Record of Change

For the first time in a long time, it feels like all people on Earth have something in common. An exploration of what unites us in a time of social distancing, we visit and re-visit people in Hongkong and India, Greece and Gaza, among other places.

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episode 8: United States: Graduating into a Pandemic [transcript]


A Gen Zer navigates the realities of graduating from high school during COVID-19. Despite the challenges and disappointments faced, McKenzie finds the courage to make big decisions and push for change amongst all of the uncertainty that surrounds her.

This episode was recorded on September 15, 2020.

Guest McKenzie, Avon, Connecticut, USA

McKenzie is currently a Global Gap Year Fellow with UNC Chapel Hill's Campus Y. She is dedicating the year to continuing her work with social change and contributing to social justice efforts before attending UNC Chapel Hill in the fall of 2021. Outside of that work, she is most likely to be found on the beach or exploring new places.

There's one other episode with McKenzie:

  • United States: Water Cooler Conversations
Additional Shownotes

More about Record of Change and this episode, including a transcript, in the post for this episode on our website: recordofchange.com

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Credits
  • Prathap Nair (Associate Producer)
  • Matthias Jochmann (Post Production)
  • Stephanie Raible (Host, Producer)

An Huy Tran, Thomas Reintjes and Kecheng Fang also helped make this episode.


