I have lost count of the times I’ve heard the saying, “College will be the best four years of your life,” but I’m not sure anyone felt the need to account for the possibility of a global pandemic when they told me that. May 6 marked the completion of my second year of college, and while that is exciting, the plan I created for myself unraveled rapidly once quarantine started.
I intend to graduate in three years and meant to spend the fall in Madrid, Spain, after which I would return to CU Boulder and complete my final semester as an English student. This pandemic has thrown a wrench in my plans to say the least. It seems that the hope of a vaccine lies in 2021 and beyond, effectively revoking my opportunity to study abroad.
While I’m aware that a study abroad program is not a necessity, and I am extremely privileged to have had the ability to go in the first place, that does not mean I can’t mourn the experiences and adventures inevitably lost.
Not only has my future been rocked by COVID-19, but my present also took a drastic hit. As Hector Salas touches on in his piece, there is no substitute for in-person learning. Being an English major often entails thriving off of class discussions. The energy that permeates a room when students are passionate about a new novel is incredible. This atmosphere is sadly lost in the virtual classroom, where I’ve found people more hesitant to speak up for fear of talking over each other or feeling uncomfortable.
As I enter my senior year, I worry about how my learning will change, about how I’ll have to adapt in order to keep up. Part of the reason I wanted to study abroad in Spain was so I could practice speaking Spanish on a regular basis. My Spanish classes, now conducted remotely, feel almost unhelpful, due to language barriers and discomfort with attempting something new and daunting via Zoom. I feel my grasp of grammar and pronunciation slipping as my practice lessens.
Additionally, I worked as a Resident Advisor (RA) at CU. Part of the RA package is room and board. Although these benefits weren’t taken away, I felt increasingly unsafe in a residence hall that required me to walk throughout the building to complete safety rounds and visit a dining hall for my meals. I made the decision to leave the residence hall and quarantine in Oregon for two weeks prior to returning to my childhood home in California.
The frequent movement with all my material possessions was an overwhelming undertaking, but it also reminded me of all the love and compassion I’m lucky to have. My boyfriend drove 18 hours from Oregon to Colorado in order to help me move out of the residence hall, since we deemed flying unsafe. My dad drove 10 hours roundtrip to northern California and back to the Bay Area to bring me home. My mom cooked most of my meals and did my laundry during the last few weeks of school, so I could focus on my studies. My best friends text, call, and FaceTime me as much as they’re able, so we remind each other to keep pushing through the next few months and that we will be together again soon. I am encompassed by an overwhelming amount of love that I took for granted for far too long.
Yes, COVID-19 has made life more difficult. Yes, I’d rather be back at school and have things go back to “normal.” Yes, I’m upset and confused and sad and all kinds of emotional. But, I think the coronavirus has also brought to light humanity’s unfathomable possibility to love — not only from friends and family, but from people who continue to work essential jobs and donate time and/or money to important causes. This disaster seems to have brought out the best in a lot of people. It has restored my faith in humankind. I hope that after this is all over, we can all manage to be kinder to each other and perpetuate compassionate behavior, because there is so much more to be learned from that than a trip to Spain.