By Ayah Ali-Ahmad
Homecomings, senior nights, practices, dances, games, sleepovers, road trips, festivals –– there are many moments in high school that some choose to capture behind camera. With the shelter-in-place order canceling school events in response to COVID-19, many anticipated memories like Senior Ball and graduation have been canceled or moved online and will never fill up the storage space within a senior's phone. No photos will be taken with their cap and gowns after hours of sweating at the graduation ceremony. No blurry videos will be filmed as students dance on the cruise ship for Senior Ball. For three seniors specifically, their documentation of high school — senior vlogs — has been cut short.
Senior Ariella Murphy has made a few vlogs in the past to document her summers and vacations. Murphy says she only makes them for herself and a few friends, so instead of posting publicly, she will share an iCloud link for them to view in private. She wanted to film one last senior year vlog with her friends, including clips from dance team performances and homecoming to videos of her friends just hanging out.
“I wanted to make a little summer vlog going into senior year because my friends and I always have really fun summers, and so all summer I would just take random clips and stuff whenever my friends and I would hang out, and it ended up being really cute,” Murphy said. “I put beachy music behind it and it was just adorable. So that's what my inspiration was to make one for senior year, because even months later I would like [to] go back and watch my little summer vlog.”
Murphy compiled two separate videos, one shorter than the other, and ordered the content chronologically. As of now, the longer video reaches over 20 minutes and includes seven songs. Not done with either of the videos, Murphy says she enjoys the actual process of making the vlog as much as playing back the project or just going through the videos individually in her camera roll.
“I feel like it's more special when I'm able to pick all the songs that go into [the vlog] and you get to see more than just a snapshot of whatever was happening,” Murphy said. “You get to see a few seconds of it, which I feel does a better job of putting you back into that time and into that space and that vibe.”
Starting sophomore year, senior Neha Balusu and her friend group have been making vlogs for a while now too. Balu decided to make two separate vlogs that compile videos and photos to post online. The first one, posted on Youtube, covered her first semester of senior year. The second semester vlog had to be modified and posted on Instagram to fit with the larger amount of photos and different editing style used.
“We have the technology to take us back to everything [and] everything that we do can be re-lived in a video, which I think is super cool,” Balusu said. “The difference between the vlog I posted versus my vlog that I was [originally] making [was] that [the original] was going to be longer just because I thought there would be more events to include because of prom, graduation, all night party and then especially because my friends [were] going to go to Hawaii; that would have been a whole part too. There wasn't really much more content to add, so I just made a smaller one for Instagram.”
Similarly, Murphy says that because she wanted to make a lengthy vlog, when the school year was cut short, she had to adjust to what she wanted to include. During the second week of quarantine, Murphy asked her friends to send videos of what they were doing at home to include in her vlog since she wanted to compile another song in the video. She says her favorites were those of her friends crying while holding up peace signs, her friend and their mom exercising and her friend shooting hoops while playing basketball. But her vlog changed in other ways beyond just her content due to quarantine; she says the purpose of the vlog shifted too.
“At the beginning, the purpose of this vlog was just to document what was happening,” Murphy said. “At this point, right now when I watch it, it's more to look back on all the fun times that we had and to bring myself back to some sort of happiness. For the vlog after quarantine stuff, I think a lot of the purpose of it is going to be to just showcase in the best way possible how good these friendships are [from] more of an appreciation standpoint. Because it's about the happy vibe that you get even from watching something that isn't necessarily your own [memories]. It tugs on your heartstrings a little bit, especially watching it now with everything happening.”
Senior Ivanshi Ahuja decided at the beginning of the year to make a vlog of her and her friends’ final moments in high school due to the hype she heard about senior year and the events that occurred during it.
“I decided to compile this vlog when everything ended because everyone was obviously really disappointed that our year ended like this,” Ahuja said. “We didn't get to experience a lot of the things that we were looking forward to and this was just like a tribute to the class of 2020. I just wanted to remind myself and everyone else that we've made some great memories together these past few years, and I'm just so proud to be part of the class of 2020.”
Ahuja used many different apps to bring different effects for the video: iMovie to add music, Filto to incorporate filters and Splice to compile the shots. The purpose of the vlog changed to be more of a celebration of what the class of 2020 did throughout all of high school, instead of just senior year.
“I just thought that all the memories that I made in high school with my friends count, not just [in] senior year, and we had so many special moments together as a class,” Ahuja said. “It's just the final year where you're just done with everything. You put in so much hard work and this is a time to build final memories and just have fun. [It’s] to just celebrate all of our hard work and accomplishments … It just made us all very nostalgic. [My friends] were happy that we have all these memories together that we would remember for the rest of our lives. This experience only made us closer.”
Murphy says she and her friends have been watching the vlog during the editing process, and some have teared up. All three seniors –– Murphy, Ahuja and Balusu –– agree that the vlogs are filled with nostalgia that will bring back many memories that they want to revisit during quarantine. Murphy wants her longer vlog to be her last “goodbye” and “thank you” to MVHS and the students she says made her high school experience so enjoyable.
“I think if there's one thing I can say from our friend group, and I feel like it kind of rings true for a lot of the Class in 2020, is at least the majority of us just loved pretty much every second at Monta Vista,” Murphy said. “Going into our senior year, we have this leftover happiness and pride from winning Homecoming while we were juniors ... and so I think the beginning of senior year was just filled with a lot of hope and excitement. This was gonna be a really good year and a good way to solidify all of our friendships before we inevitably have to split up after the summer.”
Cover photo used with permission | Neha Balusu