COVID-19 outbreak disrupts freshman experience, creates strong relationships despite distance

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GRAPHIC BY MAGGIE MORE / THE FLAT HAT

My freshman year was interrupted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic but, considering the senior class who not only lost their last semester but possibly their commencement as well, I am cognizant enough to check myself in regards to who has the short end of the stick. I can miss my newly-made friends from school – most of whom now live three to six hours away from me – and I can suffer from cabin fever all I want, but I still do not feel qualified to complain about my freshman year being interrupted when so many of my fellow students have it much worse off than me.  

So, this is not going to be a piece about a college freshman feeling sorry for himself. This is going to be a piece about a college freshman trying to make sense of the world being flipped completely upside down within the span of a few months. 

If someone had told me a month ago, or even the week before spring break, that we would be spending the rest of the spring semester working online from home, I know I would not have believed them. “Wishful thinking” is probably what I would have responded to this person in the context of the busy and often hectic schedules to which we are accustomed at the College. Yet here we are, in the midst of what some are already calling the biggest global event since World War II. My state has implemented an 8 p.m. curfew and large crowds of people are banned. Under regular circumstances, these measures would appear to be hallmarks of a real-world dystopia, but now some are arguing that even these measures are not enough and that the safest thing for anyone to do is just stay inside his or her house for an indefinite period of time and wait for this unprecedented virus to pass. 

So how do we respond to this new normal? Certainly, there are those who are at fault for failing to take certain measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus but finding blame in others is not going to gain us our college semester back or make it safe for us to travel to see our friends. All we really can do now is be thankful for the time that we did have with our friends and look forward to the next time when we will all see each other again. FaceTime or Zoom is starting to become my own personal therapy in communicating with friends who now live far away from me. I always knew that I would have to spend time away from my friends for a few months during the summer, but even then I would always have been able to visit them, and frankly I just did not expect that my goodbyes before spring break would be my last goodbyes for a good while. 

In a strange way, however, I am accepting this pandemic as a time to communicate with my friends as often as I can. Even though the present situation may call for it in order to prevent myself from feeling lonely, it is a good habit to set for the future when, all too often, I have failed to reach out to my friends in the past as a result of the hectic life of being a college student. I am also thankful that I now have all this time to catch up with my family, read all the books that I have wanted to read and honestly examine all of the aspects of life that I took for granted before being holed up in my house during the pandemic. 

We all come from different places and different situations, but the here and now is an opportunity for us all to be still for a moment and think about what parts of our life we are thankful for now that they are affected by the coronavirus and examine what we can do better once this pandemic has finally passed.