Calling For An Attitude Adjustment: Getting The Most Out of Our Current Lawrenceville Experience

Staring into the pixelated 360 degrees camera view of my English classroom and straining to hear the people in the corners speak, I can’t help but feel jealous of my classmates who are physically there.

Staring into the pixelated 360 degrees camera view of my English classroom and straining to hear the people in the corners speak, I can’t help but feel jealous of my classmates who are physically there. They only have to experience this challenging hybrid learning system a couple of times per week, whereas I, Zooming in from Seoul, South Korea, have to endure the constantly muffled audio, frequent screen freezes, and accidental interruptions from classmates every day. I don’t blame my classmates, teachers, or even the school as a whole for these difficulties. After all, it was my family and I who decided that I would be taking classes online instead of returning to campus. Even so, as someone who loves participating in classroom discussions and greatly values human interaction, I’d be lying if I said I am not feeling disconnected.

Although it has only been one week since the start of hybrid learning, I can definitely feel myself becoming invisible in the classroom. At the same time, however, RLO has also presented many moments of joy and taught me to appreciate my current situation for what it is. For those of you on campus right now, I completely understand your frustration with not being able to move around as freely as you normally would, but I encourage you to adjust your thinking. As much as you might dislike the strict regulations, please remember that there are some who physically are not on campus, enjoying time with friends and in-person classes, even if they want to be.

Initially, RLO seemed like the best decision: what if I returned to campus and I ended up contracting Covid-19? It’s not like I would be able to fly back home, and the prospect of lying in one of the infirm’s trailers for a long time wasn’t exactly appealing. These fears were reaffirmed when I heard the news that there were a couple of cases on campus, not to mention that one of the students who contracted the virus lived in my house. However, as time passed and no new cases appeared, I began to feel regret about not returning. I began to reason that the possibility of my contracting the virus is relatively low, and even if I did somehow get it, all odds would be in my favor—I’m a young athlete with no pre-existing medical conditions. I would be able to see friends and teachers and participate in activities on Lawrenceville’s beautiful campus. Most importantly, I would not have to stay awake from ten in the evening to five in the morning to take classes and attend meetings looking like a brain-dead zombie. I wouldn’t have to be accidentally talked over by my teachers and classmates, constantly be wary of waking up a sleeping family member, or be unable to enjoy Korea’s 73 degrees autumn mornings.

My RLO experience so far has certainly allowed me to truly appreciate everything I’m missing out on at Lawrenceville: ordering burgers and pulling late-nighters with friends, attending consultation in person, and taking bike rides around campus were all parts of my life that I used to think of as ordinary but now dearly miss. While I do realize that these activities aren’t fully available to students on campus, the fact that I am nearly 7,000 miles away from my peers and Lawrenceville’s physical learning environment makes me miss my time at the School even more. Yet in spite of these challenges, I’ve chosen to try to look at the bright side (as cheesy and cliché as it sounds).

Surprisingly enough, RLO has presented me with many moments of joy I could not have experienced had I been on campus. Because I live in a country with less than 100 Covid-19 cases per day, I have complete freedom to do whatever I want and whenever I want to do it. I don’t need to carry a POM, am free to leave my house to go to a restaurant or a movie, and am not under constant fear of the person next to me. This past weekend, I even went on a three-day vacation to the seaside to celebrate my birthday with my family. I spent the entire time with my uncle and cousin, whom I haven’t talked to since I attended Lawrenceville two years ago. Taking scenic pictures and blasting music while driving by the sea, I realized just how much I had missed being with family. Of course, I wear a face mask and wash my hands regularly, but clearly, I am enjoying a lot more freedom than most of my friends and teachers are at Lawrenceville.

All too often, we focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do. Instead of complaining about POMs and the rigidity of the BFA, I hope those of you on campus value the importance of the daily human interactions you are experiencing. After all, while I may be enjoying normal life, you’re the ones enjoying the semi-normal Lawrenceville experience. Keep in mind what Head of School Murray mentioned at School Meeting: if things somehow go sideways with coronavirus, you could even lose what you have right now—in-person classes, athletics, and a semi-normal time at Lawrenceville. By abiding by the BFA and valuing what you have, you raise the chances for a return to normal life on campus sooner rather than later. So instead of complaining about what we don’t have, let’s make the best of what we do.

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