I think it’s certainly fair to say that 2020 did not pan out the way we had expected. Regardless of what year you are currently in, the pandemic has certainly impacted each of you in some way, shape or form.
For me personally, I was quite devastated. So devastated, that I cried that Monday morning when rumours of the school’s closure were circulating throughout the common room (my fellow Year 12’s can attest to this). With the closure of schools nationwide, and shortly after the Movement Control Order (MCO), I felt frustrated and anxious. Frustrated because all my plans for this year had been ruined, and anxious because I did not know (and still do not know) how I’d finish my last year of high school at home.
And so I carried the feelings of frustration and anxiety with me in the final two weeks of Term 1, and later in the two weeks of our April Holidays. It was an overwhelming experience, one that made me feel absolutely helpless and isolated. I had attended school consistently for the past 14 years of my life, and I was stripped of everything that was routine and familiar. In the early stages of the MCO, I felt out of touch with almost every aspect of my life. I found myself eager to finish my online classes, rather than seeking to find even the slightest bit of enjoyment in them. And when the holidays came around, I felt such a great sense of apathy for my life. The way I saw it was, if I could not get out of the house to continue with my daily routine, then I might as well abandon it all together. I saw no point in trying to adapt the routine I had established for 13 years, changing it to perhaps suit the current circumstances. I hated the way I had no control over the situation I was in, and so I took no action.
But a part of me subconsciously knew that I had to do something. A pandemic doesn’t just go away in 4 weeks, so I was bound to stay inside for way longer than what was planned. Surely enough, that was definitely the case. I soon realised that continuing on with the way I had been for those 4 weeks was not healthy.
So I reached out. To my teachers, to my mentor, and to my friends. I opened up about how I was travelling, and how I struggled to cope with the anxiety I was experiencing. And it was so relieving. Of course it didn’t eliminate my problems entirely, but for once, I had come to terms with the fact that life was not going to be that same. Quite frankly, it won’t be for a long time, and so I had to stop approaching it the way I had. From there, I slowly began to piece together a new routine, and with that, I saw the MCO as an opportunity to accomplish more, rather than something stopping me from continuing with my plans.
I began to exercise in the mornings—something I couldn’t do in the past, due to the long commute to school—which made me feel more energised going into classes. I had more time to read the books that had been stacking on my desk, to bond with my mum, to talk to my friends and most importantly, to take frequent mental health breaks.
It’s coming into almost 3 months where all of us have had to stay at home, and whether you have established your own routine or are still trying to see what works best for you, know that everyone has been impacted.
In a feature article on The Lancet, a peer-reviewed general medical journal, it was mentioned that since closures of schools worldwide, “Over 90% of enrolled learners (approximately 1.5 billion young people) worldwide are now out of education.” And with this, Audrey Azoulay, the UNESCO Director-General, had warned that, “the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled.” ¹
As children and adolescents who are still undergoing significant developments (in almost every aspect of our lives), school routines can serve as key coping mechanisms in overcoming challenges and adversity. Undoubtedly, school makes up for much of our lives, and without it, we are put in a rather foreign situation.
Thankfully, at AISM, we have such a close-knit community, with teachers and peers who truly care for your wellbeing. So I encourage you to reach out, whether it be to seek help for yourself or to check in on the people close to you. It’s important that we remember that we cannot control what happens around us, but we can most certainly control how we react and respond to them.
When it comes to settling in the School, I found it less difficult than I thought it would be - this is thanks to some of my helpful peers personally reaching out to me and all the teachers being incredibly supportive! I admit that I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to blend in socially as my peers are probably more experienced; however, they still treated me pretty much equally and I really appreciate it. Honestly, I’d consider myself a “school nomad” so being put in numerous different environments has become a ‘normal’ for me. I improvised and went with the flow, meanwhile observing how people interact in class so I could get an idea of how the environment would be like here. E-learning life is great to say the least! The only exception was the timing of lessons and scheduling as they were largely different compared to my old school.
