It’s weird to think that a year ago I was figuring out my spring break plans. I wanted to travel to see friends, and take a couple days off just relax a bit. After all, that’s what spring break is all about! Sure, there was this whole “coronavirus thing” that had just made its way to New York, but it was only a couple of cases… I thought it would be gone before we knew it. I think we all know what happened with that.
When the inevitable happened and the majority of us went back home, I couldn’t help but have this strange mix of emotions. On the one hand, I was relieved that I wouldn’t be on campus when cases were on their way up, but I knew I was going to miss my friends, colleagues and instructors. I was the type of student who would be all over campus for most of the day, so the idea of finishing the spring semester on Webex didn’t seem too appealing.
My friends were mostly confident that we would be back to normal, in-person instruction by Fall 2020. Another student asked me in jest what NJIT was doing to maintain the safety of the cones on campus. I wouldn’t say that the situation was treated as a joke, as many students definitely took this very seriously, but there was almost an air of disbelief that we were even in this mess.
Fast forward to the present, and while I refuse to call any of this normal, I think many students have adjusted to it insofar as they’ve gotten accustomed to the lonely world of online learning. Personally, I’ve been home since March 2020, living with my parents, siblings and uncle about an hour away from NJIT. Social interactions have mostly taken place over the Discord chat service and any activity away from my desk has been rare. It is sort of like living on the inside of a fishbowl: you can see everyone and everyone can see you, but there’s an impenetrable wall separating you. That feeling of isolation is unfortunately one that rarely goes away.
As someone who is a fairly busy person, to put it lightly, the lack of productivity recently has definitely been disheartening, but the constant reminder that this is not normal is honestly helpful. It isn’t our fault that we are in this situation and I’m sure the amount of screen time that students are forced to endure can’t be healthy either. In reality, I don’t think anyone should be at fault for not performing their best, whether they’re students or faculty.
From daily check-ins with friends to shared movie and music listening sessions, however, I like to think I’ve made the most of my quarantined life, but I certainly can’t wait to be on campus again. Here’s hoping that the vaccine rollout continues at the pace it’s at and we can begin to live in what has been charitably called “the new normal.” I’ve been cautiously optimistic up to this point, but I’m hoping the optimism can outweigh the caution if not just this once.