Seeking connections in a pandemic

December 11, 2020 — by Preston Fu
discordboi

Varsity water polo player junior Marcus Kuo noticed that, aside from the masks and maintaining social distancing, practices were fairly standard. The team swam sets for conditioning in their lanes, came together to pass with weight belts on, did a warm-up shooting drill and practiced their new play. After practice ended, they put on their masks, cleaned up and left.

When December’s fall sports practices and games got postponed over COVID-19 concerns in mid-November, though, Kuo was reminded once more how atypical life is now.

“Water polo practices have been great, since I can get exercise outdoors while seeing my teammates,” Kuo said. “But I still don't see my friends in-person too much, and when I do, it's only one or two of them. Life doesn't feel very normal at all.”

Aside from sports, students have been finding other ways to connect with others through online conferences, volunteering opportunities, school events and in-person activities.

Since it is no longer feasible for Kuo to eat with his friends or go hang out at a friend’s house, he now meets daily with his friends on Discord, a messaging platform.

“We do homework together, chat and play games like ‘Among Us’ and those from the Jackbox series,” Kuo said. “People drop in and out of the voice channels. Discord makes it really convenient to spontaneously talk to your friends because you can call them with one click.”

Sophomore Lisa Fung, too, has found herself interacting online with people more frequently. Aside from basketball practice, where team members have attempted to maintain social distance and keep their masks on for less strenuous activities, she attends many club meetings and events. Of the nine clubs she attends, three stand out to her in terms of their closeness to pre-quarantine times: Economics club for its interactivity, Chess club for the ability to play online and Astronomy club for its magazine and telescope mount projects.

One of the most enjoyable parts of her life, she said, are her interactions with other students through the Falcon Family Peer Tutor program, where she meets with other students one-on-one as a tutor for math and Spanish twice a week.

“It’s really fun, as I get to meet and know new students while helping them out with academics,” Fung said. “It would be more enjoyable in person, but the advantage of being online is that it's easier for people to come.”

While Kuo and Fung generally limited their interactions to online environments despite having the opportunities to connect in person during sport practices, others, like junior Naisha Agarwal, interact through a mixture of in-person and online activities. 

Agarwal had previously shopped and gone downtown with her friends; however, now, only she and a small group meet up, masked and socially distanced, exclusively for special occasions like birthdays and holidays.

“Physical interactions are obviously much more engaging,” Agarwal said, “but online is also pretty good too considering the situation we are in right now.”

She said that her family now travels much less than they did before — only to parks and restaurants with outdoor seating or takeout that are within a few miles of home. Although her current lifestyle is quite different from pre-COVID times, she feels that she has adapted to the situation.

“When I first started online school, it felt very strange to me — how we could never see our teachers in person and had to learn from tiny screens on Zoom,” Agarwal said. “But now with the end of the first semester nearing and basically transforming all my activities online, this has now become normal to me.”