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 2020-10-18  29m
 
 
00:01  Stephanie Raible
Hi, you are listening to Record of Change.
00:04
Record of Change listens to 8 individuals located on every continent about how their lives have been twisted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
00:12
My name is Stephanie Raible, I am talking to you from the United States.
00:16
Today, we will listen to McKenzie Roller, a recent high graduate from Connecticut who is taking a gap-year
00:23
before starting as an undergraduate student in 2021 with University of North Carolina, or UNC, at Chapel Hill.
00:33
Since COVID-19 has swept through the country, McKenzie’s life has turned upside-down, with all her of high
00:39
school classes and the special, senior-year rituals and traditions, including her graduation, going online.
00:47
McKenzie talks about what it felt like to miss out on all of the end of high school as she knew
00:53
it, and how it felt to choose a college and a path forward in the face of so much uncertainty.
01:00
In addition, as a native of the American Northeast, McKenzie is now navigating her new life in the American
01:06
South, including the differences in perceptions and practices in place connected to the coronavirus.
01:13
Now, let’s meet McKenzie.
01:17  McKenzie Roller
My name is McKenzie Roller.
01:19
I'm 18.
01:20
I'm, currently, I am living in Wilmington, North Carolina for the first kind of portion of my gap year that I'm taking before going to UNC Chapel Hill
01:29
next fall . I just graduated this past May from Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut, where I was involved in many different sports teams.
01:39
Now, I am in Wilmington, North Carolina.
01:42
I'm about to start an internship with Vote.org next Monday to help with voter turnout for the election this fall.
01:49
I've been going to the beach.
01:50
I've been trying to find ways to meet new people, because I don't know anyone that's living here except for my roommates who I met when I got here.
01:55  Stephanie Raible
So, let's go back to the time that was in: the beginning of this year.
02:00
Can you tell me about how you first heard about the coronavirus?
02:04  McKenzie Roller
Miss Porter's was a boarding school, so we had students from around the world, um, at our school, and I think a couple of international
02:11
students, like from Asia, couldn't go home or were having trouble going home in December when, uh, you know, in China had started to become a problem there.
02:19
Um, and then in January, all, of our juniors at miss Porter's have the opportunity to go abroad for two weeks.
02:27
And one of the groups of juniors went to China, and they got back just as Wuhan was shutting down.
02:33
So, I remember hearing about that because it was kind of like, 'What if we had been stuck there?
02:37
How would the timing had been different?' And so that was back in, in January when it was just getting bad in China, kind of as things were starting.
02:45
Um, and then I kind of heard bits and pieces for a little while as it like spread to Italy, just through the news and stuff.
02:50
Italy and Spain as it starts to get bad in Europe.
02:52
And my mom is, she's a professor at the University of Hartford.
02:58
Um, and she handles the clinical education piece of the physical therapists, like grad school time.
03:05
Um, and so she has to find placements for them and they were supposed to have a couple of students going to Italy.
03:10
And so, I was in chapel Hill for an interview for my scholarship at UNC at the end of February.
03:19
It was like a Friday night and the travel restrictions for Italy went up to like a level three or four.
03:25
I don't remember which one it was, but to the point where United States citizens were not supposed to be going there.
03:31
Um, so she had to, to make a bunch of calls because there's a student that was already in Italy, who now had to come back to
03:36
the United States and the, the, just the, all the travel complications of that started happening .But it was still in Italy.
03:41
Like, it wasn't in the United States's major issue yet , but I know that that was a big moment.
03:48
And then my school has a March break and we left early March and we had like a big school assembly like, 'You might not come back.' They're
03:56
like, 'There might be an extension of March break because this might be an issue for us, but probably not things are going, gonna be fine.
04:02
And this is just like worst case scenario kind of thing.' And when on March break, I was with friends in Vermont.
04:09
And we got an email that like March break had been extended by two weeks.
04:12
And we'd be coming back after that, and then like four days later, it was like, 'We're going to
04:16
be closed for the rest of the school year.' And classes will be moving online and stuff like that.
04:20
So that, that was when, like, it really became bad in the United States.
04:25
And like we went home, and basically we're quarantining and not seeing people.
04:29
Yeah, that was kind of the start of it.
04:31  Stephanie Raible
So, take me through your average day at that point . What was your
04:34
initial reaction to an extended March break and then what manifested after that?
04:39  McKenzie Roller
By the time they had made the decision to extend March break by two weeks I was
04:42
like, 'We're not going back.' This is them trying to keep some hope that we'll be going back.
04:46
And, um, but that's not going to happen.
04:49
Like we're going to move online, and we like, 'There's no way we're an international boarding school community.
04:53
There's no way they're bringing people back for the spring, spring semester.' That that was kinda my feeling at first.
04:58
But it still, wasn't totally real that like going to be going back.
