Roar: The Podcast | Episode 3: A virtual freshman year


Roar: The Podcast | Episode 3

Welcome back to Roar: The Podcast! In this episode, freshmen Chesca Casis, Elias Panou, and Soo Jin Spencer discuss how they’ve coped with beginning high school online. 

Find this episode where you stream podcasts:


  • Chesca Casis, freshman
  • Elias Panou, freshman
  • Soo Jin Spencer, freshman

Edited by Melina Kritikopoulos


Melina: Hello everyone and welcome to Roar: The Podcast, a student run podcast hosted by members of Santa Clara High School’s very own The Roar staff.

Chesca: Hello everyone and welcome to Santa Clara High School’s Roar: The Podcast. I’m Chesca Casis. I’m a freshman at Santa Clara High School, and I’m a staff writer for The Roar.

Elias: I’m Elias Panou. I am a freshman at Santa Clara High School, and I’m a staff writer for The Roar.

Soo Jin: I’m Soo Jin Spencer. I’m a freshman at Santa Clara High School, and like everyone else, I am also a staff writer for The Roar.

Elias: Today, we plan to discuss distance learning, and how it affects the freshman experience. Soo Jin, I think you’ve got a few points about this.

Soo Jin: Yeah. Firstly, this year I was really excited to experience some of the cliche things about high school, and I was excited to meet new people and get involved more with the school through clubs and just meeting new people, I guess, and sports. I don’t know. What do you feel about this, starting freshman year Chesca?

Chesca: I definitely agree with you on that. I was really excited to meet people from the other middle schools, and I was excited to involve myself more on campus, so it just really sucks that I don’t get that much of an opportunity to do that. What about you Elias?

Elias: We didn’t end our middle school years on the best terms socially, mentally, physically, so I feel like that straight shot we were, most of us thinking we were going to take into high school, we didn’t get that experience. We didn’t get what everybody fantasizes about high school we’ve all seen on the Disney Channel since we were five.

Chesca: We didn’t get the normal thing that people usually get. It felt really weird going into high school.

Elias: I know we grew up with that 2000s cliches, the sparkly flip phones, pink convertibles, the posse of girls with the Chihuahuas in the bags, but I feel like it was still that four point thing that we’re not getting right now and that disappoints us.

Chesca: I feel like I didn’t really feel as prepared to go into high school compared to some of the other years because I literally did the bare minimum in middle school and then I just got shot straight into high school, and it felt really weird. 

Soo Jin: Yeah, I agree with you, definitely. I feel like I did terrible in middle school. My mental health was so, so bad. Everything in my social life, I feel like I was around some people that I shouldn’t have been hanging out around with. And now I feel like I’ve grown as a person over quarantine, and I’ve really improved my study habits, my organizational skills, my social skills, just everything. Have you guys grown throughout COVID too?

Chesca: I feel like I definitely changed more as a person. I’ve learned more about what’s been going on, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve definitely felt like I’ve educated myself more on that, and personally, I feel like I’ve grown in my skills as an artist. I’ve gotten better at graphic design, and I’m starting to get myself more into art and starting to do more stuff.

Soo Jin: That’s nice. Art is always a good thing. It’s so fun. I just suck at it.

Chesca: Art is really therapeutic. Even if you’re not good at it. I like to do it.

Soo Jin: I like coloring. Sorry, we’re getting really off-topic. 

Elias: Yeah. I feel like looping back to what Chesca said about the Black Lives Matter. Social distancing, this whole lockdown and the election year as well – so much disrespect and political pressure that’s been put on us. I’m really starting to get sick of having to care about everything at once, and I know in many ways that can seem very privileged – it is, and I apologize for that – but I think it’s a feeling amongst most of us. We can’t have all this stigma, everything just being blasted down on us and especially during such a tough year. I feel like that really sucks.

Chesca: Yeah, there’s a lot going on this year. It’s kind of hard to keep track of it. There’s one thing happening here and another thing happening there, so it’s just really hard to keep track of what’s going on.

