Growth through 4 unusual years of high school


Genell McClendon

Arnold Angelo Aureo, Staff Writer

For most seniors, our freshman year was the most normal year we’ve had in our four years of high school.

But for me, it was not that normal.

I moved to Garland from the Philippines at the beginning of September 2018, my freshman year, so I started classes later than everyone else. I had to adapt to a new culture and learn to speak a language I barely understood.

Thankfully, I met people who were kind and welcoming, and a lot of them helped me adjust not only to school, but also to the cultural differences between the Philippines and the United States.

During this period of adjustment, it became apparent to me what freedom means in this country. Initially, it was strange for me to see how open Americans are in expressing their identity.

As a conservative country, Filipinos do not have the privileges that Americans have, and internally wishing that my countrymen had these privileges made me slowly adjust to this new normal.

During my sophomore year, I finally started to feel comfortable in this new environment, and then the pandemic hit. I did not expect it to hit us hard, and I know my friends were not expecting it either.

In March that year we left for a one-week spring break that turned into two weeks because of ever increasing COVID-19 infection rates. Then we were notified we would finish out the school year in online learning.

Online school was pretty horrible for me. I realized that I needed physical contact and not just staring blankly at a screen to learn. A lot of my friends felt the same way, and I was hoping that the pandemic would be over by the start of my junior year, and everything would be back to normal.

But, that was not the case. Junior year we were given the option to attend face-to-face or virtually. My parents told me to attend school online in order to avoid bringing the coronavirus to my household.

It was such an unpleasant experience to sit in front of my computer for seven hours a day, five days a week, and forcefully try to understand everything through a screen. On top of that, paying attention and avoiding distractions while being unsupervised was simply a hard thing to do.

It also did not help that I took challenging honors and AP classes. Among these classes that I heavily regret taking is AP Physics, a class that requires attention and focus.

It was such a strange and completely unexpected year, but I still would not call it my worst. It had moments that I consider highlights of my life. It is during this time I got my first girlfriend who helped me get through the challenging year.

Despite the isolation, the pandemic ironically brought me closer to my friends. I do not fully understand yet why it did, but perhaps the shared feeling of loneliness was a great factor in pulling us emotionally closer to each other.

The beginning of senior year brought some sense of normality, finally being physically in school is refreshing yet still strange. Even with all the plexiglass and masks, it initially felt somewhat wrong to interact closely with a large group of people.

Seeing others around me comfortable with the “new normal” helped me get comfortable with face to face learning again.

So far, my strange and not-so-normal life in high school helped me grow as a person. Through the challenges I experienced, I am slowly learning my limits and realizing my true interests.

Maybe a not-so-normal high school experience is not so bad after all.