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Building A Campus Community: Minus the campus

Like many others this semester, I’ve had to face some difficult decisions concerning our college experience. Going to campus and risking exposure to the looming virus? Possibly lose a huge chunk of money from housing in the face of classes moving online? Or stay home and face the inevitable FOMO and looming difficulties in building community away from my peers? With my college savings and the health of myself and community in mind, I decided to make the move to have my very first semester of college online.

I was far from alone in this decision. Together, with my peers, we realized that the pandemic wasn’t just going to “disappear” as we’d hoped in the summer months. I watched on Facebook and Instagram as housing decisions were hastily made and unmade. How can we “know” what is right in unknowable circumstances? Finally, as campus opened and cases of Covid-19 rose, the precarious structure our university built meant to keep our doors open, toppled. When all classes moved fully online, we had to face a lot of adjustments to our ideas of what “campus life” would be like. 

For me, there have been a lot of moments of frustration. The corner of my bedroom at home is piled with Ikea junk I bought over optimistically gathering dust, screaming out with the traditional freshman year I’m mourning. But, in the end I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a home to stay in, my loved ones have stayed safe and healthy, and I’m lucky enough to continue my education. Still, I was sad to think of the friendships and opportunities I may miss taking my classes from home. They say college is when you meet the friends you’ll have for the rest of your life, but how would I be able to build those kinds of relationships through a screen?

Luckily we are living in a digital age, and with seemingly endless resources online, our student body has proved adaptable and resilient. Through Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Tiktok (obviously), we’ve been able to communicate and build relationships. Some of my classmates I’ve never once met in person have become incredibly strong supporters as I adjusted to this strange new college life. Zoom and GroupMe have allowed us to continue classes and Student Organizations. As a bonus, we’re able to attend while still wrapped in our blankets- who doesn’t love that?

While our campus doesn’t look exactly like what we’d all hoped for, our community still survives. And while it takes a little patience and flexibility –I I know we’ve all had those moments of aggravation watching our professors try to talk on mute for the third time that week– our community will come out even better on the other side. For now, it’s important to remember to count our blessings, stay strong and wear our masks!

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