Soo Jin: It’s chaotic really.

Chesca: Yeah, but it’s really important for us to be educated.

Soojin: I agree.

Chesca: And for us to know what’s going on too.

Soo Jin: I love how this generation is so involved with issues that have been prominent within our society for years and years. I think it’s really important that we’re taking a stand on these issues and educating ourselves and educating others, and I just love that about this generation. Did you guys want to bring up anything else about growing as a person, or maybe therapeutic things you’ve done to help yourselves get through this quarantine?

Elias: Well, actually … I’m not that much of a musician in my life. I had basic knowledge on how to play guitar and whatnot, and I really got into it because something about listening to old records and albums from the ‘90s, like RHCP, Smashing Pumpkins, it’s something so therapeutic, for me, and playing an instrument really does help. You really learn a lot about yourself as you learn more about your skills and your talents. You really learn that there’s so much more you can do, but you also learn your limits, and I feel like that’s so important right now.

Soo Jin: Chesca have you been getting to know yourself better through this quarantine because it’s not like we’re seeing anyone else.

Chesca: I feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I realized that I like spending more time by myself. I haven’t seen people in months. I’m not allowed to leave the house, so I’m just at home. I haven’t seen people in months. I’ve learned to live with myself and my other siblings.

Elias: I understand. As we’re learning about ourselves, we become more socially climactic, and obviously a big climactic event of social aspects would be homecoming right? You had a bit to say about this, right Chesca? 

Chesca: Yeah. I’m on Freshman Council right now, and I was really excited to help plan homecoming. From what I’ve seen from all my upperclassmen friends, there’s those flower parties and the float building, and I was really excited to do that because it seems really fun. But then since COVID happened, we’re not having a homecoming, or I think we’re having a homecoming, but it’s going to be delayed. I was just really disappointed.

Soo Jin: I completely agree. I know dances are a bit cliche, but I didn’t really go to them in middle school and the one I did go to was – there was a fire alarm, and it was really crazy. 

Chesca: That was funny. Oh yeah, we all went to Buchser.

Soo Jin: Oh my gosh, we all went to the same middle school, right? It’s kind of crazy how things turned out, but there is talk that we might go back to school. How do you guys feel about that?

Chesca: I’m not going back.

Elias: I know only what we’ve been saying since March – that’s what, nearly eight months? God, eight months of this? I feel like it’s a very unsafe decision to bring teens, kids back to school, especially the younger age. We’re not very young ourselves. We’re all 14. It’s not safe, and many of us are living with middle aged people, right, who are at risk and say, there’s no chance of social distancing six feet in the classroom at all.

Soo Jin: Definitely.

Chesca: My mom is a healthcare worker, and I’m really scared of spreading COVID to school. I can possibly spread it to school, and I don’t want that happening. I don’t want to spread it to my grandma either. I live with my grandma, so there’s a lot of reasons why I think I don’t think I should be going back to school but definitely if other people think that they can go to school and they think that they work better going to school, then yeah they should go. But in my situation, I’m not going back.

Soo Jin: I’m not. I’m a bit iffy about even going to volleyball practice because I started playing club this year. Oh wait, I play at the same club as Elias. Sorry I keep saying Elias because of how it’s spelled. I’m sorry. I really love volleyball, and I’ve just been practicing a lot since quarantine and it’s been a great way to relieve my stress and stuff. I’m a bit iffy about even going to practice because it’s not like we’re six feet apart at all times. We do have masks on and everything and everything’s sanitized, but it is a bit dangerous, and I feel like school would just be ten times worse because we’re eating at school. How is that supposed to be manageable?

Elias: To sidetrack back to the volleyball thing, I’m actually not going back this year. I’m not going because it’s just not safe. There’ll be no tournaments. Practice would not be fun, and it’s also majorly spreading. Everybody’s out there. Everyone’s hitting the ball back and forth with each other. You have things on your hands, spreading it. 

