Living and learning in the pandemic era


Gaby Munguia ‘23

Back in the fall of 2021, after more than a year of Zoom school, Gaby Munguia ‘23 and Isabella Mehrabian ’23 were thrilled to finally be back on campus.

Back in the fall of 2019, the class of 2023, radiating with excitement and a tinge of nervousness, eagerly marched into their first day of high school, ready to meet their new teachers and classmates. But just as they began to settle into a rhythm, fate dealt them an unexpected blow. During February of their freshman year, the class of 2023 encountered the pandemic, which resulted in a nationwide lockdown and sent all students home to spend the rest of their year on Zoom. Covid caused people’s lives all across the world to turn upside down, as the feelings of stability they were once accustomed to abruptly disappeared. Like the rest of the world, the class of 2023 had no sense of when things would ever return to normal. 

“I struggled with loneliness and not being close to my friends. The pandemic made me appreciate the times that I did have with my friends,” Emma Peralta ‘23 said.

But despite these daunting challenges, the resilient students of the class of 2023 refused to let adversity bring them down. With unwavering determination and grit, they persisted, finding ways to connect and support one another through turbulent times.

“We’d send vlogs through Snapchat about our day to each other, or we’d Facetime for hours,” Isabella Mehrabian ‘23 said. “In the beginning of freshman year, we had a Facetime group lunch, which is so funny now, looking back.”

In the midst of online learning, Tologs were able to forge new friendships.

“Because it was easy to convert into an online format, we were still able to continue speech and debate throughout the pandemic. I’m a part of the impromptu squad on the speech and debate team, and we had a freshman named Leigh that year. Through the practices, I got to become friends with her, and we are super close friends now,” Peralta said.

Along with their friends, many Tologs also had their family’s support and company during the pandemic.

“I got really close with my brother at the time. He’s eight years younger than me. We would watch TV with each other and hang out, and I actually got to connect with him in a way that I never really would have, which was nice,” Peralta said.

As their freshman year ended and their sophomore year began, the class of 2023 still didn’t know when they’d be welcomed back on campus. Some Tologs even did asynchronous learning at the time, which was quite challenging due to the time zone differences involved.

“My sleeping schedule got really messed up,” Coco Chen ‘23 said. “I actually wanted to meet friends and teachers, instead of looking at the recordings, so I had to get up at midnight. Sometimes I stayed up until four in the morning.”

Whether it was because they were learning from overseas or because they could barely leave their house, it was easy for Tologs to feel out of place during the pandemic.

“Sophomore year is always the awkward year, and it’s even more awkward if you’re doing that online,” Gaby Munguia ‘23 said. “We also missed out on football games and the social aspect of meeting other people from different schools, because it was hard to do that over social media.”

Though the class of ‘23 eventually returned to campus near the end of their sophomore year, their junior year was their first full year together as a class. 

“It was different because we went from being on the bottom to somewhat on the top since we were juniors. Making connections with teachers was also different, cause it wasn’t like ‘I’ve known you since sophomore year.’ It was like ‘Were you in my zoom class?’” Mehrabian said.

Being able to relate to one another’s struggles, some members of the class of 2023 believe that the pandemic has strengthened their class unity.

“I think it caused our class to grow stronger, because we all have something in common that we went through. We talked about it in our retreats, which gave us something to bond over,” Annamaria Vazquez ‘23 said.

However, some Tologs believe the opposite — that their class isn’t as close as it could be due to the pandemic. 

“We are definitely pretty resilient now as a group. We’re fairly ambitious in general, and I think the pandemic made that trait stronger. But I think as an entire class, the pandemic has prevented us from getting closer. I feel like even though we’ve definitely grown as people, because of the pandemic, the batch unity is weaker in a sense,” Peralta said.

Regardless of the range of opinions amongst the class of ‘23, no one would be the same person they are today had the pandemic not happened.

“I feel like I matured a lot through the pandemic, and I’ve learned a lot of independence,” Vazquez said.

During the pandemic, some Tologs even made discoveries that helped them determine their future careers.

“During the pandemic, I got diagnosed [with ADHD],” Peralta said. “Because I had nothing else to do, I just started researching about ADHD. Now I am going to major in neuroscience. I’m essentially going to make that my career, and that was because online learning made [ADHD] something that I couldn’t ignore anymore.”

Despite the fact that it wasn’t a normal one, the class of 2023 was able to make the most of their high school experience.

“I feel like I was just at orientation as an incoming freshman,” Munguia said. “When I was a freshman I thought senior year was a while away, but it came a lot faster than I thought it would.”