How to ‘Online Student’: On the Campus
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
A lot has changed in the world since we were last together on campus. Most of us had no idea that the last time we stepped on campus would be the last time we get to be on campus for a while. We now realize how heavily we rely on the campus infrastructure not only to facilitate our education but also to motivate us and to provide us with a sense of solidarity. And even though we face a lot of uncertainty for the coming term, there are a few things we can count on to stay the same. We can count on our friends to still make us laugh on a bad day (even if it’s through FaceTime). We can count on our professors to try their hardest to provide us with the best education and help us grow as scholars. We can count on The Spoke bagel to be there when we are starving. And we can count on the geese to continue flapping their wings around campus and hissing at unsuspecting students.
This term, while there are only a select few classes being held on campus, Weldon Library and campus eateries are slowly returning to normalcy (or establishing the ‘new normal’). If you look from the outside, not a lot has changed on campus. When I visited campus recently, I don’t know why I expected the world to be upside down. I expected a ghost town but was met with the same sight I left back in March. There it was—University College in all its glory. Very tall and very unchanged.
However, when I went inside, I realized there were a few changes—for the better, of course. As much as people like to debate on the internet—we are in a pandemic. Yes, things are getting better. But they can also quickly get worse if we don’t acknowledge the fact that there is a very real chance of regression should we fail to take the required precautions. So while the outside of the campus is very much the same, the inside has been altered to comply with safety regulations for those who wish to or have to be on campus. Once I stepped inside UC, I was met with my third-grade obsession--stickers. Not an overwhelming amount, but enough to make me consider the seriousness of our current situation. There are floor stickers that ask you to stay 6ft apart from people and that ask you to redirect two-way foot traffic for safety. Furthermore, many classrooms’ capacity has been reduced to half their size and you can find tiny stickers on tables indicating whether that seat is available such that people are seated quite apart from each other.
At least for a while. And hopefully, at least only physically.
In all honestly, it felt strange to see all the physical distancing measures in action. I was feeling anxious returning to campus and being among people and these safety guidelines helped ease some of that anxiety. But I wondered when we might be together on campus again. Together like we were back in early 2020—not apart. Maybe not for a while. And that’s okay. We find ourselves in a hard time and we must keep our and everybody else’s physical safety at the forefront. Again, as much as people like to debate on the internet, physical distancing and masks do work, and even though we have to be apart for a while, we are actually coming together to keep each other safe when we comply with all these social-distancing protocols. And taking that collective responsibility towards each other's safety is beautiful. Also, while uncanny and inconvenient, we have to admit that these safety measures help us regain control of our bodies against an obscure disease and that matters. Keeping these things in mind, as I venture into this new term, I hope physical isolation does not translate into mental isolation. I hope we find a way to reconnect with our loved ones, our instructors, our peers, and ourselves. I hope that we remember all the good things about our campus and grow to embrace the changes that needed to be made.
And for when things do get better, the campus awaits all of us to return. Together.