Soo Jin: I guess it is dangerous and my mom is at risk, so I don’t want to do anything like get COVID, and my dad is not young. It’s a bit dangerous admittedly, but I think as long as I don’t go back (to school) then I’ll probably most likely not get it. I’m super careful around other people.

Elias: Alright, so we just got off-topic. I know we talked about coping methods. Actually, did we talk about coping methods? I don’t remember. I guess we can move on. We are teenagers and that is a big part of our lives is the way society sees us – as a bunch of slack-jawed idiots – but identity is so important during lockdown, and it feels like we have lost it all. Have we lost our identity, who are we interested in? Have we simply just shifted off? It’s primarily focused on our coping methods, doing whatever we can to have fun and do better, how we just lost what made us us all the way in March and February.

Chesca: I definitely feel like I’ve learned more about myself over quarantine and I think … without quarantine, I wouldn’t be able to learn a lot about myself. It sucks that we have this going on right now, but I’m really thankful that I was able to learn more through quarantine about myself, and I wouldn’t go back if I had the choice.

Soo Jin: I for one have become accustomed to online learning, and I think it’s easier. My organizational habits have become so good, and I know people who are listening to the podcast can’t see it, but this is my agenda. It’s so organized, and I just love my new self. 

Chesca: Yes, oh my gosh.

Soo Jin: Chesca go ahead.

Chesca: I’ve been exploring more ways to keep myself more organized. I tried Trello and I was like, “No, I don’t really like this,” so I tried Notion. I’m trying that right now. I’ve been exploring ways to keep myself more organized because I’m a really forgetful person, and I’m going to forget if I don’t write something down.

Elias: I am not an organized person in any shape or form. You should have seen my backpack back in fourth grade. I once found a sandwich in there. I think it had fallen out of my lunch bag.

Soo Jin: What? That’s gross. 

Elias: I feel like what’s so important right now is any organization, and I can’t really find a way to organize myself, other than taking notes in my phone. Sometimes I take notes on a Post-it note or whatnot, and I just keep on losing Post-it notes. I try and stick them on random places – my desk, my walls. It’s hard to stay organized, and I’m such a sloppy person. 

Chesca: It is really hard to stay organized. I’ve gone through a planner system, and then I was like, “Okay, I’ll start bullet journaling.” I’ve gone through four different systems just this year. I did one of those planners that you buy and then I was like, “Okay I’m going to try bullet journaling,” but bullet journaling didn’t work out for me because I found myself not writing inside the actual planner. I was like, “Okay, I’ll try Trello,” but then I found Notion. I was like, “Oh this is cooler than Trello, so I’m going to just use that.” I found it more aesthetically pleasing than Trello. I’m like, “Okay I’m going to try that.”

Soo Jin: Oh my gosh. Now we’re talking a bit about organization. Have you guys had your routines changed? Have you guys picked up new hobbies, or your routines have been majorly changed, besides driving to school and having breakfast?

Chesca: I wake up at like 8:30 and then I just go straight to school.

Soo Jin: Same. 8:29 right on the dot.

Chesca: I’m too lazy to prepare myself breakfast. I usually have my family do it or something and then … I just go to class, because I usually sleep really pretty late like around 12 or something. I try to get as much sleep as I can.

Soo Jin: I try to get eight hours, but that doesn’t always happen.

Chesca: It’s hard to get 8 hours. It’s hard to get myself to sleep.

Elias: I would definitely say that I’m an insomniac. It really does suck at times, but it’s kind of irrelevant. I have definitely gotten better at sleeping. I’m not sure if you can get better at sleeping. It’s not like it’s a competition, Olympic sport or whatever, but obviously, I feel like I’m having so much less and less of those sleepless nights because I’m starting to get into a routine, working hard, so I’m no longer just sitting up all night just worrying, stressing the whole thing that would normally keep you up, especially at the start of quarantine.  

