An incoming call rings and you smile as you pick up your phone, ready for your usual call with your friend from Ukraine. You’re greeted by the familiar smile of your new friend and immediately you start sharing about your day. While listening to her explain how school was for her, you start to notice how well her English has improved with your help. It’s become a weekly routine and is always something to look forward to in the otherwise lonely times of the pandemic.
Over the course of quarantine and the stay-at-home lockdowns first introduced in March 2020, many students have used social media and other innovative ways to form new friendships and relationships virtually. Some even started clubs dedicated to reaching out to other teens internationally and helping them to learn English while also creating new, long-lasting friendships.
“The Meaningful Teens Club mainly focuses on helping to improve the English and reading skills of kids who are underprivileged or do not have English as their first language. These international bonds are important because you get to learn more about someone else whose life is different from ours, especially during the pandemic,” junior Isabelle Tseng, co-president of the Meaningful Teens Club, said. Students at Miramonte are connected with other students all over the world and help improve their English skills while learning about their unique cultures.
“My best friend, Anastasia (Sia) from Ukraine, and I meet weekly to talk over zoom for about two hours through a Meaningful Teens program called Project ENGin. This program has given me a fantastic opportunity to meet new friends and learn about each other’s country, culture, and traditions. Sia and I enjoy sharing our daily lives and talking about current world events. Overall, Sia’s English has greatly improved from our lessons!” junior Ella Dulski, co-president of the Meaningful Teens Club, said. Students also keep in touch with their international friends through social media, allowing for daily communication.
“I joined ENGin to practice English and have fun with a friend. I’ve got a soulmate and a highlight of my week! I love everything about it: discovering more about life in the US, a friendly atmosphere, discussing everything in the world and doing whatever we want like watching movies or even playing Among Us. Most importantly, I love the opportunity to practice while having so much fun,” Sia said.
Many students joined sites such as Global Pen Friends to make ‘pen pals’ with people all over the world. Some write letters in the conventional way on paper-and-pen while others email or communicate through social media platforms.
“I decided to find a pen pal through this online platform so I could learn more about what life is like in different parts of the world. During the pandemic, I thought it was great to be able to make new friendships with people all over the world,” Millie Love, a British user of the site and pen pal of a Miramonte student said. Users of all ages from any country in the world can sign up for free, create a profile, and start chatting with people close to their age safely and easily. To stay safe, users are encouraged to get to know the person through anonymous chatting before sharing names, addresses, and other personal details.
Others have connected through video games, such as “Sky: Children of the Light.” “Making new friends over video games has really been a large factor of getting through tough times like this pandemic. It really put in perspective how we aren’t alone in this situation and how people everywhere are working together to get through it all,” junior Akiha Yoshie said.
The pandemic has affected how people interact with each other and form new friendships. Because of the power of technology and the wide world of social media and the Internet, unique international friendships were created over quarantine that will last a lifetime.