COVID-19 University

I pulled into the parking garage of my college campus, and noticed empty parking spaces surrounding me. This wasn’t a surprising sight, but it was a little heartbreaking. Usually, commuter students had the challenge of scrabbling for a parking spot to make it to class on time. There were times I would wait for students to walk to their car, so I could claim their spot. However, this was not the case anymore. No need for a nonexistent competition; there aren’t enough participants anymore.

I was starting to regret coming to campus. After all, what did I expect after eight months of not being here? I figured that since I was in the area, I might as well stop by the place I had been calling my second home for the last three years. My heart sunk as the feelings of isolation settled in. This was one of the places I felt most connected, and now the slanted yellow lines seemingly begged for the company of a car to sit in it. This was the grave reminder that a pandemic is floating in the air.

But this didn’t stop me from exploring campus. With a mask, I entered empty buildings and quiet hallways. The building named White Hall, which had the majority of my writing classes, was sleepy and cold. Maybe one or two classrooms were lit up every few rooms or so, but the hallway lights were off. By the Student Center was a green and blue cloth couch next to the entrance doors. I remembered after night classes, I would sit on that couch with friends in an academic daze, and crack the worst jokes. Those two and a half hour classes were brutal on the brain sometimes, but I could only wish for them again. We were so carefree, oblivious to the fact that the opportunity to do such a simple act would be taken away so soon. I sat down on the empty couch, and replayed the memories, wishing I could go back in time and live it once again.

To enter the library, I had to rummage through my purse for my student ID to unlock the door. Usually, anyone could stroll in and explore the fascinating building. Being six stories high, it had mountains of books, a yummy café named Einstein’s Bagels, a plethora of study areas, a writing center and tutoring center, and many computers for students to use. A building full of life is now the quietest one on campus. This was my social outlet. I thrived in the hustle and bustle of students rushing to their next class, typing feverishly on computers, or simply socializing at Einstein’s. I especially loved when I went to my favorite study cubicles on the third and fourth levels-- the quiet spaces. Upstairs was my study haven.

With the library being empty now, save the masked individual at the front desk, I held in a sigh. The first floor was open for use, but students have to reserve a spot in advanced. Einstein’s lights were also out. Otherwise, the library and all it has to offer was closed.

To think that all of this was taken away in a matter of weeks this past March is incomprehensible. School was the place for me to explore my intellectual thoughts and my social life. With half of my life at home, and half on campus, I had the luxury of leaving each place to be greeted with the another. Zoom classes are my only connection campus, and that reality is a hard one to swallow.

Learning from home is a whole different battle now. Any semblance of normal comes through video meetings and paragraphs of communication during a set time of the week. My inability to keep focused in class is at an all-time high because I'm not deep in the educational environment. I’m not surrounded by students with the same intention of graduating from college anymore. I’m now locked behind closed doors, next to my bed frame, trying to get every inch of the professor’s words to stick with me. With this new set-up, I struggle to keep positive. My motivation falters to show up to the video meetings, especially when the connection is cracking or the professor is mouthing words, unknowingly muted. The work assigned online looks that much more daunting without a mentor to guide us in person. Honestly, when I first got my syllabi for my full course load, I felt faint after seeing the paragraphs of upcoming projects. I felt as if I was being thrown to the wolves. Though our professors are more understanding than ever, and they are trying their hardest to emulate the classroom experience, it’s just simply impossible to get the same effect you would in person.

Despite all of these changes, I can only hope for campus to light up with activity in the future. The hardest part of this whole situation is accepting that we have absolutely no control over any of it. Though we are at the mercy of the pandemic, there is no doubt that being home with our families again is priceless. My time at home has increased exponentially, which allows me to dive into my family relationships that much deeper. I can see the dedicated concentration my little sisters have when they are zooming through online school. I’m able to spend more quality time with my parents, because they are both home as well. Simply being together in the same environment calls for new memories to be made. And we can only hope that one day, all the simple interactions we have with others will come back soon. I can return to my campus and learn in person once again, and fight for parking spots, and eat at Einstein’s. We will be able to experience it once again. The question is, when?

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