I was in Wildwood on vacation, watching SpongeBob with my brother, when my Apple Watch vibrated with the email that UD’s classes would be fully converted online for yet another semester of remote learning. I stared at my watch while I slowly processed the email that seemed inevitable, but I’d nonetheless been dreading. I ran into a partitioned section of our hotel room where I called my mom and screamed until my throat was raw. After a few minutes, my voice silenced into a squeak, and unable to speak any longer, I collapsed in tears. The coronavirus has taken so much from me already, I thought to myself. Not this too.
Going to college had been one of the hardest, yet most gratifying transitions of my life. I came into college scared to pursue the subjects I was interested in, consumed by societal pressures and norms. I am now an English and Communication double major. I came into college frightened I wouldn’t find my place on such a large campus. I joined a few clubs that interested me, and I finally felt at home when I was recruited by my sorority. When I came into college, I was terrified I wouldn’t find my people. However, I found a group of my peers that hasn’t ceased to inspire me with their work ethic and adventurous attitude; they always make me laugh and accept me for who I am. All of this was put on pause when campus was sent home last semester with the retrospectively naive hope that it’d all resume as normal in a few weeks. Then a few months. Now, ever? Today, my on-campus college experience is further away, more dreamlike, than that of high school or even before. Did I imagine that college was everything I’d always hoped it would be? Did I imagine the happiness from before? When my watch buzzed, the yes answer to these questions seemed ever more probable.
My upcoming semester will be online classes devoid of any real connection or, truthfully, any meaningful learning. My upcoming semester will be spent locked away in my room all day with work to no end. My upcoming semester will be endlessly thinking of him.
In late March, I lost my favorite person in the universe, my Pop-Pop, to COVID-19. How I finished the semester after this, I am not entirely sure. I still feel guilt about it. I should’ve spent more time thinking about him, writing about him, memorializing him. Were good grades in online classes, an education that didn’t even hold the same value as it once did, worth it? But what other choice did I have? I didn’t have my support system, I couldn’t spend time with family, I couldn’t even say a proper goodbye. Besides, he wouldn’t have wanted me to turn this yellow light in my life into a red one. He would’ve wanted me to live my ever more mortal life to the fullest. And so I tried.
I still think about him every day. I wanted to return to campus not to forget about him, but to leave behind the pain that quarantine has caused me, to move forward with his memory in a positive way. I didn’t want to sit in the same spot I did at home when I heard the news, or lay in the same spot I did the next morning when I woke and thought for a moment that it was just a dream. I didn’t want to sit in my room all day, with work to no end, looking out my window at his car parked idly across the street, hoping by a miracle that it will move and that he will have come back.
But this pain that I am going through, that I will carry for a while, if not for the rest of my life, shouldn’t be one that others have to experience. People should not be scared for their own and their families’ lives because we failed to effectively warn the population and control this virus, because universities need money, because Faith Bartell feels as though her happiness is dependent on what turned out to be a fleeting experience. I am still devastated that we cannot return to campus. I am devastated that for many students, including myself, the college experience we dreamed of for so long is being ruined. I am devastated that the same amount of time and money is being spent on an entirely different, possibly subpar education. But there is worse pain. I know it. Our students, faculty, and professors shouldn’t have to.
If this is what it takes to safely return next semester, it is worth it. We will get through this. Collectively, we are stronger than this virus, than this temporary setback, and eventually, we will come out on top. Stay strong, stay safe, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. We’re all going through the same thing, and we’re all in this together.