05:01
But then we finally got the email that like the rest of the year will be online.
05:04
Um, and that stunk, uh, that was like, I mean, we're supposed to be having like senior spring, like miss Porter's, it's an all girls school.
05:11
We have a ton of traditions, um, and they're secret traditions, but it's all like the like seniors
05:17
handing it off to the, to the next group of seniors and freshmen not being freshmen anymore.
05:23
And so all of those transition moments that would get celebrated at school, like we have a tradition every week in the spring, um, and it makes it really fun.
05:31
And it's a huge community building moment.
05:33
Um, And so it was really hard to be like, 'Shoot, that's not going to happen.' And if it does, it's going to be online.
05:38
That's going to be weird.
05:39
And we're not going to have graduation, um, and that was like hard to process.
05:42
I'm someone that doesn't process things like that right away.
05:45
I'm like I had friends who were sobbing that night.
05:54
I didn't cry for like a month, but that was like, it was just like the moment where it became real.
05:54
So it wasn't totally really yet, but it was like, 'We're gonna miss these huge moments.'
05:56
I think it was just a surreal, um, and at first it was exciting cause it was like, I get to slow down.
06:01
I get to just like.
06:02
March breaks extended a little bit.
06:04
Um, but it wasn't totally real that, like, I also, wasn't gonna see my friends for a month
06:08
because everyone was like freaking out at first about What does it mean to be with other people?
06:11
What does your bubble look like?
06:13
What does it mean to be like a responsible person trying to not to spread coronavirus?
06:18
There were a lot of questions, and, and things just up in the air that nothing, it was
06:22
kind of like rolling with it at that point, because nothing was certain for anyone.
06:26  Stephanie Raible
And so when this March break extension happened, were you back at home with your family at that point?
06:31  McKenzie Roller
the extension?
06:32
I was in Vermont, um, with like a group of my friends that was like our March break trip.
06:36
And I was there with my, my dad and my sister too.
06:39
Um, So we were all there together and it was kind of like, Oh, we saw this coming.
06:42
This will be fine.
06:43
Um, but I wasn't back in Connecticut yet.
06:45
I think I got the email that like school is going to be closed when I was back in Connecticut after, um, coming back from that trip.
06:51
Um, which was surreal too.
06:53
Cause it was like, I was just with friends, like having a good time in Vermont, and now, I won't see them again for a little while.
06:57
So.
06:58  Stephanie Raible
So, when did you feel like the impact of all of this sunk in for you?
07:02  McKenzie Roller
I don't know.
07:03
I don't even know if it still has.
07:05
I think, graduation was tough.
07:07
Like, doing it virtually was hard.
07:09
I felt super lucky because most of my friends were local, so, I still got to like see them on graduation day.
07:16
But for people who like live in California or they live in China or like in other parts
07:21
of the world, like, they didn't get to celebrate with other seniors from our school.
07:24
Um, but yeah.
07:26
Yeah.
07:26
I think graduation was like, 'Shoot, this is not what this was supposed to feel like
07:30
or look like or, um, be.' That moment, specifically, things sunk in a little bit.
07:36
We have a fountain on campus.
07:37
Like, we were supposed to jump into the fountain together, and we didn't.
07:40
And I jumped into my friend's pool with her, which was fun.
07:43
Yeah, I think that sunk in, and then, just continuing to process over the summer.
07:48
Um, and what it meant to have closure or the lack of closure leaving high school.
07:52
Yeah, those were big moments.
08:02  Stephanie Raible
So, after the March break, after you finally came back, what did your normal day look like at that point?
08:08
Where were you?
08:09
What was your schedule like?
08:11
What was the life like?
08:12  McKenzie Roller
School started a week later than it was supposed to, coming back from March break.
08:16
Um, and that week I was like, I'm so bored.
08:18
I can't do this.
08:19
Like nothing's happening.
08:20
I'm sitting in my house doing nothing.
08:22
I'm walking and running and exercising, but I I'm not, this is so boring.
08:26
I think classes were like 40 minutes or something.
08:29
I think they had been shortened a little bit.
08:31
And I, because of the way my schedule worked out, I only had two or three classes a day.
08:35
So, my day was shorter in terms of actual synchronous school time.
08:40
I had a crazy amount of work because they were trying to fit everything in asynchronously and APs were coming up.
08:46
Um, and so it felt like I had more homework than I'd had in a while, which makes sense because classes were shorter.
08:51
But it was also just like you were sitting at home doing homework for hours, and that was a lot.
08:57
Yeah, I think my day ended up looking like I'd wake up in the morning around like 6:45 am.
09:01
I'm definitely a morning person.
09:02
So, I went on a walk with my mom for like an hour every morning and then showered and got ready for school, um, went to a
09:09
few classes, did homework for a few hours, hopped on a meeting of some sort, depending on, on what was happening that day.
09:15
I ended up working out either in the afternoon or like late at night.
09:18
Um, I also was still dating someone at that point.
09:21
So, I saw him every once in a while, except at the beginning, we weren't allowed to see each other.
09:25
And that was super hard too.
09:26  Stephanie Raible
