It was toward the end of their 7,300-mile journey across 23 states, on a quest to interview young adults about how the pandemic has changed their lives, when the two University of Pennsylvania students were faced with a decision: Should they go to the high school prom in Circleville, Utah?
Yes, of course they should, and they did, at the invitation of a local farming family, joining most of the town, population 600, that spring evening.
The prom was one of dozens of unexpected experiences shared by seniors Max Strickberger and Alan Jinich—best friends and Penn roommates who grew up on the same street in Chevy Chase, Maryland—during their journalistic endeavor.
They traveled the country seeking the stories of a diverse range of people, 18 to 25 years old, to create an archive of the pandemic experience. The resulting website for that archive, Generation Pandemic, will feature about 20, 1,500-word, oral history narratives and podcasts drawn from the interviews, photos, and videos they gathered on their journey. They also have a Generation Pandemic Instagram page.
Jinich (left), a neuroscience major, is a photographer and took the lead on taking the photos and videos for the project.
“This is already such a precarious time in our lives, now exacerbated by the pandemic, and we wanted to capture a segment of what that would be like for other Americans our age,” Strickberger says. “We wanted to cover individual stories that could illustrate particular experiences from this year that we thought could be lost during a time of rapid change.”
Strickberger is an English major with a concentration in creative writing and Jinich a neuroscience major and English minor. Both, in the College of Arts and Sciences, are back on campus this fall for their senior year.
Faced with another semester of virtual courses this past spring, they decided to take a chance and take the semester off from their Penn classes to pursue their Generation Pandemic project. But they prepared with Penn professors and kept in touch with them along the way.
“I wanted to do something. I felt like I was living in history and I wanted the chance to capture any part of it or play a more meaningful role in what history was like for me and for people of our age,” Strickberger says.
Jinich, a photographer, says he wanted to pursue a long-term, creative project, and get out of the bubble of reading everything through his phone screen. “We wanted to work on something together and so we decided, just two weeks before the spring semester started, to take it off and take on this project,” Jinich says.
For everyone, life has changed for good. They found life back to Godliness. We all should know what happened on Earth, Praise God in hearts wisely, said Hamza, a practical muslim after facing pandemic.
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