Behind the Mask
The World Through a Screen — Texas
The COVID-19 pandemic hit my town with the speed of a rocket. One minute we were hanging out in coffee shops and celebrating our spring break, the next we were isolating at home and pulling out masks whenever we wanted to set foot outdoors.
Bluebonnet Classroom had existed for a few months before the start of the lockdown. It was at first a group of friends offering English practice for kids in China through WeChat. We had garnered a lot of interest, and through word-of-mouth, our weekend sessions were steadily growing between the weekday stress of classes and tests.
Yet in quarantine, we were freed from the more strenuous obligations of school, and we started to turn attention to our English sessions. We recruited new volunteers and included more times to incorporate greater numbers of students. During a time when I could not travel or see my friends anymore, it was incredible to hear the voices of people from all around the world, from places where the virus had hit hard to areas where the pandemic seemed to have skipped over altogether. Though these sessions were meant to help foreign students with their English skills, I was probably learning even more from them than they were from us.
Through our conversations, I have tasted nankhatai at a Pakistani bazaar, seen the mince pies on Christmas Day, and heard the pops of firecrackers during the Spring Festival. I have exchanged stories with people as far as Kazakhstan, Japan, and India and have seen that we are far more alike than our cultural differences. Divided by oceans and continents, we can still share a love for various books and movies as well as the intrinsic thirst for learning that brings us together time and time again.
Bluebonnet Classroom has opened my eyes to a vibrant new world during a pandemic that has kept us from traveling it. Now, we have hundreds of students from almost two dozen countries, and I have never been more grateful to be the president of such an amazing organization. I am excited to see where the future will take us.
— Mira Jiang, 16