The Ukrainian Institute of America, located on 79th and Fifth, is the new Hewitt Campus for students in 11th to 12th grade. This ornately decorated building, housing a considerable amount of art and literature, is a beautiful space with several westward-facing rooms overlooking Central Park. I often find myself glancing at the artwork, examining the details of each piece, all uniquely different from each other. The design of each room differs slightly. Some are more elaborate than others, with elegant structures, light fixtures, and various accents. However, all are special in their adorned fashion. In both my Latin and Math classrooms, I am able to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As I look out the large windows, I watch the fountains dancing, the people filling up the steps in small clusters, and even the man at the pretzel stand selling snacks to those who are craving a salty, delicious treat. In the classroom where I take both Anatomy and Law, I stare directly into the vibrant green trees lining the 79th Street entrance to Central Park. I watch children walking merrily, adults running freely, and dogs playing simultaneously.
When we arrived at the Ukrainian Institute for our first day of in-person school since March, I was immediately brought back to a memory I had in this same place. During second grade, my art class had taken trips here to observe the gargoyles lining the exterior of the institution. I remembered going with Ms. Lens and my fellow classmates in order to study the architectural designs that we would soon replicate in our own work: masks inspired by the gothic, and grotesque style of these architectural features. And there, in that particular moment, I became nostalgic about being away from the entire Hewitt community. In my opinion, one of the most special aspects of attending an all-girls school is the strong community we are able to foster. I began to think about what was missing in this strange, unfamiliar place. I desperately wanted a fist bump from Mr. Malone, a wave from a teacher, a blueberry muffin from the cafeteria, and, oddly, to walk up four flights of stairs to make it to my advisory (panting, of course).
We do not usually think about these small gestures that constitute a large part of our everyday experience at school. Rather, they seem unlimited and are not valued to the extent of their actual worth. While we are incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to attend school amidst this unprecedented and unsettling environment, it is inherent that we miss the normal days of walking to 45 East 75th street, without a mask, prepared for the interactive, vibrant day ahead.