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Student journalism competition: Graduating in a pandemic

04:59 09/08/2021

The Bulletin launched its inaugural student journalism competition in the knowledge that adolescents risk being Covid’s “lost generation”. On top of the normal stresses of being a teenager, the social distancing and interruption to routine caused by the pandemic have taken an emotional toll.

So we felt it was important to hear their voices and give them a platform. How has the virus affected their studies and their lives? What has the experience taught them, and how has it changed them? Students aged 15 to 18 from international schools in and around Brussels responded. Although the competition was in English, all the entrants were multilingual, with experience of living in other countries.

Together, their essays reflect the difficult but frequently mundane reality of lockdown, or living under “house arrest” as one young writer described it. Their remarkable honesty shines a light on an unprecedented period in their lives. We were impressed by their creativity, their storytelling skills and their capacity for self-reflection, and would like to thank each of them, and their schools, for their enthusiastic participation.

This week: Graduating in a pandemic, by Tatjana Poznakova

The first lockdown struck me on Thursday 12March. We all received an email from the school that we’d have to close down for a few weeks, nothing major. Little did I know that I wouldn’t see my friends again for six months.

It was an exciting prospect – something new. I’d always preferred staying home and doing schoolwork, instead of actually going to school. Maybe that’s because I wake up at 5.30. That’s also something that changed with the lockdown. The time I spent travelling to school could be used to sleep. Another reason I wasn’t too nervous about the lockdown was because I’d already had experience of studying at home for a couple of months before, when I had an injury that impeded me from moving much. I was familiar with the concept and it wasn’t something that had ever happened before, so I was looking forward to it. I thought I’d be back in school by May. I see now just how much I underestimated the issue. We all did – there were so many different opinions. Some people caught on to the fact that epidemics happen every hundred years or so, others thought it less important than the flu. The coronavirus brought us all together; a household name that could take away the pain of small talk; something that affected everyone and that everyone was thinking about.

I’d considered myself quite independent until and even through the first lockdown; I had (and have) loving friends and family, but I also thrived by myself – I could spend hours alone and feel satisfied. I think that’s what made the lockdown easier, being content with myself. Coming back into my final year, I realised how much I actually depended on social interaction. I have never appreciated it more. Being by myself had at times lost some of its fulfilment. I’m currently re-learning to spend time by myself and be content with it. The lockdowns have taught me the value of the people around me.

I was very happy to discover that the time I spent on travelling home, I could use to my advantage. Studying, hobbies, family time… so many possibilities! My grades went up – I finished the year very nicely, even better than in my previous years. It even encouraged me to set high academic goals for the next year, which I ended up achieving!

Even though graduation celebrations won’t be very big because of the remaining restrictions, I am still very glad that school is over, and I can go on to discover the exciting world of higher education. All in all, the absence of human contact made me realise just how important it is and how we depend on one another. It also pushed me to rediscover some hobbies I’d lost track of, as well as picking up new interests, such as embroidery. In the end, it taught me to grow.

Tatjana Poznakova
Age: 18
Nationality: Latvian
School: European School of Brussels IV
Residence: Brussels
Interests: Reading, learning languages, writing, painting, cooking, working out and solving sudokus
Ambition: I plan to study social sciences at VUB 

Photo: Image by Eduardo RS from Pixabay

Written by Tatjana Poznakova