We asked News for You readers to write about what they learned about themselves during a difficult year. Here are some of their responses.
I’m from China. I immigrated to the United States. I started my new life here. I like America because in this country I can learn about so many different cultures. Then the coronavirus started in China. I’m worried about my friends and family in China. I pray for them every day.
My library’s early literacy center has an online reading program. I enjoy it. There I meet friends from Germany, Egypt, Colombia, and Mexico. All are mothers who need to take care of the whole family and they still want to learn more English. We are challenging each other and helping each other.
I also take an online speaking class. The literacy center uses NewsforYouOnline.com to teach. It speaks each sentence to you. You can listen if you don’t know how to pronounce, and it also has definitions for the important words. On this website, I learned about different kinds of animals, the cultures of different countries, and how different countries responded during the pandemic. There was an article that moved me to tears. In a small country in Central America, a teacher rode a tricycle to teach children one-by-one on the street.
Right now I have six classes a week with homework, and I take care of my family. I’m very busy but I’m very happy.
Since I participated in online learning, my thinking has become positive and there are no negative emotions. I have never loved learning like this. I am very grateful to the government for giving us free learning and free food opportunities, and many volunteer teachers.
-Lin Fraker, Visalia, California
There is a saying “When God closes a door, he opens a window,” but what I really learned during this pandemic is “When a door is shut, technology can help you find another door.”
Before the pandemic, I could only attend classes at the local library. Since the pandemic started, my “online learning footprints” have reached several cities across the country. I attended “The 1619 Project” in Los Angeles, which changed my understanding about the contributions of Black Americans. I joined an author’s talk in Seattle, where Tommy Orange shared his book “There There” about Native Americans.
I also started to learn Spanish, which I’ve been longing for but never dared to try. I even made more friends than before.
While COVID-19 restricts our lives, technology instead makes the world more reachable, if only we are willing to open this door.
-Tweety Hsiao, San Mateo City, California
I live in Turkey. I spent my free time with my siblings during the pandemic. I have two brothers and six sisters and I am the oldest. We got the most out of the corona days and we started teaching our mother how to read and write. She was our student.
Also, we spent our time very usefully. We were talking about our bad behaviors in the family for each other. And we decided to change our bad behaviors.
We were reading books together. My four sisters are studying and we were writing letters to God in Kurdish and English.
We were searching about different things and we learned many interesting things. Wow … these things are good effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
-Fatma B. Aymaz, Istanbul, Turkey
In the past year, I have learned how to draw. It’s so much fun, and it helps me spend time at home. When I was a child, I had an interest in art. But I never got the chance to learn more. I was thinking that when I retired, I would start to learn how to draw. But even after I retired, I was still busy all the time. I still didn’t draw.
But because of this pandemic, I now have lots of time to stay home, so I have joined an art class. I have learned to paint gouache and to make pencil sketches. When I see I’m drawing and getting better each time, that makes me so happy and proud.
Also, my ESL class reminds me of when I was in school. I have a great teacher and classmates. I really enjoy it! I’m so thankful and happy that my dream came true.
-Annie Gao, Chicago, Illinois
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic my husband couldn’t work for several months.
My husband was not diabetic, but he had borderline diabetes. I made food for him instead of feeding him fast food.
I prepared food mainly with fresh vegetables. Thanks to this, the symptoms of diabetes completely disappeared.
It’s a difficult time for everything right now, but there is a lot we can do that is valuable.
-Sung Kuk, Morton Grove, Illinois
I have a learning disability, and during the pandemic at home, I’m doing service through Skype. I am talking to a teenage girl named Brynna. She struggles in school and she has a little bit of autism. I talked to her a couple of times and it makes her day happier.
-Jade Dalton, Provo, Utah
Normally I bake bread for my family. To bake bread, we need flour, sugar, salt, butter, milk or water, and yeast. But due to COVID-19, we have to shelter in place and most places shut down. During this time, it is very hard to buy ingredients, especially yeast.
My son asked for some sourdough starter from his friend. The starter works like yeast. My son says that baking sourdough only requires flour, water, salt, and starter, so it is healthier. Every time he bakes, he can only use some starter, and has to feed and save some starter for next time.
