Preface: In March 2020, the TRIP@WTHS'20 session was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the program ended early, our students continued to pursue their interests, to grow, and to adapt. In July, we invited the TRIP@WTHS'20 alumni to reflect on how they spent their time in quarantine. This is Ansh's story.
These past few months gave me a renewed sense of understanding of what is truly important in life, and what it means to be a good human being.
Let me start off by saying this: no matter how many assignments there were or how early in the morning the labs were, the experiences I encountered in TRIP were irreplaceable. We began with the basics - learning how to design experiments, carry them out, and analyze the results, as well as making graphical abstracts of our experiments when we finished. This training period helped us solidify our understanding of the lab in preparation for the second half of the program, in which we would conduct our independent projects. My project was about testing the health of flies when exposed to turmeric in their diets, and I hypothesized that flies which consumed turmeric would be healthier than the control flies. However, before I got to fully collect and analyze my results, COVID-19 forced the program to shut down, and my experiment was left unfinished.
Although my TRIP experience was cut short because of it, COVID-19 opened a new plethora of opportunities at home which I had not considered earlier. I played more board games with my family these past few months than I have in my entire life. Moreover, I played Xbox with my friends, which kept us in touch and was a fun alternative to physically seeing them. I started doing Zoom calls with my extended family on a regular basis, which allowed me to see family I had not seen in a long time.
Additionally, almost all the extracurricular activities I was involved in prior to quarantine shifted online, allowing me to continue participating in them. I worked on requirements for my Boy Scouts Eagle Rank, since I had completed my Eagle Scout Project earlier this year (I planted trees at a local temple). In my local library, I have been an executive board member on the Teen Advisory Board for over 2 years now. Although we normally meet in the library, in the last few months I was able to continue attending meetings and planning events through Zoom. We planned online activities for local teens, such as Gaming Nights, Summer Reading Challenges, and even an online “Quaranzine” magazine that they could contribute to. In addition to continuing online volunteering at the library, I was able to use Zoom to continue a Combinatorics class I was taking, which was originally held at Princeton University.
During the past few months, after seeing the various COVID-19 statistics continuously rise daily, I came to understand the true gravity of the situation. My minor inconveniences such as not seeing my friends paled in comparison to millions of people losing their jobs, and as such struggling to survive. On our part, my family made a few daily lunches for the nurses at our local hospital who were selflessly risking their lives at their jobs. These past few months gave me a renewed sense of understanding of what is truly important in life, and what it means to be a good human being.
Once the situation improves, I would love to continue my experiment through TRIP. Beyond that, wherever my academic and career pursuits take me, the lessons I have learned during this program will stay with me forever.