disappointed but yet to grasp the severity of COVID-19, I continued to enjoy the weekend in New York. It wasn’t until the first week of spring break that I finally understood the full impact of the virus. While I was excitedly packing for a vacation, I learned that New Jersey had declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 cases. Not long after, we received an email from the school announcing its transition to remote learning. At that point, I was scared and concerned for the future, but what followed in the next few months has completely altered my outlook on the world. 

There are many life lessons that I learned from the pandemic. First, I now understand that family and friends are the most crucial things in my life. Before the pandemic, it was hard to find time to spend together as a family, as a result of our busy lives. Now, through having much more time with my family, I learned to cherish the moments we have with each other. Additionally, I now value the interactions I have with my friends more than I did before. During the shutdown, it was difficult for me not to see any of my friends in person, and although we would still text and FaceTime each other, it was nowhere near the same experience. Being back in-person for school, I have grown to appreciate every moment I spend with my friends. I have also discovered how to adapt to changes and become more flexible. Not everything will go the way we want it to, but we can still make the best out of the situation. Although my global program to France was canceled, I had the opportunity to participate in a virtual global program about the Balkans during winter break. While I was disappointed that the Model Congress trips were canceled this year, I was still fortunate enough to participate in the Virtual Model Congress held for the first time. Also, I learned how to cherish the small things in life and not take anything for granted. When New Jersey was in lockdown, the one thing I missed the most was playing tennis. All the tennis courts were closed and I missed the routine of playing. Because of this, when the tennis courts finally reopened, I valued being on the court much more.

I am incredibly grateful for what Pingry did over the summer, from installing the filtration system to putting up PlexiGlass dividers, so that we could come back to school for in-person learning in the fall. I could finally see my friends and teachers again, and I could play tennis for the school (something that I wasn’t sure would happen). Looking at the graph of the new COVID-19 cases both in New Jersey and the United States, I am incredibly grateful that the vaccine has come out and cases are now trending downwards. Even when the pandemic is over, I will always remember the lessons it taught me, and I look forward to squeezing in an elevator with 30 kids again.