Baking sourdough takes the whole day. But baking regular bread takes only two to three hours. Of course, as my son said, since we work from home, we have the time to bake sourdough. Because of COVID-19, we now eat sourdough instead of regular bread.
-Corrie Lai, San Bruno, California
We received a lot of great writing! Here are some more student response (audio is not available):
I am a mother of four young kids. They are 9, 6, 3, and 1 year old. I came from Sudan to the U.S. in June 2014 with a heart full of dreams. I had no idea how hard would it be to live far from my family and raise the kids in a different country that holds different concepts and religions.
While we were in quarantine last year, I was sure that I would be mentally ill by the end of that period. Instead, I got through that time with stronger relationships with my kids, my family, and my friends. Furthermore, I have learned how important are the small things that we have taken for granted such as the gesture of shaking hands, the hugs, and the smile that we all like to see on every face. Those are the things that I have missed most this last year.
I have learned that technology is not always bad as I thought before because if it was not for some apps like Zoom and WhatsApp I would never be able to overcome last year’s challenges. Those apps have helped me a lot connecting with the people I love and at the same time continuing my learning journey to improve my English skills virtually.
-Reem Fadul, Lombard, Illinois
As a student in creative writing at Stratford Career Institute, I’ve learned throughout the pandemic, we must go through various trials and tribulations to appreciate the salvation which awaits us down the road.
I once heard a preacher say, “To get to … we must go through.” To get to the mountaintop, we must get a little dirt on our clothing. To become a boxing champion we must endure blows to the face, head, and abdomen.
Suffering is a part of life as we may have family or friends who have suffered a loss throughout this pandemic. We suffer to gain experience, not to encounter displeasure. Displeasure is converted in bliss, as we go through the furnace and come out as gold.
If we never had knowledge that the fire is hot, we would never realize the heat of the moment … brings out the best in us!
- Jeffrey L. Brooks, Mauston, Wisconsin
Since I am an elderly person, being isolated is not difficult for me. I can always keep myself busy. During my life I have already learned how to bake Russian pies and knit and sew some clothes, but I couldn’t read books in original English. This has been my big dream since I started learning English. Hurray! I have done this during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have already read several books! I am so happy with it! I am going to keep reading books in original English.
During the isolation period I take walks alone and it taught me to notice the special in simple things. I even wrote a short story.
I like to take pictures. I created compositions of fruits and flowers and I photographed them. I took the pomegranates from my little pomegranate tree and flowers from my garden. I loved doing it! I have emailed my pictures to my children and friends. They liked my work!
-Valentina Fedorova, Livermore, California
Nine years ago, I came to this beautiful country following my husband so that we could build a family.
My English knowledge was very basic. I studied English in Colombia during high school, and later some in the university, but it was not enough.
I am always looking for ways to improve it, and two years ago I saw information at the Carteret Library about Literacy New Jersey. I did not hesitate to enroll in its programs and since then I learned a lot.
Thanks to the classes I took through Literacy New Jersey, I had a lot of help during this pandemic time, so that I could help my preschooler children with their assignments and I could chat with their teachers without feeling lost.
I have learned about other cultures and countries from my classmates and I'm making a very good friends.
- Diana R. Babilonia, Woodbridge, New Jersey
Over the past year most of our lives have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantine made me to think more about the value of things that we are forbidden to do them in a pandemic, such as hugging and kissing, getting together for holidays, watching movies with others in the cinema, and so on. These things make life more beautiful.
In addition, I had enough time to learn how to cook some foods, although I still depend on my wife for preparing foods. I hope 2021 will be full of kindness, success, and happiness for everyone in the world.
-Saeed Norouzi, Morgantown, West Virginia
During the special period of the epidemic this year, I suddenly saw myself in the mirror and felt fat. I wanted to lose weight. I thought this time losing weight would only last for the longest one month, but I have persisted since the winter holiday. And I managed to go from 60 kilos to 53 kilos.
I also realized from this event that I am a person who can do things persistently. I hope I can keep this spirit to treat everything in the future.
-Bing Wang, Michigan
In 2020, people experienced the terrible nightmare, COVID-19. For me, life became so boring that it made me lazier. I got up so late and did same things every day.
I was looking forward to going to Michigan State University. It was my first year, but COVID-19 upset our school life. So we had to take online classes.
