The return of in-person schooling

If I had to describe briefly our return to school, I would say that we returned with reluctant excitement. Hesitant elation. Vacillating jubilation. 

Heaps of optimism, but with a fair share of trepidation as well. 

The first day exemplifies this experience quite well, as I, along with the Downingtown Stem Academy’s other students, experienced what seemed familiar but had a distinct hint of change from our days 2 years ago. 

As I woke up that morning, I remember hearing the familiar sound that used to pervade the early daylight atmosphere: the grinding of the wheels on a school bus. The sound is distinguishable from any other insignificant vehicle passing through the roads. It’s a sound that used to turn the heads of large groups of high school students urgently waiting for the bus to rescue them from the cold outside air. 

I remember the familiar collective squeak of Nike sneakers across the vinyl floor as groups of tired scholars drudged toward their first period class. 

Up till that point, the entire process seemed smooth as a marble, but upon entering a classroom, I realized how much I had changed through learning on zoom. What once used to occupy mere pixels of my vision now permeated my entire view, my entire emotional plane. Where once we could hide under the darkness of our webcams, here we were in the open with direct contact to the world. 

This shock lasted a few moments, but then things got better, and I started to feel the hard and established changes of zoom high school subside. It began to feel oddly normal again, as if I had simply slipped back into freshman year but with a few changes. 

For one, I am no longer a freshman: I’m a junior. What seemed to be a far off reality, filled with nightmares of college, the IB, leadership in clubs and other exciting but stressful things, is now a reality. I no longer have the safety blanket of being among the beginners — my time in high school is slowly running out. With this comes new challenges, but also new adventures and memories to be made. 

I am certainly glad that I am starting this new phase of my life with other people championing through it, all the same. I know that I can trust my Stem Academy 2023 peers to elevate me, both academically and on a deeper level. 

So in the end, returning to school felt like I was coming home after a very long vacation. COVID and lockdown were crazy for a number of reasons, so is this a happy ending? Maybe. A New beginning? Definitely. 

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