"I’m adapting to it": boarding life in a pandemic
When we applied to Stevenson, we didn’t know our freshman year, our first year of boarding would entail a new beginning with anything but what we expected. “I’m adapting to it, but it would be a lot better without the COVID restrictions,” says Shahriar Dhedhi, a first-year boarder who agrees that the new guidelines in place are hard to manage. He says he’s adjusting to wearing masks all the time and constantly vigilant of the social distancing rules. But he feels like the social interaction, which everybody struggled with during remote learning, has improved after the first couple of weeks back on campus: “There’s plenty of people I can talk to, I have friends and classmates so it’s not boring or anything.”
Being back on campus has its pros and cons. Jinwoo Park, another freshman border, says boarding can be good and bad: “Like time management; here I’m playing golf after school and coming back on campus for dinner, which means I only have study-hall time to do homework. It made me a little busier, but on the other hand, it made it kinda easier as well, because I have more access to help with teachers. Like Mr. Fricker teaches my photography and he lives right below me, so I can go ask [for help] whenever I need to.”
Easier communication is one of the benefits of being in-person, something Park finds really helpful during these times. But the busier schedule Park talked about has been one of the hardest things to adjust to after we’ve been in remote learning for over a year now. With a global virus on the loose, boarding hasn’t been as easy.
“If there was no COVID, I would be going out and hanging out more with my friends. And we don’t have to stay 6 feet apart and we don’t have to wear masks, so it’ll be easier for us to socialize. And I like to play basketball, usually after school, which I can’t do now anymore.” ——Jinwoo Park '24
It’s challenging to manage school with all the strict guidelines being enforced. Masks make it hard to socialize and prevent you from performing your best like in sports or theatre. And social distancing makes it much harder to navigate your way around campus and hang with your friends. It’s just nothing we expected.
One of the many rules of boarding during COVID is preventing all-freshman boarders from leaving campus. It has angered a few like Audrey Robinson, Park, and Dhedhi’s classmate, who thinks it's “difficult” to watch upperclassmen leave campus during the day or on the weekends. On the other hand, it hasn’t been too much of a worry for Maxime Vandendriessche, Robinson’s friend who’s another freshman resident, who isn’t bothered by this change: “I feel like the school is doing their best to keep us safe and allow us to have a good time, so forfeiting my time off-campus isn’t too bad.” It disappointed many to hear they couldn’t hang out with day student friends at Del Monte Center or go on a bike ride near Pebble Beach golf course, but it’s all for the best and for student safety.
Planned excursions have been offered, however. For instance, on Saturdays and Sundays, there have been beach trips that give students an opportunity to enjoy this beautiful coast we live on. Robinson states that “there are so many activities keeping you too busy to feel extremely trapped.” The escape to the beach or other social events like ping-pong tournaments and friendship-bracelet makings have been a massive sigh of relief for many freshman residents, as all have been overwhelmed by the transition from online to in-person.
The worst thing about being remote for a large chunk of the school year has been the lack of social interaction. All the freshman borders have agreed that just to be back in person and socializing again, is the best part about this experience. Dhedhi says that his biggest surprise was “seeing everyone in-person.” Yes, he knew that would happen, but to always be around people takes “a lot more effort.” Vandendriessche adds, "It takes so much energy to [always] be interacting.”
Online school was boring. There was no talking to your friends between classes. No hearing the crack of a bat at a softball game. No messing around in 9-Square during lunch. It was an endless void. On a continuous loop. We can agree that being near people and in a lively, thriving environment makes school just a better place to be in. Sure, COVID restrictions have somewhat taken away from the boarding experience, but it just feels good to be back. And there’s much to look forward to.