As for my general subjects: since I had been following the IGCSE curriculum for a long time, I believe it will take me a bit of time when it comes to getting used to the Australian Curriculum. History and Geography weren’t compulsory before in my old school so the assignments scared me initially, but I figured it wasn’t actually such a daunting task - the more focused and efficient I am when it comes to assignments, the better I feel about it. Physics, PDHPE, Music, English and Mandarin were subjects we covered often in my old school so I felt fairly comfortable with them. Photography was a creative outlet for me and it’s quite similar to Graphic Design lessons which I used to take, hence being the reason why I chose it. For Maths, I decided to challenge myself and aim for Maths Extension (which I fortunately managed to get into). To aid the transition, I looked over some of the learning materials and filled in some knowledge gaps when needed.
I heard that Mr Thwaites had mentioned my drumming video to quite a few teachers - I have never expected the word to spread so I’m super grateful to hear the news! To be frank, as a person who never touched (or even liked) the drums my entire life I was worried about the drumming task; the worries mainly stemmed from inexperience. To my surprise, I overcame it by slowly practising everyday (which annoyed my parents) until my rhythms were accurate. I was also nervous when I was filmed but focusing on the music helps calm me down and puts me in a flow state: meaning that all distractions were blocked out as I am finally enjoying the activity.
I could see why some may find joining a new school during social distancing pressuring, the key is to not overthink the situation and enjoy the process. The pro’s of joining a new school during social distancing is that I get to spend time with my family and have a seemingly ‘slowed-down’ transition - the ‘slowed-down’ transition makes joining a new school less intimidating. Since I’m at home mostly, I also have more time to focus on my lessons with lesser distractions. When you join a new school during these difficult times, people would be more supportive so I guess that’s a pro for me too? The cons of joining a new school as of now is that I won’t be able to meet my peers personally and see them face to face until we return to campus. True, social media has made it easier for communication; however, I’d still choose meeting people in face over having to meet online. Another con is that once school officially starts, I would possibly get lost while going to classes and I wouldn’t actually be considered super new, meaning that I am probably expected to know my way around - but I actually have no idea where I am heading. This isn’t too big of a deal though, I’ll get used to it in time.
Frankly speaking, I feel lucky to join AISM at such an awkward time - it has enlightened me in many ways socially and mentally.
I came to Istanbul, Turkey on 16 March and at that time Malaysia had not started MCO and similarly in Turkey too. I travelled to Turkey with my mum and my younger brother to visit my dad who started working in Turkey and thinking to spend time with him during the Easter break. We did not expect that the numbers for COVID are rapidly increasing globally; hence with most countries’ lockdowns and airports closed, we had no choice but to stay put here until the situation improves. The positive side of this at least we are staying together as a family - however, this would also mean that sacrifices would have to be made.
So, one of the sacrifices is that me and my 12 year old brother who is in Year 7 from another International school have to get up early for our classes. So far both of us have never failed to miss any classes! Initially it was hard to cope with the time difference but once it became a routine, we were okay with it. So my daily routine is get up at 3.30am everyday, shower, make myself a hot beverage and get ready for class. In between my break time, I manage to get some snooze and often ask my younger brother to wake me up at a certain time for my next lesson. Vice versa, I’m doing the same for him too! Sometimes when I don’t have any homework, I manage to catch a short nap in the afternoon (which is rarely though) especially with Year 12 work! I guess you need a lot of discipline and determination and with my mom always on our back when it comes to going to bed early and ensuring us attending the online classes (guess the nagging is because they’re still paying for our school fees!). Hey, but on the positive note, with the time difference this means I finish my classes at 9.30am here!
With things starting to improve in Malaysia and here too, we do hope to get a flight back as soon as possible (tentatively now scheduled for Mid June). With the 2 weeks “Must Quarantine” for the family this would also mean the timelines for me to prepare my HSC will be shorter!