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Change of Plans

During my time at The Millbrook School in New York, I studied Mandarin very seriously. After I graduated and continued my education at Rhodes College, I also furthered my skills in the language. As I became more and more interested in Mandarin, I began considering making it my major. My interest in pursuing this major led me to make the decision to travel abroad to Shanghai my junior year in college, which happened to be during the 2019-2020 school year.

In the weeks leading up to my application, things seemed to feel off. While it was still the summer before the trip would be taking place, and the pandemic was nowhere near anyone’s mind, things just seemed to keep going wrong— it seemed like there were so many signs that I shouldn’t go.

Unfortunately, I had gotten so far into the application process that I hadn’t re-enrolled for the regular school year at Rhodes. This meant that I could not return to school in the fall, and I had to stay home for a year. It was hard at first, but after a while I came to terms with the fact that it was only one year. In the meantime, I could work and save money. While I was reminiscing about the experiences I could have been having in China while immersing myself in the language I love, news started to surface about a very serious virus, close to where I would have been living. As the weeks and months passed and the coronavirus pandemic progressed, along with travel bans, global hysteria, and the shut down of schools, I realized I was in the best position possible. This was the year I had taken off from school.

After the initial shock of the pandemic, as things started getting into the flow of things, I realized that my summer job would likely be in jeopardy. I usually work at a day camp in Maine, which was far too risky to re-open. At first I began to panic, wondering how to find a good job last minute that would provide enough income to help pay for my education. Luckily, I found a job that requires very minimal contact with others so I can protect my family and community while still making money. Overall, this pandemic has taught me that while circumstances don’t always work in your favor in the present, it may be because they are working in favor of your future.

—Owen



Written by: Siobhan Kelley

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