So, out of all of this, what do you think you miss the most, that maybe you felt like was a bit surprising or something that caught you off guard?
09:34  McKenzie Roller
I missed the dining hall, which was like, I knew I was gonna miss community.
09:38
Um, I knew I was gonna miss, like seeing people in the hallway and like saying 'hi' and
09:43
being like in classrooms with people and like my senior lacrosse season and stuff like that.
09:48
So I knew I was gonna miss community, but I, I think it was surprising to me that like specifically I missed the dining hall.
09:54
Like, I miss sitting at tables with people with the music playing and just hanging out.
09:58
Our dining hall was kind of where people went during free time, and meals and things like that.
10:02
But it was just like, those were community moments that I definitely miss.
10:06
Like, one of my favorite memories is like a Taylor Swift song was playing, and they were like people on tables singing along.
10:11
And like those super happy, super amazing community moments that like only happen at Porter's are, like, things that I missed a lot.
10:22
Um, and just being able to sit down with a random group of people because, maybe your friends
10:25
weren't in there, but it was the way to like connect with the other members of the community.
10:29
Like, I stayed in touch with my close friends, but I didn't get those moments with the people that I wasn't as close with.
10:34
I think I got closer to my close friends, but also missed out on other relationships that maybe would have been better had we been at school for the spring.
10:41  Stephanie Raible
When you think about being a senior in high school, at least in the States, there's prom, there's obviously graduation, as you were talking about.
10:49
When you think back to all of this, what what does it feel like for someone to be at this momentous time in life, and then, for that just to go away?
10:58  McKenzie Roller
So, I think it's funny because I think the feeling of building up to being a high school senior, and it's like a huge moment.
11:04
You're graduating from high school.
11:05
You have your high school diploma, like you're finishing your K through 12 education.
11:09
Like, you are a senior, like there's senior night for lacrosse, there's prom, there's graduation.
11:14
There's all these big moments that are like 'picture' moments, and just things that people hold on to for the rest of their lives kind of thing.
11:21
And I think it was actually harder for parents, honestly , in a lot of ways than students.
11:26
It was like moments that they were missing out on, like not being able to see their kid graduate,
11:30
and these big Moments that they'd been waiting for and working for and sacrificing for.
11:35
And I think that was hard.
11:37
I took it way more logically, I think, than a lot of people did.
11:40
Like, I know some of my friends were like, 'This is what I had been doing.
11:43
My whole high school career for was these three months or like these two months at school where I get to like have fun at senior spring.
11:49
And like, college decisions are out, and school doesn't matter the same as it did before.
11:53
I mean, you can't flunk out, but like, it doesn't matter the same way it did before.
11:56
And so, there was definitely that feeling of like, 'This is what the high school
12:00
career was building up to ' and disappointment on, like, 'what does high school mean?
12:05
If I didn't get to be a part of this?
12:06
Um, I think for me personally, it was like, like 'This stinks, I'm going to miss out on some really cool memories .' But we are still moving forward.
12:14
Our school, like we get to be online and, um, and do our traditions online, which isn't the same in any way, but you miss out on pieces of closure.
12:23
Like that whole senior celebration, I think has a lot to do with like closure and moving on
12:26
from, for a lot of people, like living in your hometown and like going somewhere for college.
12:30
Um, and it's just a moment of change, and I think it just felt like we were missing out on some steps to like get to the next place.
12:38  Stephanie Raible
You alluded to the fact that there are all these college decisions that came out throughout this time.
12:44
Can you talk about how you and your friends were navigating this pivot time between all being a cohort
12:50
as, as high schoolers, then, all of a sudden having to navigate that pre-college time and decision making?
12:57  McKenzie Roller
Yeah.
12:58
I think personally, that was one of the hardest pieces of the transition was like hearing
13:03
about where I had gotten into college at the same time that all this was happening.
13:08
Like a few of my friends already knew where they were going.
13:11
And for them, it was like waiting to see what was going to happen.
13:13
Like was the school gonna move online and things like that, things that we didn't even find out until August, that was what they were starting to think about.
13:20
But for other people, it was like 'Am I going to get off the waitlist?' Because there's a bunch of people on the waitlist
13:25
this year, and people are saying 'no' to colleges because people don't think you're going to go back in the fall.
13:30
Um, and so there, there was this waiting game of like, You just got into this school, but
13:35
what about this school and how has COVID going to be affected at this school versus the other?
13:38
That's what a lot of people were going through.
13:39
And also, it didn't feel like you were ending high school.
13:42
So, it was a weird, like moving forward while being like, feeling like you were stuck in the middle of your senior year too.
13:49
For me, personally, I was basically choosing between two schools.
13:53
I had already known that I was into both of them before anything happened, but I had heard back from other schools too in early April.
