Sometimes, when you have plans for the future, you shape your life around them, acting as if you were sure that things will happen the way you expect. However, sometimes that's not the case... things turn out to be very different from what we expected, and it's often hard to accept that reality.
This is exactly what happened to me. Back in April, when I decided to go back to Guatemala, I still had the hope that things will soon get better. I was hoping that by summer, things would be back to normal. I was expecting to be able to attend Yale's Young Global Scholars (YYGS), and McGill's Summer Academy. Sadly, the situation didn't improve...
I had to accept the reality that I wouldn't be able to attend YYGS (which had been my dream for quite a while), or to visit Canada for the first time ever... I was disappointed when I got the emails from Yale and McGill explaining that the summer programs were cancelled, and would be replaced by virtual ones... but eventually, I got over it (even though once in a while I still feel the sadness when I think of what my summer could have looked like if COVID-19 had gone away...).
As weeks and months passed, I realized that the global situation wasn't improving a lot. Sure, Asian countries, and some European ones were handling the situation in a very impressive manner, but the US simply stopped caring about containing the virus.
As a result of this, a week ago, I realized that I wouldn't be able to go back to Tanzania to start my second year as an IB Diploma student at UWC East Africa. Guatemala's borders are still closed, airplane tickets are getting more and more expensive, flights are getting cancelled all the time, and the risk of getting infected is still very high.
While students are allowed to go back to Moshi, the school has stated that no quarantine will be required - and I honestly can't gamble with my health in that way. Having so many students from all over the world coming to a small town where health care is barely a thing is simply too risky. Now, I know some people will say "but Ken, you won't die because of COVID-19", and that might be true (but who knows?), but the problem is that being in your second year of IB, with the SATs being just a month away, getting sick even for a couple of days is something that a student can't afford. Sure, the school will understand - but the College Board won't.
It's impossible to avoid an outbreak, because just with one infected person being on campus, the whole school might become sick...
For this reason(s)... I knew that going back in August wasn't an option. This is probably one of the toughest realities I've had to face, especially because I was part of the organizing team for the orientation week for the incoming first years. My orientation week wasn't really the best one ever, and I was excited to be able to give the first years what I couldn't receive. Additionally, UWC is a 2-year program, and two months have already been taken away from my UWC experience, and the thought of my time in UWC being reduced even more is simply unbearable.
Nevertheless, I accepted this reality...
I've learned that getting over difficult realities is very hard, but I've also learned that in order for new plans and goals to arise, one must accept reality, and look forward to the next thing. If we keep dwelling in the past, we will be forever stuck in sadness. As Kylo Ren said in Star Wars Episode VIII: "Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. It's the only to become what you were meant to be..."
After knowing that I wouldn't be able to go back to UWC East Africa, I decided that I wanted everyone who was in the same situation as me to not miss out on anything that the UWC experience has to offer. So, I decided to start the organizing team for the Virtual Orientation Week. While we can't go to town and show Tanzania's natural beauty to the incoming class, we can show that us UWC East Africa students will always have that sense of idealism and personal challenge: we might be physically separated, but our sense of community is stronger than ever.