Our Pandemic Experience: A Year in the Life of the M'KIS Class of 2021  

As part of an independent project to reflect on his senior year and the collective experience of the Class of 2021, upcoming M’KIS graduate Amsalu spent weeks interviewing his fellow graduating seniors about their pandemic experience. They talked about their struggles, their friendships, their fears, and the things that gave them hope during a year that looked very different than what they had imagined.

The article below is Amsalu’s personal reflection of this challenging year, with reflections from his fellow upcoming graduates.

Covid-19 took the world by storm, spreading so rapidly and so far until it felt like it was impossible to imagine the existence of our previous, normal world. I’m certain that many of us spent countless hours reflecting on the impact that Covid-19 had on our lives at school, at work, and at home. Hour after hour, we felt imprisoned in a seemingly endless loop, longing for freedom and the hope that we could return to the life we knew before.

But the light at the end of the tunnel seemed farther than ever as the world was engulfed in a global, rapid spike in cases. So many aspects of our social and economic life collapsed, plunging us into quarantine and isolation.

“In terms of mental health, the pandemic was horrible. It was the worst time I went through in my life. I lost weight, couldn’t sleep, went to the hospital, and didn’t want to do anything.” — Jaynee, M’KIS Class of 2021

From left to right: Amsalu; Senior Kosi during Mock Exams; Senior Asumi during Mock Exams. 

What were once important parts of our daily schedule became a distant dream and the world turned more nightmarish. We were forced to step beyond our comfort zone in order to find means of entertainment and communication in order to cope with the unexpected global crisis that threatened our very existence. We became reliant on and grateful for technology, which not only connected us with our loved ones but also kept us psychologically stable.

As an upcoming high school graduate and teen, the global pandemic left an ugly bruise in my consciousness. It took away so many opportunities which should have been the best moments of my high school years. Adapting to such a mind-boggling situation was no walk in the park (something I couldn’t even begin to think about during lockdown).

“I was privileged enough not to have bad things happen to me or my friends. At the same time, it was tough to follow through with our goals under such challenging circumstances. You never know what may stop you from doing things, such as worldwide pandemic. Do the things you want when and if you can, because you never predict what might stop you in the future.” — Asumi, M’KIS Class of 2021

From left to right: Seniors Reem and Joey preparing for Climate Day of Action; Seniors Rohan and Jaynee during the Senior Luncheon; Seniors Ria and Amsalu during Spirit Week. 

Prior to the pandemic, I was an active person who loved exercise, but over 14 months of sustained lockdowns and time spent at home drained me of my motivation to do anything. Thinking about attending university in person, returning back to school, playing sports, or resuming a normal life became unimaginable. I was usually optimistic, but any hopes for a better future were crushed as I began to contemplate the possibility that the pandemic would continue to dominate our lives. Extreme sorrow and anger built up as the uncertainty of vaccines or signs of a permanent solution left us to suffer in silence.

But it was not all bleak. In a way, lockdown and Covid-19 taught me the importance of gratitude and appreciation for many things in my life. I realized how fortunate I was to have access to a reliable healthcare system that is not possible for many. It taught me to open up to more people and sympathize with them in a way I never thought was possible before. It was painful at times because of the extreme uncertainty of our situation, but it made me realize that we were all in this fight together. I also picked up skills and hobbies such as cooking, chess, working out, board games and other things that normally didn’t cross my mind.

“In a way, Covid-19 impacted me positively in regards to my family because I had the opportunity to spend more time with them. Socially, it’s been hard because I have not been able to interact or do things with people in a way that is not virtual.” — Megan, M’KIS Class of 2021

From left to right: Seniors Manon, Kosi, and Asumi during Spirit Week; Senior Megan during Mock Exams; Amsalu and his parents during the Senior Luncheon. 

It's no surprise how much seniors around the world missed out on due to Covid-19. Prom, homecoming, sports, social events...the list goes on. Milestones and celebrations that we desperately looked forward to were canceled. For many of us, our final year in high school was spent in fear. It was as if a part of our humanity and identity as teenagers was stolen from us by a global pandemic. As teens, we thrive on social events and interactions, especially with our closest friends. We rely on each other for moral support.

These bonds became increasingly difficult as we were separated from our friends, left isolated, and thrown into a different reality. The pandemic created so much chaos in our education that it became hard to look forward to classes or even school. We lacked the motivation to complete assignments, tests, or even think about how much was at stake for those of us in the full IB Programme. School became a source of stress as we were given strict protocols to limit human interaction. We were confined and couldn’t physically interact with our friends, which was painful.

As a senior, I was disappointed I missed out on so much, especially since it was my final year at M’KIS. This experience and feeling of isolation is definitely something I will never forget, no matter how hard I try. It drained me of my optimism, motivation, and part of my identity as a teen. It also left me vulnerable to threats such as depression, anxiety and paranoia.

However, after countless hours of talking with my family and friends, I have also come to realize that I connected more with them than I ever did before. I found a new unique connection and understanding even with people that I didn’t have much in common with. Although we have endured a lot of loss and difficulty together through this time, I am lucky to have gone through it all with the M’KIS Class of 2021 and our family, friends, teachers, and sources of support. I hope for a happier, brighter future for us all.

“As a person who’s passionate about the climate, I think there is a possibility that the world can come together to fight a cause like they did with Covid-19 by making vaccines. People may not because of the challenges of climate change, but I have more hope now that they can.”
— Reem, M'KIS Class of 2021

We are grateful to Amsalu for putting together this personal reflection of his experience and the experience of the Class of 2021. As a group, they have overcome incredible challenges on their path towards graduation. We are confident that their endurance, resilience, and optimism will serve them well in their future endeavors! Congratulations to the M'KIS Class of 2021.