Chesca: That’s good. Something I’m having a little trouble right now with work is I can’t bring myself to focus during the daytime, and I find myself doing all my work at night. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find myself doing all my work at night and end up sleeping really late.

Soo Jin: It’s a mix for me. Some days I’m super motivated and I do all my work during lunch or something, and other days I stay up until 12 and do my homework, cram it in 20 minutes.

Chesca: I’ve been trying to get myself to work more during the day, so I have more time to sleep.

Soo Jin: I know this is really off topic, but I like how everything’s online now. We’re not wasting as much as paper, and that’s really good for the environment. 

Chesca: Yeah definitely.

Elias: Actually, that’s not off topic at all. I mean, that is a brilliant fit. Think about how in eight months – three of those months we weren’t in school – but think of how much paper we have saved. 

Soo Jin: Yeah.

Chesca: Definitely.

Soo Jin: Especially with climate change and everything now. I want to do everything I can to limit the carbon footprint I have on this Earth, and I feel like a lot of our other peers have become aware of our carbon footprint and have become outspoken about climate change and such.

Chesca: I switched to taking my notes digitally since I’ve had the advantage, and I’m not wasting as much paper as I used to with notebooks because a problem that I had before was that I was constantly ripping out pages. Now that I switched to taking notes digitally, I just erase it with a pen and yeah it’s easier. It’s more efficient too. I feel like I’ve definitely saved a lot more paper due to being in online school, which is good.

Soo Jin: Plus we’ve driven to a lot less places. In fact, I walk a lot more since quarantine. I pretty much walk everywhere. 

Chesca: I don’t really have anywhere to walk to, but I try to get myself to walk a little more. For a while when quarantine started, I got myself to walk everyday, but then I just got lazier and lazier. I still walk every once in a while, but I don’t do it as much as I used to.

Soo Jin: Yeah. Go ahead.

Elias: I mean, obviously clubs. Oh, we kind of went right past. Oh, God, clubs. It’s a good thing that they’re running, right? I joined the Investment Club, and I actually forgot to go to the first meeting. 

Chesca: I know I forget to go to meetings sometimes, and I feel so bad. There were two meetings I missed in two separate clubs that I wanted to go to, then I was like, “Oh shoot there’s a meeting today huh.” I just completely forgot.

Soo Jin: I’m involved in so many clubs, and it’s so much easier now because all you do is click on a meeting. That in-personal aspect still isn’t there, and I’m kind of craving that, but also stay alive and stay at home and everything.

Chesca: There’s this club I’m in that’s called Interact, and they have this really really big event called FLC (Fall Leadership Conference) and people from all over the Bay Area go to that. I was so disappointed when we had to do it virtually because I was so excited, and that really sucked.

Elias: Coming back to what we were saying that the clubs… the clubs in general, they’re just not that fun. Are they? I mean, as an introvert.

Chesca: Some of them can be fun, it depends.

Soo Jin: Yeah, Mock Trial is really fun. It’s just the people in the club. They do that fun vibe and then the practices are like an hour and a half, and it’s really fun for me. I don’t know, I like talking to people, even if it’s online.

Elias: I’m saying that personally, I’m a very introverted person … I actually struggle to interview teachers for Journalism. Clubs, they’re very American to me. I don’t know why. Back in the UK, you would have never seen clubs at schools, and especially so many. It’s really a good new way of—

Chesca: Yeah, there are so many clubs here. There’s like 70 clubs at Santa Clara.

Soo Jin: It’s crazy. There’s so many.

Chesca: But normally, I don’t think there are that much. It’s just now because the district has some type of thing that people can have as many clubs as they want to, and it doesn’t matter if their purposes are similar or whatnot. I think it’s really cool.

Soo Jin: I think that’s awesome because there’s always a specific club that fosters a specific skill or an interest, and I think that’s awesome that there’s so many opportunities at Santa Clara High School to do what you really want to do and thrive in the environment that you’ve been signed up for it, like by a club, and it’s awesome.

