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BHS Students Provide Glimpse Into Post-Pandemic Parties

As anyone who has ever seen a classic high school movie will attest, one major coming-of-age activity is parties. Whether it’s an older classic or a more modern movie, house parties are invariably an element in teenage movies and TV shows. The party scene is always familiar; a cacophony of loud music and slurred speech among a sea of littered red Solo cups. In this case, the media reflects reality. 

Teenagers use parties as a way to meet new people and try new things. Parties are a key way for students to let go and socialize. As Aurora Pope, a senior in Academic Choice (AC), said, “When I’m out in the world, the world feels really big, but when I’m at a party, I feel like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of people, this is weirdly comfortable to me.’ I like talking to people. You just let loose and it’s nice.” 

Due to the pandemic, students missed out on over a year of socialization. For any number of reasons, many students found it hard to cultivate new friendships over Zoom. Being in distance learning and lockdown also meant that students didn’t have as many opportunities to talk with their previously existing friends. For some people, it felt too hard or forced to try and coordinate times to hang out. For others, they didn’t feel safe enough to meet with people. Friendships often waxed and waned; many teenagers’ mental health went downhill due to the lack of human interactions. 

As the BUSD school year starts up again in person, students are returning to many post-pandemic behaviors. Being able to see people in person provides new opportunities to socialize. However, with Berkeley High School (BHS) having over 3,000 students, it’s impossible to meet everyone. 

Emma Walter, a junior in Academic Choice (AC), said, “[Parties are] a really nice way to interact with people that I wouldn’t necessarily get to in school because they’re either not in my classes or I’m not directly friends with them.” She added, “I feel like when you make friends outside of school, it’s kind of a different feeling than it does when you’re in class.” 

Emmy Sampson, a senior in AC, said, “Parties tend to bring in people who wouldn’t normally talk to you. People from other cities and other schools come by, and I think that’s good because you get to know other people that aren’t normally in your bubble.” 

Due to COVID-19, students feel the need for social stimulation more than ever. Many felt like they had repressed, bottled up energy from the past year of not seeing anyone. Sampson said, “It was just super exciting when everybody got vaccinated. There were a whole bunch of parties [in] July because everyone was fully vaccinated and everyone was home for the summer.”

In a world of COVID-19 variants and vaccinations, students have come up with creative ways to get the social connections they crave, while still taking some precautions. Georgia Fishman, a junior in Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA), said that most of the parties this year have been outside, adding that they’re “fun, just cold.” 

Many of these outdoor parties have been in public parks or beaches. “[Outdoor parties are] nice because you just have the freedom to go wherever you want. It doesn’t feel like things are condensed into a really small space. I feel like even without COVID, it’s kind of nice to have outdoor parties,” Walter said. 

However, after the initial few parties, students started to feel the boredom set in. Many outdoor parties happened at the same place every week, attracting the same groups of people. Isaac Salemme, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), said, “from a COVID standpoint, being outside is better because there’s more circulation.”

While some attend outdoor parties exclusively, others feel more comfortable attending indoor parties as well. The vast majority of BHS students are vaccinated. BHS Principal Juan Raygoza sent out an email with vaccination data of Berkeley residents, as of August 4, 2021. According to that data, over 99 percent of 16- to 17-year-olds in Berkeley have had at least one dose and at least 91 percent are fully vaccinated. Due to these high statistics, at indoor parties, safety precautions are based on the honor system that assumes that everyone there is vaccinated. Salemme said that the exposures at parties are similar to the exposures at school, since it’s the same people. His thoughts are that it’s the same people, just a different setting. 

With the unknowns of current and future variants, others feel that existing precautions may not be enough. Pope said that for both indoor and outdoor parties, “…everyone needs to know that you can’t come unless you’re vaccinated.” This feeling was echoed by many, although there are doubts as to how realistic this would be. Salemme said that in an ideal world, requirements to show proof of vaccination indoors would be ubiquitous, but that in reality, it would be easier said than done.

If vaccine-evading variants become more prevalent and COVID-19 gets worse, students might be reevaluating their current precautions. A few plan to wear masks, many plan to stop sharing drinks, and some may stop attending parties altogether.

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