By Gretchen M. Thomas
School was online, my friends were online, my life was online. The last year and a half as an undergraduate through remote learning has been the most challenging academic hurdle I have endured.
I never expected to enter my junior year under normal operations. Although I am extremely thankful, I never saw this day coming. I got comfortable with the idea of finishing out my degree remotely. Can you blame me? No one had any idea when this pandemic would end. First, we thought it would be a few months, but after a year of remote learning, most of us lost hope for a normal college experience.
I can imagine my first step into class, not a hybrid class, a room of fully in-person academics eager to break the spine of our textbooks and discuss Chaucer, or the language behind professional reports. Maybe that image is a little too niche, but I have high hopes for my last year. To have a face-to-face discussion in class with like-minded individuals without losing a Wi-Fi signal or buffering makes me itch with anticipation.
I know that there may be aspects of “normal operations” that make life look different than it did my freshman year, but after spending what feels like ages in isolation, I know that we can all be excited for this coming semester.
We can smell the freshly cleaned halls of each academic building as we run to class. We can hear our shoes squeaking down the halls, alerting the others of our arrival. We can feel the icy air conditioning on our skin from miles away. We can be together, voices aloud and bodies together. Once more, we can be students for the remainder of our time on campus.
I hope that this year was kinder to others than I believe it was to me. I struggled more than I would like to admit. I lost many family members over the course of the pandemic, as well as a bit of my mind. Losing a family member at all is terrible; losing five all to the same illness is a disgusting and numbing experience. To make it worse, I was up to my ears in assignments since it was a semi-normal academic year. Although my professors were extremely understanding of the situation, I wanted to crawl into a cave to mourn and not leave for weeks. Obviously, I couldn’t do this.
The hardest part of this year would have to be the feeling of needing to push through. Being both weak and strong, proud and disappointed. I met my deadlines through tear-stained spectacles and pajamas, all while mourning yet another death.
This year has been numbing for everyone, but I believe the coming semester is our light at the end of a tunnel. It is a time for hope and togetherness, a tactic that we have now mastered.