13:59
Um, so I had got all my final decisions back, and it was hard to be in the middle of such a big
14:05
life change and have to then decide where you were going to go for the next four years of your life.
14:12
That really is actually more than four years because it's supposed to like set you up for whatever you're doing
14:17
for like the next 10 years, which that's not always true either, but that's what it feels like in the moment.
14:21
So, that was tough.
14:23
There was, you were dealing with so many changes and the idea of making such a big decision was just so overwhelming.
14:30
Um, and it was like, 'How am I supposed to know what I'm supposed to do here right now?'
14:34
And then, so I ended up, it was just like one of those things where like, I need to make a decision because this is
14:38
so overwhelming, and I just need to have something that I, like, know because everything else is uncertain right now.
14:44
So, I ended up choosing UNC Chapel Hill , and then, also found out that I got into a gap year program that I applied for.
14:49
And so, then it was like, am I going to take this gap year?
14:52
What does a gap year even look like in the middle of COVID like I was supposed to.
14:55
The original program I applied for, I was supposed to live in Ecuador for a year, and it was like a language- immersion, service-immersion program.
15:02
And that got canceled because they were like, 'You're not going to get a visa in time, let alone what COVID will look like.' So, that got canceled early.
15:09
And then, I got moved into this like self-designed gap year group that UNC has.
15:14
And then, I had to decide like, am I ready to deal with the uncertainty of a gap year
15:19
where like no one knows where you're going to be able to live or move around or whatever.
15:23
Um, and what's going to be open or do I try to go to Chapel Hill in the fall, which could be online, and no one knows what's happening with that.
15:31
Um, so there were a lot of these big decisions that felt like it was just like a 'shot in the dark' because like who knew what was coming.
15:36
And also you were dealing with so much personal change, like change around you At the same time.
15:42
Yeah.
15:42
Making those decisions was a lot.
15:45  Stephanie Raible
So, how did you make that decision then?
15:47
Because, not only did you have to come up with what school, in your case, you were thinking, 'Do, do I take a gap year?
15:53
Do I not take a gap year?' So, talk us through what you actually decided.
15:59  McKenzie Roller
Well, um, so that was, there's a lot of personal soul searching, talking to people as sounding boards.
16:04
And then, the gap year, I had thought about taking a gap year for forever.
16:09
I wanted to see the world.
16:11
I want to meet new people, hear new perspectives, like understand how I fit into the world in a much more real complex way.
16:19
And I was like, I really don't think anyone's going to go back to school in the fall.
16:22
Um, so why not do this?
16:24
Like, I'll have some control versus none.
16:27
Um, and I also know it's a huge year for the election in the United States.
16:32
Um, this presidential election will define the next few years and possibly more of what the United States looks like stands for believes in.
16:40
Um, so, I knew I really needed to dedicate some time to that this fall because that's something that I'm super passionate about.
16:48
And so, for a lot of reasons, I was like, this is a year to dedicate my time to service.
17:02  Stephanie Raible
One other unique facet that you were able to navigate is, is getting a job this summer.
17:08
Can, can you talk about what it was like to work in a remote position, even before you had to move for your gap year?
17:16  McKenzie Roller
So, this summer I was working remotely like full time, um, with Social Contract specifically on this Fireside
17:22
initiative where I was getting to work on what it meant to be young people making change or support young people through this time.
17:29
And it was just, I am super grateful that that the chain of events happened like it did, where I was
17:35
able to have a stable job this summer working on something that ended up being incredibly important.
17:41
This initiative was born out of COVID and like creating a space for young people to be able to still connect
17:46
about social change, but also about what they were going through and having a support network there for them.
17:51
So , I mean, the job was going to be there.
17:53
I was going to be working remotely, but then the impact and focus of it was totally shaped by COVID, yeah, I'm grateful to have had the opportunity
18:00
and to be able to have made some kind of impact, however, big this summer, for all the young people kind of going through all this change too.
18:08  Stephanie Raible
It sounds like you were doing work that is helping young people process what their current realities are.
18:16
Can you talk about some of your biggest takeaways from your summer work?
18:20  McKenzie Roller
So, this initiative that I was working with called Fireside specifically focused on creating a
18:25
space for young people from around the world to be able to come together, to support each other and also to share.
18:32
And create a community dedicated to creating social change in a better future.
18:37
So, we had space for young people to share how they were feeling, what they need, what support they're lacking or, or what they're just going through.
18:44
And then also hearing what people wanted for the future.
18:47
And I think some key takeaways were, at no matter what stage of life people were in, everyone
18:52
was facing some type of transition, in a way that I don't think had been true before.
