Some Thoughts on the Coronavirus

*Fair warning, this blog post is just a creative outlet for my feelings since Coronavirus started*

The beginning of the Coronavirus

In January, when Coronavirus was becoming really serious in China – the whole FluentKey family became very conscious of its severe implications. Hollin’s wife (and my sister-in-law) is originally from China, and her family lives pretty close to the city where the outbreak began. We were all paying close attention to what was going on in China. We were especially alert because our team is surrounded by healthcare professionals—TJ’s mom was a nurse, Hugo’s mom is a physician, and Hollin and my dad is also a physician.

Additionally, I have a Master’s in Public Health, so I have studied outbreaks, patterns of diseases, and prevention science. I wasn’t really sure about what would happen with the Coronavirus, but I knew it could be serious if governments weren’t prepared and individuals weren’t being careful by washing their hands.

I attended Emory University when Ebola broke out, and some of the patients were brought to the CDC (which I could see from my window) for treatment. I was living in Miami when Hurricane Irma hit, but I was privileged being able to evacuate before the mad rush. So, while I’ve lived through some widespread issues–this is my first pandemic, and I think it’s kinda what I was expecting.

I knew that media would make this pandemic more terrifying than it actually is. Now, don’t get me wrong the Coronavirus should be taken seriously. But one of the major problems with social media is that professional opinions become taken out of context, or people without a background in healthcare is suddenly an expert—crowding platforms with conflicting and inaccurate information.

What scared me most was the panic that I knew would ensue.

Three of us are based in Alameda County, Berkeley, California. The first cases of Coronavirus in the U.S. appeared here. While finding some supplies (like toilet paper) has been difficult, my husband and I have been able to buy everything we need with relative ease. We are currently on a three week government mandated “shelter-in-place” restrictions. On the other hand, TJ (who’s based in Las Vegas) had to go to Walmart at 6am this morning because when he went yesterday afternoon, this is what he encountered… (He also went to Walmart before even going to sleep since he had been working on FluentKey all night.)

Our team is so passionate and caring about the language teachers who use our platform, and I think we all feel emotionally drained from trying be as supportive as we can.

I’ve been working for FluentKey for the past 8 months and believe me when I say that our team gives 100% for our teachers. Last night (around 2am), Hollin and I were messaging back and forth doing some prepping for Manie Musicale. I said good night, but around 5am I woke up (thanks to the dogs @LunaFluentKey). Hollin and TJ still hadn’t gone to sleep, and I was now awake and couldn’t go back to sleep after seeing some of the support requests in my email. (C’mon Mandy, you know better than to check your email at 5am.)

And I honestly don’t know how Hugo does it. He is still a full time Chinese teacher, he’s prepping his classes to move online, and yet he was testing the site for hours yesterday to help make sure everything was running smoothly.

We know that there are still some things to be fixed on FluentKey—after all, we’re only 8 months old, and we only have one developer. (Think about that for a second in terms of the actual technical building of FluentKey, ONE PERSON has done that.)

I wish that we had a more effective way of turning Live into an experience that can be played outside of the class as easily as inside the class, or I wish that we had the infrastructure already built out to upgrade everyone’s account to Pro for a month without needing to input a credit card. I wish that we had an extra two people to help respond to troubleshooting emails and social media posts.

But at the end of the day, we’re four people. Our entire team feels a little overwhelmed with everything going on. What is helping us get through it, is knowing that we are supporting so many language teachers and their students.

To all the educators out there:

I can’t imagine how hard it must be to move your classes online, have them cancelled all together, or anything in between. If there is any way that we can support you, please let us know, and we’ll help you to the best of our abilities.

Ultimately, I’m writing this blog post mostly for myself: to let out any negative energy and stress that I’m feeling, and to remind myself that we are making a difference. But I hope it also serves as a reminder to everyone who has read this far—everyone is doing their absolute best. Be patient. Be kind. Breathe. We will all get through this together.

By Mandy Sofer

Chief Marketing Officer | Director of Spanish