Kent was my first experience studying in the U.S., a dream of mine since I was ten. The days leading up to the first day of school were some of the longest I’ve ever trudged through, and I was exhilarated when I first caught a glimpse of Kent School’s beautiful campus. I remember the gorgeous, cloudless weather, the bustling crowds, the huge suitcases and boxes brought in and out of the dorms, and Mr. Duncan standing in front of a refreshment table at Hoerle’s front door. My first week at school was a whirlwind, but an extremely rewarding and exciting one.
At this time last year, I was excitedly navigating the school campus, eating our luxurious breakfasts in the dining hall, and reading play scripts in Mattison Auditorium. I met my enemy, Algebra 2, whose slaughter made the flights of stairs up the Schoolhouse all the more dreadful, talked with my amazing advisor (thank you, Mrs. Ober!) in the old admissions building, and laughed with my newly-made friends from all over the world. I slowly started to consider myself a student of Kent School.
Now, as I sit at the desk of my room in Hong Kong, as I have for the majority of the past six months, I don’t feel like a student of Kent. I feel like I am watching Kent students go on with their day as a visitor, not as a fellow student. I feel like I’m watching Kent function from outside the classroom window, and after the visiting period is over, I’m completely shut off from the school that I belong to. I feel detached from Kent, the place where I found meaning and excitement in my studies.
I am so sorry, new students, that you weren’t greeted with warm smiles from faculty and students alike, but instead were probably met with cautious faces obscured by masks, possibly even through a screen. Regardless of where they’re situated, on-campus or miles away, our new members of the Kent community aren’t able to experience the welcome we once received when we first arrived at the school. They’ll never experience the freshness of safe, carefree campus life, especially those enrolled in our remote program. If I’m feeling disconnected from the school community as a returner, I can only imagine how isolated new remote students might be feeling.
I’m distraught. When I was rushed out of Kent at the start of spring break earlier this year, I had hopes of returning for the spring term. When that didn’t happen, I naively believed that I would return to campus in September for my sophomore year. I was sick of online school, I was sick of time zone differences, I was sick of not being able to see my friends and teachers or just even be in Kent. Spring term was all right, though, since everyone was online and we had already gotten used to our different classes and their expectations. That doesn’t apply to the start of this new school year. Learning from home has been rough, even after almost three full weeks of school. Seeing half the classroom through my laptop screen and trying to put my two cents in without seemingly interrupting the flow of the discussions, I feel almost like an intruder.
Then again, it could be a lack of effort on my part. I should reach out more, interact with my teachers and classmates more, make myself feel more included in the school instead of complaining. But I remember how timid I was one year ago, and I think about how other new remote students, who are currently probably as nervous as I was back then, might not have the courage nor the means to introduce themselves to their classmates and get to know them on a closer level. I fell in love with the Kent community mainly through newly-made friendships and connections. I can’t fathom the detachedness they must be feeling.
I’ve made so many incredible memories in Kent with my friends and teachers. I can’t help but imagine the new memories I could be making if I were physically there on campus, as I rant about my frustrations on this document more than 8000 miles away.