Elias: So, honest question for you’s. You’s – that’s weird. Um, I don’t know whether I should ask to cut that one out. Do you feel that clubs are a form of expression for you? I’m a Wall-Street-Bats kind of guy. I – obviously the Investment Club fits me well – but do you really feel that you’re expressing yourself as a group of like-minded people? Or is it just a bunch of rams, just stepping on each other’s feet? Right? It sounds like a coping method?

Chesca: I joined Design Club because I wanted to learn more about design because – you guys went to middle school with me – I was a graphic designer last year.

Soo Jin: Yes, you are very good.

Chesca: I’m really into that type of stuff, so I joined that club to learn even more about that stuff and same with Interact, too. I really enjoyed community service and I really enjoy helping my community, so I was really excited to join that club in high school

Soo Jin: I agree with the Interact. In middle school, there were hardly any opportunities for community service, and I just love Interact. I went to a shoe distribution this weekend, and it felt so amazing giving back to my community. I’m so happy that I chose to be a part of Interact. 

Chesca: Is there anything else?

Elias: I have a question. Is there a new normal? Is this the new normal we have right now? I mean, are you seeing it being discussed everywhere: Instagram, Twitter, subreddits, forums on the internet that people are calling this the new normal: wearing masks, social distancing, that this is a terrible dystopian future. Do you believe that this honestly exists? And has this affected you in any way? 

Soo Jin: It is the new normal for now. It’s a temporary normal. No one’s gonna wear a mask after the cure comes out and everyone’s been vaccinated. But yeah, I think it is a new normal, and I myself have become accustomed to it. This is normal for me now. It’s normal for me to wake up one minute before my classes and just arrive. 

Chesca: It’s so normal for me to stay at home now. At first I was getting a little antsy not seeing my friends, but after eight months in quarantine, I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve gotten used to staying home all day, and I found things to do for fun – like journaling and stuff – so yeah, it took me awhile, but it definitely feels more normal. I’ve gotten used to the system of being in quarantine.

Soo Jin: What about you Elias?

Elias: Oh, well, I asked the question. I mentioned earlier, I’m an introverted guy, so not seeing people for weeks – not interacting with people, trying to avoid people in the streets – that is the Swede in me. I don’t know if you get the joke, but I have not really been affected by the fact that I’m not seeing people. I was wondering from your outlook on the way you see people, I mean, I hope I’m not stepping on any toes here, but you two seem very extroverted. It’s really curiosity. How is it?

Soo Jin: It’s a mix.

Chesca: Sometimes I want to be introverted, but sometimes I want to be extroverted. It really depends on my mood, but I’ve gotten used to it.

Soo Jin: I love being by myself, but I also love talking to people and depends on who I’m talking to. I love talking to interesting people. I feel like it helps me grow as a person, like, wow, I’m really good at talking. Okay wait. No, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. 

Elias: You’re not wrong. I mean, talking to new people, especially – I don’t want to come off across as a weirdo who stares at his neighbors from the blinds of his front window – but if you feel safe and comfortable and someone actually speaks to them and “vibing” – I said that in quotation marks because I’m not with the times – that is a brilliant feeling. Especially coming into a new high school, but what really hurts me so deeply, is that we haven’t been able to do that. 

Soo Jin: Yeah, especially when you find someone who shares the same interests as you and you just talk about that and you relate. I love that – I think it’s amazing – and I’m sad that we can’t do that this year. But honestly, I would rather keep my family members safe and not kill them than go back to school.

Chesca: I think definitely I’m going to stay at home. I already said this, but I’m going to stay home. I think the elementary schoolers are going to start coming back to school soon or they’re going to start allowing them for hybrid. 

Soo Jin: It was fun talking to you guys.

Chesca: Yeah it was.

Elias: I haven’t talked to many people in the last eight months, so it was fun.

Soo Jin: I don’t think anyone has really.

Soo Jin: And that concludes this episode of Roar: The Podcast. We thank you for listening, and hope you’ll share this and future episodes with your community. Until next time.