18:56
And so, what people are were processing were on different levels and intensities, but
19:03
there was some type of community, banding people together through that, which was powerful.
19:08
And then, also, I got to hear a lot of what young people want for the future.
19:12
And again, no matter the age or where they're from or what they were doing in that moment, like, people wanted a space for community, for authenticity,
19:20
for trust, for valuing like human beings over like productivity, and just these ideals for the future that was super powerful and then ended up happening.
19:31
We had that space going as like the black lives matter movement and started to really gain some steam after George Floyd's murder in the United States.
19:39
Being in a space where young people were processing change together and also naming these
19:43
concrete almost seemingly universal principles that we all wanted to live by in the future.
19:49
Yeah, it was a unique space of support, support that I think people needed.
19:54
You weren't in school with your friends.
19:55
You weren't like seeing.
19:58
Your your classmates every day in a way that that is some type of support and community.
20:02
Um, and so we were forming some online version of that community that was really powerful, um, while also
20:10
giving people space to kind of imagine and start to gain the skills to influence what our future looks like.
20:18  Stephanie Raible
So, at this point in time, when you look back, what would you imagine has been your most challenging aspect of this time?
20:27  McKenzie Roller
I mean, a lot of it is learning to be comfortable and navigate through uncertainty for me.
20:35
I mean, there wasn't certainty in what school it's like there isn't certainty and what parents' jobs would look like.
20:42
They're both teachers.
20:43
There wasn't certainty in how to continue building relationships and keeping relationships intact and building new ones.
20:52
And in all parts of life there this level of uncertainty.
20:56
That's usually super uncomfortable for people, and I know is really uncomfortable for me.
21:00
Like you're told like, pretty much things are planned out.
21:03
You go through many transitions, but like, I knew I was gonna be on the varsity lacrosse team.
21:09
I knew I was going to be graduating in May.
21:10
I knew like I was going to be seeing people at school every day.
21:13
And then, all of a sudden, that's like gone.
21:15
Um, and you're living in this new reality that we've never lived in before, where you're pretty much living with your family.
21:20
Maybe seeing people here or there.
21:22
And school's online, everything's online.
21:24
And there's, I have never faced any kind of uncertainty like that in every area of my life.
21:29
So, it was a lot of learning to be okay with not knowing what was coming , which I like to know what's happening.
21:34
I like to be in some type of control, but it was I think the biggest hurdle was accepting, but also
21:41
learning that like to be okay, that things weren't in my control and it was going to be okay anyways.
21:46
Well, like, you figure it out as it comes.
21:48  Stephanie Raible
It sounds like you've you currently have some sense of peace or at least this has become normal
21:53
or normalized, but was there a point during this whole period of time where you feel like it really sunk in for you?
22:01  McKenzie Roller
Yeah, I mean, there was a distinct moment where I like broke down sobbing.
22:07
Eventually it took time, but, um, Yelling at my mom about like how unfair, like, I hadn't been allowed to see my boyfriend for like a month at that point.
22:15
And I was so mad.
22:16
I was like, 'This is ridiculous.' And I mean, it wasn't just about that.
22:19
That was hard, but it was also just like everything else, um, had changed and didn't look like it was going back to normal.
22:26
And like, it was this huge internal battle of like, I shouldn't see my boyfriend.
22:31
I don't want more people to get sick and die.
22:33
Like I don't the right thing is to not be someone contributing to this spread of this virus, that's killing so many people and putting people out of jobs.
22:41
And like, there was that moral battle.
22:43
But then the, also like, I want to see my boyfriend.
22:45
I want to see my friends, like I miss community.
22:48
And that was so hard: this like battle between like what do I want versus what is right.
22:53
And, feeling frustrated because some people didn't care and were just like going to parties and things
23:02
like that and feeling so mad that like, There's a chance I could do that and no one could get sick.
23:04
Or, everyone could get sick, and someone's grandparent could die and that's like terrifying, um, and was a lot to like hold onto.
23:11
Um, and so that was a moment where it finally like came out in some tangible way.
23:17
Um, yeah, lots of crying and yelling about whatever.
23:21
Yeah, and I think that's when it had kinda sunk in just like the weight of this virus and the way it was impacting my life.
23:31
And, just recognizing that, that everything had changed, I guess, ,first thinking in that this was like a new normal that was going to last for awhile.
23:40
I don't know.
23:41
I don't know when that sunk in.
23:42
I think that was more of a gradual.
23:42
Like things still haven't changed.
23:42
I think when UNC went back to school and like two weeks later was sent home because everyone like too many people had gotten COVID.
23:49
It was like, 'Yup.' So, I don't know.
24:01
I don't know if there was a specific moment for that.
24:04  Stephanie Raible
So, let's actually talk about that because that's something that made national news.
24:08
Because, usually, the schools in the U.S.
24:10