But there are still advantages. I spent so many wonderful times with my parents and my pet. I also learned cooking. Admittedly, I am a foodie and I was interested in cooking. My mom taught me how to cook her favorite food. I practiced many times. Although it was hard for me, I never gave up. I love cooking delicious food for my family, because this is a good way to express my love.
-Jiaming Zhu, Michigan
2020 has been hard on all of us. COVID-19 had changed our lives in many ways. In my case, I’ve got the opportunity to increase my reading. I usually go once a week to the library to pick up books and News For You, which I enjoy a lot. News For You has interesting articles. Besides that I do Sudoku and crosswords as well. After all, me and my family are doing well during these difficult times. We keep healthy.
-Noeska Zambrano, Exton, Pennsylvania
I am a little lonely, and I have to worry about many things. I come from China. My friend in China said that a mask must be worn in China. When the coronavirus broke out, my husband refused to wear a mask and even went fishing. I was very worried about him and worried to be with him. For a long time, even our U.S. president did not wear a mask. And masks were difficult to buy at first. I tried to make some of these masks on YouTube. Fortunately, my friend mailed me some masks from China. Because of Covid-19, I have been doing more cleaning and disinfecting at home this year.
-Wen Qing Zhong, Chicago, Illinois
I have learned how to bake the bread. Before the pandemic, I never did it. Also, I have learned how to make dumplings for my family. Most of the time, we stay at home. I was laid off from my job, so I have a lot of time to do more things. I have more time to read books and learn English online. Before the pandemic, I wanted to do these things but couldn’t because I needed to work. And I have also learned to do simple yoga. It can keep my body in shape and healthy.
-Fangfei Zhang, Chicago, Illinois
I have learned about how to protect myself from the virus in the past year. For example, I've learned to wash my hands frequently every day, and I have to wear a mask when I go outside. Also, I have learned more things about staying healthy, like eating more fruits and vegetables. In addition, I have done more exercise. I like to do Tai Ji and walking.
-Minkang Deng, Chicago, Illinois
I have learned how to steam fresh fish. I have learned how to cook the fish that tastes better than the ones I made before. And I have learned to do yoga. It's good for my health, and I can lose weight. Now whenever I have time, I do yoga. I generally do 50 minutes at a time. I also use my spare time to learn more English.
-Meihua Tan, Chicago, Illinois
This past year, I have been learning in an online English class. I think my English speaking and grammar have been improving. Especially now, I can use English to communicate with my children. That's a good way to practice my English skills. I am so happy about that.
I have also learned how to do more exercise. I have more time to go out for a walk, and l exercise almost every day. I can feel my body getting stronger than before.
I have learned to be patient when listening to my grandchildren because I like to play with them. I have also learned some cooking skills. I know l am a little lazy because I have spent so much time watching TV shows and movies.
-Xiao Ping Guan, Chicago, Illinois
I have to keep saying, “Do not look back, just keep on moving forward.” Without coronavirus, I wouldn't know that I can write. This quarantine forced me to stay in my room with my pencil and paper. Now I have become a writer. For Halloween, I wrote 13 poems.
-Alejandra Tenorio, San Diego, California
During the Covid-19 pandemic, I have spent most of my time with my mom, sister and a friend and his dog.
I did yoga at home and spent time hiking or going for a walk. I have also massaged my mom; she has muscles spasms and sore joints.
I learned to read books in English, and I learned to have online English classes over Zoom. I have also tried to cook new recipes and have enjoyed sewing clothes to fit me and sewing headbands. While I sew, I watch movies or TV series.
I have enjoyed spending time with myself.
-Mariana Bereche, Utah
Of the many things that I have learned as I’ve lived through the pandemic, the number one thing that comes to both mind and heart is that family is what matters most. I have also learned a lot of patience, as the extra time has given me more opportunity to work hard at mastering my reading and comprehension skills. It has required a lot of patience with myself and others.
I have always known that cleanliness matters, but the pandemic has reinstated the value of it so that I can do my part in reducing the chances of contracting the virus and spreading it to others.
Before the pandemic, I did not realize that I had lost a significant amount of desire to be outside and enjoy the beauty of life found in nature. Relearning the value of a good hike in nature has been crucial to my overall wellbeing.