At The American International School of Vilnius (AISV), the class of 2020 faced several challenges as the pandemic took place in March 2020. IB exams were canceled, travel restrictions were put in place, universities had to make adjustments, and students had to rethink their plans, the School writes in a press release.

Graduating from high school and going to university is a milestone for students; they celebrate their achievements and look to the future. For many, the pandemic hampered their progress: some started their studies virtually as traveling restrictions were put in place, others began their studies but had to follow strict regulations, and some completely changed their plans.

Students have had to learn to be flexible and live with the uncertainties that Covid has brought to their lives. We have learned that we have to be able to adapt and be open-minded to change and opportunities” , comments Claire Ruz, AISV College Counselor.

She adds that the pandemic has impacted admissions and universities in different ways, depending on the countries' regulations, the universities' policies, and the challenges the pandemic has brought on.

For example, some universities have received an increase in applications as standardized tests have become optional, while others have seen a decrease in applications as traveling restrictions were enforced. At AISV, where students often apply to 3 or 4 countries, students have become more concerned about the distance and traveling restrictions and are looking at staying closer to home, wherever this might be.

Searching for creative ways to celebrate

For seniors, graduating is supposed to be a time of celebration, a rite of passage, and for some, a turning point as they will move to a new country.

“Of course, they are disappointed and at times saddened or even angry by the inability to celebrate, but they understand the gravity of the situation. Still, students will receive their diplomas, and we are finding creative ways to celebrate their achievements virtually while staying safe”, says Claire Ruz.

New skills gained only by students, but also by teachers

AISV students have been learning virtually since November. As Claire Ruz notes, the administration and teachers are very conscientious of the challenges it can bring, but also are dedicated to the well-being of the students. In high school, most classes are conducted synchronously and students have to have their cameras on so that they can continue to engage and stay connected to each other and the AISV community, and create a form of routine and normalcy, in these times of uncertainties and restrictions.

American International School of Vilnius (nuotr. R. Damkevičiaus)

“For example, we have maintained our homeroom daily meetings so that students can stay informed, share concerns and celebrate achievements together, as a class. Teachers have developed strategies and learned about new technologies, apps, programs, to keep students engaged during virtual classes and encourage learning. Virtual teaching and learning has also proven to be beneficial as teachers had to find new approaches to teach and students developed organization skills and became more independent. We have continue to offer extra-curricular activities, provide individual support to students, and continue to adapt to meet the students' needs” notes AISV College Counselor.

What does student life abroad look like in the presence of COVID-19? Experiences and advices by AISV Alumni

Meghan McMorrow, 19 years, studying Global Challenges at Leiden University College in The Hague:

“After graduating highschool, I faced many challenges due to the impact of COVID-19. I had to learn to adjust to a fully online curriculum. This was difficult as it was something I'm not used to. I am a very social person, so the lack of interaction between myself and fellow students as well as teachers was difficult. I advise those that will be graduating to accept the fact that university life will look different than expected, at least for some time. It is important that, despite the situation, we take care of ourselves and our mental health. Therefore, I would say try to get in a groove and stay in it. Balance your academics, but also your social life as much as you can. Be strong and remember it will be over soon”.

Mantas, 19, studying Biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh:

“Tough luck graduating still during the ongoing pandemic, but there is a very very slim chance that by the time you guys go to universities, everything starts moving back to normal...Anyhow, here's a couple of my tips:

1. Before you actually enrol to university, you might have questions about how your courses will be run, assignments, practical activities etc (especially during these vivid times). Instead of using some general inquiry email, you should instead email your professors, course organisers. Although it might be intimidating talking to your professors for the first time, chances are they will respond much faster and precisely answer your question.

2. Once your classes begin, don't get overconfident. Having done IB, the first month or so might be very easy, but afterwards it gets rather hard really quickly.

3. If you are given a choice for direct entry into the second year, don't take it. I was given such an option due to having done IB, but there is an ungodly amount of stuff that you learn in first year, which will be crucial to your second and third year courses, stuff that IB doesn't teach you about”.