Special Guest Blogger – Jenica Pong: On COVID-19 as a Student and Taking Virtual Action!

Special Guest Blogger - Jenica Pong: On COVID-19 as a Student and Taking Virtual Action!

It was a huge change not returning in class after spring break. With the weight of the pandemic sinking in I began to understand how this would affect the rest of my year: no band concert, no year end dance show, no school carnival; I wouldn’t be playing Pomp and Circumstance or get to watch my friends a year older graduate. Looking back, these events seem minuscule compared to what became the huge scope of COVID-19, but this was the first time I had ever gone without these year end markings.

Beyond listening to new music and taking walks, it was apparent that through quarantine getting back into activities virtually was important. After a week of initial shock, I was extremely grateful to see how quickly teachers, classmates, and my peers were adapting. (Although this is my experience, COVID-19 has changed our “normal” and I know this isn’t the reality for many people who aren’t privileged with this time, health, technology, and capacity to have so many opportunities virtually!). To the dismay of my family and neighbours, my 3 hour tap class was moved entirely online through Zoom. We were able to adapt our show into video versions. I’m so proud that together we still completed the project despite never seeing each other in person.

In terms of remote learning, my mom is a high school teacher and seeing the behind the scenes of what teachers were doing to make the transition online easier was amazing (shoutout to my Mom!! Hi!!). My school ran through teams and we’d have video calls once a week, then we got assignments from each teacher. Sometimes keeping track of everything was difficult but I was in a rhythm by the end with an online agenda.

Some of the coolest things I got to be a part of was youth led initiatives as everything transitioned online. Yes, teenagers are quick to learn new programs, but both our Burnaby Mountain Student Council and the youth climate strike group Sustainabiliteens worked with impressive efficiency in virtual meetings. For Council, my friend Natasha and I spearheaded taking spirit weeks online, posting photo and song challenges on our instagram. Sustainabiliteens were right in the middle of creating new regional groups all over BC and I got to be a part of intake online. They utilized Slack channels, calls with breakout rooms for discussion, and interactive presentations. It has been so interesting to be organizing with people from all over the province that I have never met in person.

Despite all these wonderful opportunities there’s one challenge that’s becoming clear after almost 3 months of virtual existence… how much I miss being able to meet new people face to face, properly shake their hands, and make conversation! We have been consistently doing check-ins during calls, but nothing replaces the laughs and energy of being side by side. I know that focusing on the big picture helps: that us meeting virtually and our efforts are a small step towards this huge climb where we WILL be able to see each other again (possibly still without handshakes and loads more sanitizer).

In my experience, physical isolation does not mean you have to stop being socially connected or taking action, with the right mindset the uncomfortable or abnormal may become (excuse the cliche) the new normal. My time in quarantine has given me so many lessons about collaborating without seeing your group in person and the value of being with others, which we often take for granted.

Author, Jenica Pong


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