The Quarantine life: how students have been dealing with “Physical distancing”


On March 13th, the Hessen government announced the closing of all public schools in the state due to the rapid COVID-19 spread happening throughout the country. This led to our school closing down and the start of a period of self-quarantine and distance learning, something that would have been absolutely surreal to think about a year ago. In addition to this, the IB officially cancelled the May 2020 examinations session, leading to a whole mix of emotions from this year’s senior cohort. 

After all this, the FISH team decided that a piece showing the student’s perspective in this troubling time was necessary.  A group of students – four seniors and two juniors to be exact – were willing to take part in interviews to share their opinions on the distance learning program (DLP) and how they’re coping with quarantine and much more. These students were the seniors A, G, N and the juniors T and F. There was also a senior who has asked to keep their identity anonymous and will, therefore, be referred to as Student Y in the rest of the article.

When asked about how isolation was going for them, the majority said that it wasn’t that bad. N stated that while it is strange not to see and talk to people in person, far more people are communicating with each other –especially among the seniors– online. This sentiment is felt among other seniors as well with Student Y saying that they initially felt a bit lonely due to isolation but felt better once they started to meet up with their friends on zoom daily. Others that I interviewed – including A, G, and F – were also talking to their friends often, whether that be on Zoom, Discord or Skype. Naturally, it is important to note that some people still see some downsides with this. A stated that while the alternative of hanging with friends online is working, it is still a bit boring and stressful to not be able to hang out in real life. T, a junior, discussed an alternate point of view. He said that the necessity of being online has been both a blessing and a curse. While he can communicate to anyone he wants to, he can’t escape certain conversations which he could in real life –such as a EE supervisor meeting. However, he also stated during the interview that sitting at the same table and in front of the screen has been an exhausting experience for him. He found that the sudden change of focus subject-wise that comes from moving classrooms in school didn’t really translate well when one just stays in the same location.

Another topic that was discussed in the interviews was the Distance Learning Plan (DLP), workload and general productivity. When it came to workload among the seniors, all seniors stated that last week the amount of work given by most teachers was either equivalent or less to what is usually done in class. As for their productivity, the opinions were mixed. N said that she has become less productive, even though there is technically more time now that commuting to school isn’t necessary. She also said that being at home has made it harder for her to commit to working, as there’s no real separation between school time, homework time and free-time leading one needing to mentally compartmentalize it themselves. All other seniors stated that their productivity has decreased, with Student Y stating that they tended to ignore doing a lot of self-revision.

When the May exams were cancelled they completely stopped reviewing altogether. G agreed with this sentiment while A said that the uncertainty that came from exams being cancelled led to him working significantly less. When asked for how much of their working time they spent on self-review for exams compared to doing assignments handed out by teachers, all seniors mentioned that they spent the majority of their time doing assigned work. The range, however, varied from N, who said approximately 60% to G who said 100%. However some seniors – including N, A and Student Y –  believed that this question was a bit difficult to answer as most of the assigned work given to seniors at this point of the year is for exam review anyway. 

As for juniors, both juniors were on opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to their opinions on the matter. T stated that quarantine and distance learning has had a positive impact on his productivity. He stated that the extra amount of time gained from not commuting to school and the fact that most classes are focusing on independent learning has allowed him to study the content at his own pace. However, he also said that he is aware that this only works for him as he is more of an independent learner anyway. As for F, he stated the opposite of T, stating that he finds it extremely difficult to work at home due to constant distraction caused by his siblings and bad internet. In addition to this, he finds it hard to focus in class leading to a lot of his classwork being added on as homework, thus increasing his workload. 

When discussing fears regarding the coronavirus throughout the interviews, many said that they themselves weren’t that scared of the virus – with G specifically saying: “I should be fine as long as I don’t leave my house”. N stated that what she was more afraid of is the uncertainty caused by the quarantine and whether restriction would calm down by the time of the end of year senior events such as senior week, prom and graduation. Both A and Student Y have stated the same concern, however, both of them believe that it is very unlikely that any of those events happen. In regards to this issue, A stated: “That we probably won’t be back to school this entire school year” while also nonchalantly adding “it is what it is”.  As for the juniors, both T and F are not scared of the virus. T stated in his interview that he believes that for most juniors it isn’t that relevant whether school starts or not; all they have to do is learn content. F also stated that he was a bit annoyed by the comparison people are making between the coronavirus to apocalyptic type plagues such as the one shown in the movie Contagion. He deems this to be an unreasonable comparison for a multitude of reasons. However, even though all the interviewees weren’t that scared for themselves, Student Y stated that they’re scared for their family more and whether they’re getting enough food and supplies.

Moving onto a slightly more positive note, when discussing how the interviewees were finding ways to stop themselves from getting bored, there was a multitude of answers. While some people offered common ways to pass the time such as playing video games and ‘bingeing Netflix’, some people have found it as a perfect opportunity to pick up a new project or hobby. For example, N is currently in the works of making a virtual choir group made up of people from multiple different international schools while G has started to read a lot more than she used to. Most of the interviewees are also putting a major focus on exercise as well, with nearly all of them saying they try to exercise daily, whether that be by shooting hoops, biking, running or a normal workout routine. As for T, he stated that given that most of his time is spent studying, he never really gets that bored. However, he added that the quarantine has helped him improve his exercise and eating habits in general.

For the seniors, the final question asked how they felt about the cancellation of the May 2020 exams. N said that overall she is just sad about it but feels some relief about not doing exams. She stated that people have been working so hard towards exams and that the cancellations have made the ending of their senior year slightly anticlimactic, leading to a dramatic goal shift. As for her opinion on the FIS exams, she said it could be considered a replacement, but it won’t be taken as seriously as IB exams. On the other hand, all other seniors stated that they are glad that exams are cancelled as the stress behind it is gone. However, A stated that he is still worried by how the IB results will officially be assessed, as the IB hasn’t officially stated how that’s going to work.

Given that the May exams are not that much of a concern to the juniors (yet), they were asked how quarantine affected their EE process. Both of them said that it hasn’t really affected their research and what they’re planning to do, but for most people, the deadlines have been delayed due to the quarantine.

Throughout the interviews, one important thing can be seen: Regardless of the struggles that students – especially seniors – are facing right now, people are just trying to make the best of the situation.