Graduating Thousands of Miles Away from Christ School

One of our online Teams Meetings together.

As many Greenies may know, there are a number of us who were not able to spend our final year at Christ School, but in our homes instead. Although we are several thousands of miles away, this school year has still felt great, and in some ways, it never felt like we were really away.

Academics

The most important portion of schools are its classrooms. I used to think that taking classes was exhausting, both physically and mentally. But after spending a year away from school, I realized how much I actually missed sitting in a classroom. What makes a classroom so effective is its immersion—being in an actual classroom with teachers and classmates beside you pushes you to interact and learn.

Although we missed out on a year and two months of classroom experiences, our teachers were able to compensate for this shortcoming. All classes were carefully recorded and put up onto the OnCampus site, and we are able to watch and look back at the classes to learn everything we needed to. Relying completely on recorded videos may still be hard on others, as it lacks interaction.

However, the teachers also gave us a chance to catch up on everything with frequent meetings on Microsoft Teams, and sometimes even several meetings a week! These frequent meetings gave us a chance to go over class materials, update us on what we were missing, ask questions about the class, tests and our assignments.

Mr. Martin graciously gave us live lectures late at night.

Not meeting with our teachers four to five times a week and not having study halls to focus on school work has exposed a weak spot for all of us. It got harder to concentrate. But after a few weeks of adjusting to the sudden schedule change, the ride became smooth once more.

Athletics

As we were not required to be at sports at a designated time and place every day this year, we have more freedom in choosing when or how we would keep fit

Not having a weight room within walking distance made me seek other ways to get the proper exercise I need. My mother, who used to play ping-pong as a pro, constantly drags me to play with her.

Kevin dominates the basketball court.

Kevin Zheng, being the baller he is, naturally played a lot of basketball in his spare time. Even though he injured his knee a few months back, he says that he has made speedy recovery and could not wait to get back onto and dominate the court again.

Daily Life

In some ways I feel like taking online classes and being a distance learner is almost like being on a holiday. I get to wake up really late if I want, and I can go to bed whenever I feel like it. When comparing it to our Christ School lives, there is a lot to discuss.

When we were in school before the pandemic, the start of the day would be breakfast. However, although suggested, a lot of people don’t really go to breakfast since sleeping for another 30 or 45 minutes would be really enjoyable after staying up late the night before. This year, being at home everyday, breakfast is fixed and is forced to be eaten. Our parents would physically get us out of bed and force us to eat breakfast. Other than this, the rest of the day feels like a holiday.

Being a distance learner, one of the most important things is to schedule our days and stay on top of things, but we get to do whatever we want for the whole day. In the morning, I usually watch class recordings. In the afternoon, I would do my homework. In the evening, I can go to basketball courts or the gym. All these feel really great to me because I don’t need to worry about tardies for classes, or going to Chapel at a designated time. Instead, Chapel services and school assemblies are recorded and put onto Microsoft Stream and we can watch them only when we miss our friends and teachers.

One of the principles of Christ School is the spirit to work and contribute, which is why we have community service opportunities and job periods every day. Although I can’t contribute to my beloved Christ School community, I often choose to serve the community around me here at home. During the weekends, I often go to libraries and zoos to volunteer. I also do most of the chores at home, like cleaning the house and buying groceries. These things make me feel the same way as I was in Christ School because I have the same spirit inside of me.

Brotherhood

Christ School’s emphasis on brotherhood fosters a close-knit community. With the majority of the student body being boarding students, close friendships can bloom in daily dormitory lives.

When COVID first showed up, we never thought we would not be able to spend our last years away from Christ School. Bevin Zhang and I, who had been roommates for three years, and were planning for a possible fourth year of rooming together, were forced to separate. The two of us lived on opposite sides of China—me in the north and Bevin in the south.

But this separation did not tear down all the brotherhood built up from the past years. Because many of us share the same classes, we usually stay after the weekly Teams meetings with our teachers to chat and have fun and connect with each other once more.

One of our online Teams Meetings together.

Also, not being bound by a rigorous daily schedule has made frequent travelling possible for us this year. We have also been constantly visiting each other throughout the year, flying to each other’s home cities and hanging out for a day or two.

I visited Bevin Zhang in his city, Suzhou.
Robert Dong visited my hometown, Beijing.

Seeing my Greenie brothers in flesh definitely beats seeing them through a screen. The current situation really makes us realize how much we miss each other.

Graduation

As the first group of seniors who were not able to spend their entire final year on campus, we did not know what to expect in terms of graduation. Will we still get our green blazers? Will we even graduate?

Yet, the year turned out great, and at the end of March, we received a care package from Christ School. The package contained our greenie blazers, two t-shirts, a Christ School pin, a Christ School mask, and much more. It gave us a feeling that we were not left behind and still part of the community.

The package that held my senior blazer and other Christ School memorabilia.
My Christ School diploma.
My senior polo came in the mail too!

By May, we also received our Christ School diplomas, which really freed our worried thoughts of not being able to graduate.

Kevin looking fresh in his green blazer!

When graduation finally occurs, every distance learner plans to meet up together in Beijing and hold an unofficial graduation ceremony since we will not be able to attend the one at school. We will watch the graduation live stream together and spend our possible last times as Christ School Greenies together. We may not be present at the in-person ceremony, but hearing our names be announced in front of everyone on Yard A will be enough.

In conclusion

Looking back at this year of distance learning, we feel like there were indeed advantages and disadvantages, but we are still grateful for what we have and what Christ School has given to make our experience extraordinary.

From March 2020 and onwards, we have noticed the care from our teachers and we really appreciate what the school has done for us in this hard time. While a lot of other schools were closing up and expelling their students, our dear teachers provided international students with a safe place to live and study until we were able to book our plane tickets back home.

We all miss Christ School, but rest assured—we are definitely going to come back at some time in the future to see our dear teachers and Greenie brothers.