As I write this, the total number of reported COVID-19 cases worldwide has surpassed 2 million. In the past few weeks, the need for global solidarity has become increasingly obvious, as we all try to navigate these uncertain waters in the same boat. I can sense a collective longing for a return to normal.
Much of my pandemic experience thus far has been centered around being a student. The switch to remote learning has changed the landscape of many homes worldwide, turning living rooms and bedrooms into classrooms. The switch has meant that I, along with many other art students, have had to turn our homes into makeshift studios, grappling with the loss of adequate materials and workspace. Across the U.S. many high school students are facing the loss of major milestones, like senior proms and graduations. All in all, this definitely isn’t the semester we all hoped for.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak with three Italian highschool students via Zoom about their experiences during the pandemic. They all describe themselves as having a deep interest in global politics and are all in their last year of high school. Remote learning has been a reality in Italy since March 5th, and it hasn’t been easy. From having to teach less tech savvy professors to use the software necessary for their lessons, to class time being shortened, the students feel their education just isn’t the same. These three students said their main concern is missing the “Esami di Maturità,” a milestone in Italian culture for completing high school. The name roughly translates to “Maturity Exam,” and passing it is seen as a rite of passage, but the students fear they will have to complete it at home.
What fascinated me about these students was their wide scope on global issues. They defined politics as “caring about other people,” and seemed to have opinions on issues not only concerning Europe, but also the U.S. and Asia. Filippo, one of the students, shared his belief that young people should stay informed on these issues because “the future of society is in our hands.” The Italian education system seems to have a broader perspective, and these students also participate individually in initiatives that give them a global understanding. In contrast, many American high school students have a narrower scope. Thinking back on my own high school curriculum, I don’t think my school even offered a course in global politics – from my perspective as an immigrant, American students are often trained to view the U.S. as the center of the world.
Though the students and I come from different backgrounds, we still share the same sentiments and hopes for the future. For now, all we can do according to Bianca, one of the students, is “behave so we can go back to school.” The world seems to be in a state of flux right now, where nothing is certain and answers change every day. When all of this is over it may take years to rebuild the state of our world, and it’ll be up to us– the future of society– to take control of what we have left.