This year has been a tough year for everyone. Between the pandemic, the virtual school, and the new grading system, a lot of people are falling behind. 48.8% of American high school students are failing at least one class in the year of 2020-2021. Many students are giving up on school because it has gotten to be too much for them. When COVID-19 hit, we all got put in online school. This was new for everyone, including the teachers, resulting in little to no Zoom calls, and assigning kids with more homework than they can handle. This made a lot of kids fall behind in their classes, and most of the students had no motivation to do any work. This year, COVID had died down a little bit, meaning kids could go back to school if they wanted to. At that point, it still was an option. Many people did go back to school, but many also stayed at home, knowing that if they stayed home, they would have a lot less work on them. For my first semester of the year, I was online. I was one of the very few online students that actually did all their work. It was hard to stay motivated, and there were times where I too would fall behind. By the end of the first semester, I was fighting to turn in all my missing assignments, and ended up finishing with A’s and B’s. My grades were good, but I still knew it was not my best ability. I found it hard to stay motivated enough to do my work, which I find is an issue with a lot of students. The way I stayed motivated was by remembering where I wanted to go after high school. This helped me because I knew if I failed, all my plans of college after high school would not work out for me. When the second semester hit, we still had the option of doing online or in person. We also found a new grading system that we had started to use. This sparked a lot of issues with the students, and that made them lose even more motivation. I had started going back to school during this semester. I was so excited to be able to do my classes in person, because learning virtually is a big struggle. Around this time, I got three core classes, and knew that this semester would be a lot of work for me. The motivation that I had when I first started coming to school came, because I was excited to be able to see my friends again. When COVID started, I was not able to see my friends for months at a time, which aided in the loss of my motivation for school. When I was able to learn and socialize, my motivation sparked again. Later on the semester, I received a positive COVID test. I knew this meant I had to go back in steps and go back to being online until I was negative again. Being online, and having COVID, made learning very hard. I did not want to pay attention in class, and oftentimes did not pay attention. I would play video games with my friends and watch movies while class was going on. I fell behind a lot and knew that as soon as I went back to school, I would have to grind out more work than I needed to. One day, sitting in my bed sick, I realized that I did not want to have to work harder when I came back, when I could have just gotten it done during the day, and had fun with my friends later on. I started going to academic assistance, and began to learn the things I missed in classes. When I came back, I had a streak of turning in my work on time every day for weeks. I got my grades as high as I could get them, but that was not good enough for me. Because of the new grading scale, you were only able to get an 85% on just doing your work. You had to put in a lot of effort to get an A. This pushed a lot of people back, and made them not even want to try. I would often hear people say “Why would I go above and beyond to do more than the assignment asked just to get the grade I deserve?” I would often hear myself say that as well. I realized that complaining about the situation would not help it. I started going to academic assistance to help tutor other students, and got my grades to be all A’s. My motivation was lost, between having COVID, being online for a whole semester, and a new grading system. I remembered what I should be fighting for, and started fighting for it. My tips for people who are trying to catch up in school is to not think about it. I found that when people say they are gonna do something, that gives them time to think about it and decide against it. When you just do it without saying you are going to, you do not have time to think about it. Everyone has to do things that they do not like sometimes, and when you sit there and contemplate it, you are less likely to want to do it, which will stop you from taking that time to complete your missing assignments. I know how hard it is to catch up when you miss so much, and that is my only advice. Be your own change, and realize what you need to do, and just do it with no second thoughts.
My Exchange Year
By Mara Weihe
My Name is Mara Sophie Weihe, and I’m from Frankfurt, Germany. I’m an foreign exchange student from this year, 2020-2021, and I spent my junior year here at CLA in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The Organization I’m traveling with SAI, that’s short for Student American International, which is a partner organization to my German program from ISKA.
I really do recommend SAI as an organization, it supports you with everything you need but also gives you endless opportunities. Before Covid-19 hit us, my friends and I planned all to do an exchange year. We were a group of five or six girls all interested in traveling and adventure. We talked about it during our lunch break every day and watched youtube videos from other foreign exchange students and their experiences. When I told my parents about my interest in an exchange year, they supported me from the beginning as best as they could, because they knew what a big opportunity that is and how much it means to me. My mom told me about this big fair where different organisations with different exchange programs are. So at the end of the day I had a bag full of catalogues from different organisations. For the next 3 weeks me and my parents were debating which organisation might be the best one for me and my needs. We ended up deciding on one and then the whole debating process started again, which kind of program should I do, what country, how do we pay that, where does the money come from. Eventually we could figure it all out and decided on a basic 10 month program in the USA. So far so good, we did all the paperwork, paid the money and were ready for everything at the end of February. Then, March 13, 2020. Covid-19 aka the Coronavirus got Germany and we were all under lockdown. I was pretty sure that my exchange year gets cancelled, because no one was allowed to travel or even leave their city. I thought if we can’t go to the store I sure can’t go sit in a plane for 15 hours and visit a foreign country in 4 months. So I waited for the exchange year to get cancelled while watching the world go down. All my friends already cancelled their exchange year for good but I did not. Yet, I thought that my organisation tried to place me somewhere else somewhere in Europe, maybe Ireland or the UK, but that was too close to Germany for me. I wanted the whole experience on the other side of the globe 4,376 miles (7042.489 km ) away from home. Then in August 2020, I got a letter from my organization telling me that they found a host family and my flight is in two weeks. I was shaking. I already got over the idea that it’s happening and there I was, cancelling all my panels and preparing to leave in less than 14 days for a whole 10 months. Then the day came, August 22nd the date of my arrival at the Myrtle Beach airport. Before I came here I imagined it to be like in the movies. I was so excited living the life of an American teenager, with the high schools, the sports, the spirit, the American Dream. I knew that America is really big and really powerful, but I wasn't aware of the difference between the areas, and what it meant to be on the east/ west coast. One of the most exciting things were also all the holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter in a foreign culture. In the whole time I’ve been here, my host family took me and the other exchange students six times down to Orlando Florida, we went to the universal studios, Disney World and stayed at my hot mom's sister's house. This whole exchange year helped me personally to find myself again, my mental health was really bad before I came here, and this year helped me to find my happiness again, it made me remember how amazing life is and how short it is and that we have to enjoy every second of it. I mean 10 month in a foreign country technically alone,that makes something with someone, positive and negative. I also looked at all my problems in Germany, and my life there from a totally different perspective. I just see it from a distance now and now when I’m back there I can just take a step back and see it objectively. And I personally am not a homesick person, I can be by myself and enjoy it. So here I called my family once a week, that I only speak German one day a week, and that I sit down and take my time and tell them about my week instead of making small talk and random calls everyday. But if you are really clingy and easily homesick an exchange year is gonna be really hard and challenging for you. The only thing I miss from home except for my family and friends is the food. The bread, the lunchmeat, the restaurants, the food. Something I’m gonna miss most from America is this school CLA, the people, the american lifestyle, the fast food, the beach, the universal studios, disney, florida, car parties with my friends and of course my host family. If some of you think about doing an exchange year, in a foreign country make sure you find an organization and a program that fits your needs and wishes. If you love traveling and you want to see the world and experience other cultures, then I think an exchange year is a good experience for you, it’s something you should have made in your life.