The Pandemic Experience for High Schoolers around the World



Students around the world shared consistent experiences and opinions of the pandemic.

All over the world, the pandemic has taken a massive toll on everyone. Many students in the U.S. are not aware of what day-to-day life is like in different countries for people of the same age. I was able to interview multiple students from areas outside of the U.S. to better understand their experience with the pandemic and how it has varied from ours.

I found that the students I interviewed experienced similar social situations to many American teens. For example, when they were prevented from seeing friends, they reported that they connected mainly over social media and video calls during the severe lockdowns. Stuck at home during the pandemic, they took up many hobbies, used certain social media sites, and entertainment platforms to keep themselves busy. These activities reflect the lifestyle of many American teens during these times, showing that even though we live in different countries, we are very similar. 

Firstly, I was able to interview Yuki Otsuka, a student from Hyogo, Japan. I learned that Japan took a much different approach to the pandemic and did not experience any mandatory lockdowns like many other students reported in their countries. Otsuka wrote that, for the most part, he currently participates in in-person schooling. However, these schools are not fully open, as 30% of their classes are online and students are still not allowed to participate in after-school activities.

In contrast to Japan, France has gone under another severe lockdown as a third wave of the virus has hit many areas of Europe. On March 15, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, created new restrictions, as the virus recently has caused a huge increase in cases. Both of the French students I interviewed stated that before the recent lockdown, they attended school in-person four days a week and were only remote one day a week. When interviewing Océane from Poissy, France, on the topic of remote schooling she reported, “It’s all right when it’s one day but if it was more then it would become difficult and annoying.” Similarly, Harald Maureau from Paris, France reported, “It’s in my opinion okay, but I would rather go to school everyday.” 

When asked about after-school activities before the recent lockdown, Océane also noted, “We can but sport needs to be outside and all the activities must finish before 6pm as there is a ‘curfew,’” while Maureau said, “No, all after school activities are unavailable.” 

Similar to France, Norway announced on March 15 that the country would be going into another strict lockdown, closing all schools, restaurants, and non-necessary stores. Louise Tideman Gyberg, from Ås, Norway, reported that until this lockdown, she was able to completely attend in-person education and participate in after-school activities. She described, “Everything is closed in my county schools, shops, restaurants, gyms etc. My school, which is one of the biggest in my county, is the only one that still hasn’t gone into lockdown, strangely.” Gyberg also reported, “I don’t have to wear a mask with friends. We don’t wear them at school or anything.” Until recently Louise’s school was fully in-person and it was not mandatory to wear masks like schools in the United States. They were just told to keep their distance from each other, to which Louise commented, “It’s not really that easy when we have our desks together in the classroom and people aren’t that careful.” 

Other countries that I was able to get insight on were Denmark and Portugal. Both of these countries have begun to ease up on restrictions and are slowly coming out of lockdowns. Julie Laursen from Aarhus, Denmark reported, “We have come back to our school now,” and that they will have “less corona testing at school in the future.” However, many restrictions will stay in place until April 5th. Another high schooler, Fábio Vaqueiro from Entroncamento, Portugal, reported his country is emerging from their restrictive lockdown. He said, “I already had and will have classes in rotating format in the future. Some face-to-face and others remotely.” Similarly to almost all other students, he stated, “I’m used to [the school format] now, but I don’t think it’s as effective as it used to be, personally.” With so many countries experiencing a third wave of the virus, it is a good sign to see other countries like Denmark and Portugal emerge from their strict lockdowns.

England is also beginning to ease out of their Covid restrictions. When interviewing Sophie Stephenson, a high schooler who lives in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, UK, she stated, “We’re back in school. The teachers have to stay at the front of the classroom. They can’t wander around to look at work and everyone has to wear a mask for the duration of each lesson apart from in P.E.” The country has emerged from their latest lockdown which lasted from January to March. Although restrictions are beginning to ease up, Stephenson reported, “During the second lockdown all years had remote learning where all our lessons were set online using Satchel:One and Google Classroom and everyone had a mixture of live and non-live lessons.” Stephenson voiced her opinion on remote learning saying, “I prefer being in school because it means that we can have class discussions and share ideas. I think I work better in class because I can’t finish the lessons earlier if I do the work faster which means that I put in more effort to try to make my work as good as it can be.” The situation in England began to look up at the end of 2020 as, “Over December 2020 we had different bands in the country so restrictions could be personalised for areas with different amounts of cases.” The country is currently doing a very productive job giving out vaccines and they have already moved onto the 50 years old and up phase. 

Although these high school students are from very different parts of the world, they shared consistent experiences and opinions of the pandemic. Even though some countries are beginning to open up while others are just going back into lockdown, life for the most part is similar. The schooling system was different in each country, but everyone, including Americans, had similar feelings about this, agreeing that in-person learning was much more efficient. While we have all felt cut off from others over this past year, it is comforting to know most teenagers around the world have been experiencing the same thing.