South tend to go back to school a little bit sooner than schools in the North.
24:14  McKenzie Roller
Yeah.
24:16
UNC went back to school like early August.
24:18
They had moved move in date earlier to try to get people back to campus and transition.
24:22
And , so like my roommate, the person that's was supposed to be roommates with, like, I was checking in with her before I decided to take a gap year.
24:28
She was going to be my roommate.
24:30
Um, and at first people seemed like it was going to be fun.
24:33
And then like you started hearing about these clusters that were developing because COVID was spreading and UNC had
24:39
been doing like a hybrid model where some classes were in person, some were online, but you continue to hear about
24:45
how it was spreading and just, I was like, how can you contain COVID in the dorm environment once it gets started?
24:51
And then, um, so like two weeks later they were sent home and I was like, yeah, of course they were sent home.
24:57
Like, what did we expect?
24:59
Um, it's just, watching that from the outside, it's just like, 'Of course.' Like, it's not even surprising at this point.
25:04
And like, I'm in North Carolina now where just feelings about COVID are completely different than they are in Connecticut.
25:11
Um, where like it's required to wear a mask in stores, but basically other than that, I haven't been like seeing people wear masks and like, it's just,
25:20
it's completely different reality than like when Connecticut shut down, and everyone was wearing masks and like, people didn't want to leave their houses.
25:26
And so, it's this weird battle of what it's looked like for different people, and the level of isolation that people feel is necessary.
25:38  Stephanie Raible
How has your perspective of yourself changed over this time?
25:41
Have you had any realizations or self perspective shift over this time?
25:46  McKenzie Roller
I think the power of community has become more clear to me kind of, as I've spoken to before, and the importance of having
25:53
community in a consistent way in your life and the importance of that to me . That's been a big area of growth for me, I think, this summer.
26:01
And not necessarily a change in perspective, but more of a, I guess, feeling more, holding myself more accountable, um, in more spaces and more consistently.
26:11
I think I've become more confident in my decisions.
26:14
Like I've had to make so many decisions that, I think, I feel more confident in my ability to make decisions, but
26:19
also more just my ability to like, okay, I made a decision, whatever happens, happens, and that's going to be okay.
26:25
And we're, everything's a journey.
26:27
And recognizing that, I think has been a big perspective shift for me.
26:31
Like I said, unlike someone who likes to know what's happening next and what my role is
26:35
going to be and where I need to be when, but that's like not possible ever right now.
26:40
Um, and so just recognizing that everything's a journey and every opportunity is, is really a place to learn and grow.
26:47
That's something you're told all the time, but I think that's become way more clear to me over their COVID just as everything's changed.
26:54
And as I've had to make a couple of big life decisions.
26:58  Stephanie Raible
So, thinking about people that are your age, how would you describe the feeling of this whole COVID dynamic for people of your age?
27:07  McKenzie Roller
I think there's been a lot of change, and we've learned to adapt and make decisions in the face of change.
27:14
That like, you have to keep life keeps moving forward, whether or not you want it to, and whether or not you get
27:20
those moments of transition and closure , like graduation or like making a college decision in a normal year.
27:27
Like these pieces of normalcy that kind of get you to the next steps of life weren't there.
27:33
So, being able to continue to move forward has been a big piece of this is just, I
27:41
don't know what's going to happen next is going to happen and it's going to be okay.
27:44
Um, and figuring that out has been a big piece of it.
27:48
And I think, for a lot of young people and speaking from my perspective specifically, it's been a lot of realizing how important it is to have
27:55
people to lean on because moving forward in the face of uncertainty is so hard and there are so many different emotions that come up with that.
28:04
And being able to have people to listen to speak to that are going through the same thing or can just be there to listen has been a big piece of this.
28:12
I think communication about how you're feeling, what your mental health state is, has been a big piece of this and recognizing that it's okay to not be okay.
28:20
And, and the importance of community has been huge.
28:23
But also, we've developed the skills to continue to move forward in whatever uncertainty we face, and make some decisions when we have no answers.
28:31  Stephanie Raible
Mackenzie, thank you so much for your time.
28:42  McKenzie Roller
Thank you.
28:43  Stephanie Raible
This was episode 8, with Stephanie Raible.
28:45
Stay tuned for the following episode of Record of Change when we will hear more from journalist, Didem Tali from Istanbul.
28:50
If you didn’t catch her first episode you can hear more about her experiences in Episode 1.
28:55
In the meantime, make sure to follow us on your favourite Podcast provider, and find out more
29:00
about the stories of our guests on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or our website, recordofchange.com.
29:14
This podcast is implemented with and by members of the Bosch Alumni Network, a community that brings together
29:20
former and current fellows, grantees, and staff members of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and its partners.