Happy May + An Update from a Student During COVID-19

5.14.2020


“We might give it our all and crash and burn. But we might win. We might actually change things. And that maybe makes it still worth going for, don't you think?” 
- Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, Yes, No, Maybe So

Happy May, all! A lot has changed since my last post. Today marks nearly two months that I have lived at home in Pennsylvania-- my university closed in mid-March due to COVID-19-- and the conclusion of my freshman year of college, which seems surreal. I took my last final exam on Monday. I am relieved to be done with the semester, but I am left with a lack of closure. I still feel young and new to the college experience. (However, I recognize the importance of staying home during this period and urge you to adhere to social distancing practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19). 

Finding a new routine


My experience at home has remained relatively busy. I have continued working for Global Playground and AidData online. As a student, assignments have kept me on a standardized schedule, which I viewed as both a blessing and a curse. I appreciated the structure, but at times I resented how schoolwork kept me from other pursuits and stresses and time with family. I tracked my schedule on a Monday before finals week, and I think it sums up my average school day well:

8:30 am Wake up & breakfast
9:00 am Miscellaneous homework, often reviewing notes for French class
10:00 am French class via Zoom
10:50 am Miscellaneous homework: on the day I tracked my schedule, I wrote some entries for a community engagement project
11:30 am Exercise
12:30 pm Lunch
1:30 pm History lectures
3:00 pm FaceTime a friend: on this Monday, I actually spoke with Tessi (@bookrapt and Cosmic Book Loveto figure out logistics for the SoShelf Distancing Book Club!
4:20 pm Walk around the neighborhood
5:00 pm More history lectures
5:30-6:20 pm Make dinner with my younger sister and eat with the family
7:00 pm Miscellaneous homework: finishing up history, preparing some notes for my freshman seminar
9:15 pm Macroeconomics class: teaching myself concepts from lecture slides, watching videos, starting practice problems
10:30 pm FaceTime a friend
11:45 pm Read or AidData

Making & keeping connections


One thing I have missed most about being at college is interacting with friends and always being surrounded by others my age and of different experiences. I would consider myself an introverted person, but at university I was happy knowing that a new story or experience could be right around the corner (quite literally down the hall to a dorm mate's room).

At the beginning of this period, before my classes resumed, I challenged myself to reach out to someone over FaceTime every day for two weeks. I tracked these conversations on Twitter for awhile, and I was delighted to speak with friends from college in addition to classmates from middle school and high school that I hadn't spoken to in, in some cases, years. These conversations made my day. I loved learning about how my friends' lives had changed since we last spoke and how they were adopting to new challenges in different states across America. As an army brat, these discussions also reinvigorated my fascination with the fluidity of relationships throughout life, a concept I pondered often while moving from school to school, leaving behind old friendships, and creating new ones. The idea that someone can represent a significant part of one's life but still become a stranger later is one that blows my mind. But I think there is something beautiful in how these connections shape our identities and how I can still maintain and catch up with the most meaningful ones even years later.

Although the frequency of these conversations slowed once classes resumed, I am fortunate to maintain regular contact with people. I have one friend that will simply call me at random times, almost everyday, just to see how I am doing. This gesture means so much to me. I speak with a group of hall-mates I will be rooming with next year on a weekly basis. I still attend club meetings, planning sessions for William & Mary's High School Model UN conference, and work meetings, mostly via Zoom.

a meeting of the so-shelf distancing book club

One of the most exciting developments in these connections was creating the SoShelf Distancing Book Club with Tessi (@bookrapt and Cosmic Book Love). Our club is concluding discussion on its first book, a read of Yes, No, Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed this Saturday! Amazingly, SoShelf hosts readers from six different countries across four continents. I have loved hearing the perspectives of club members on books, blogging, and international issues. (And I look forward to hearing even more voices as we reopen sign-ups for our second book!)

Student advocacy 


I am grateful that while living at home I have the resources to remain focused on my classes. However, many students do not have these privileges. Conversations with my peers have reminded me that too many cannot prioritize their academic performance while caring for sick family members, struggling through the illness themselves, dealing with unstable home situations, or seeking alternative work after losing a campus job. Varied access to the Internet and work spaces in addition to different time zones have complicated classes that rely on the ability to login to Blackboard and watch lecture videos.

In light of these inequities, I have been proud to witness my peers unite behind two student-created petitions requesting that the college provide refunds for tuition, housing, and meals and consider a universal pass-fail policy. The last time I checked, one of these petitions received over 2,000 signatures, a number that constitutes more than a third of the undergraduate student body. While the college has not met all of the demands originally outlined by these petitions, the student movements have made significant differences: after the petitions were circulated, the college introduced an opt-in pass-fail policy and agreed to refund some of the housing and meal costs. I was not directly involved in leading these efforts, but I wanted to mention them here because I was inspired by the strength of the student body.

What's next


At this point, the future remains uncertain. I hope that I will be able to attend college in-person next semester, but I cannot predict the course of COVID-19 in the next three months.

This summer, I had planned to live in Washington, DC for my first internship. I would have lived with other college students and taken two weeks of classes in DC before starting work. I am fortunate that I will still have the opportunity to continue with these classes and the internship online. I am savoring this week of rest before I start studying again on Monday. In June, I will work full-time online for the DC position and part-time with my current research job at AidData.

As for personal pursuits, I am excited to resume blogging again on a regular schedule. I will also continue reading as much as I can and running. I've recently become fond of random exercise challenges that force me to get away from my computer for a bit, even if only for ten minutes (I'm currently on day 17/30 of 100 push-ups a day). I hope also to better my French and Korean and spend more time with my family.

Wherever you are, I hope you are doing well. Stay safe and stay strong. We can and we will pull through this.

6 comments :

  1. It’s been an eventful couple of months for sure! Thanks for sharing an update, Claire! It’s unfortunate that your internship opportunity cannot be held in person. But, at least you still get to be immersed in the experience! I’m sure it will definitely help to keep busy. Can’t wait for more book club meetings! I am starting to find that I have to read a lot more books for my online course now, so it’ll be nice to read a fun book soon.

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  2. I have been meaning to joining the Zoom meeting but the time zones! I have to figure it out soon. I hope you and family are safe and staying in.

    Gayathri @ Elgee Writes

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  3. Congratulations on finishing your freshman year! I agree that my year also feels unfinished. I miss interacting with people outside of my family and I am sad to have my study abroad experience cut so short. Hopefully things will reach a new normal again soon. Good luck and stay safe!

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  4. "I took my last final exam on Monday. I am relieved to be done with the semester, but I am left with a lack of closure."
    It's understandable. Being off-campus must be surreal. But I see you've kept busy and accomplished a lot - both for yourself and other students. I hope a more normal time is just around the corner, and you can go back to attend college in-person next semester!

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  5. Congratulations again on completely freshmen year!! I'm still wrapping my mind around the fact that the school year is over, but it's great that you're still staying positive about the future. I hope all your summer plans (even if they're online) go amazing and that you have lots of fun with it! :)

    Riv @ Small Stained Pages

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  6. It's definitely been a wild couple of months for the world and it still feels surreal thinking about everything that has changed in such a short period of time. Congrats on completing your freshman year of college - that's such a great achievement and even if it's not the way you may have pictured it all unfolding, it's nice that you have made such great connections with new friends there as well as reconnecting with old friends whilst at home! The reading club sounds incredible and I'd definitely be interested so I'll be keeping an eye out for the next sign up date! Thanks so much for sharing how your month has been so far (:

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