by Kate Ward ’23
Halfway through my freshman year of college, we were sent home on an extended spring break because of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Not long before we were sent home, my friends had been complaining of some sickness yet tested negative for strep and the flu. The school soon started telling people that, if they were able to, they should go home to recover if they were sick. Suddenly, we were back in our childhood bedrooms scrolling through our emails as we awaited a lick of news regarding our return to campus.
I live on the end of Long Island in a little town named Amagansett, where in the middle of winter, the population dwindles to the locals. We have everything we need to get on, or so we thought. People from the city began fleeing to their summer homes and soon our little town was overrun and our grocery stores were emptied out. I remember my mom talking to our relatives, saying we need to eat through our freezers. I laughed at the time and thought to myself thank God I’m going back to school so I don’t have to deal with this. Then I lost half of my freshman year. Oh, how that hurts. I remember listening to my dad’s frustration about teaching virtually; being unable to show his face or see his students was crippling because simple facial expressions are crucial to any learning experience.
I remember Tiger King and Outer Banks hitting Netflix, filling our brains with tigers and fantastic summertime adventures that would surely come once we got through the winter and spring. I remember the daily news briefings I would see as I emerged from my new classroom. I remember the TV special Alone At Home Together, a weird space in time where all of these actors and musicians came together on NBC to sing and pass on words of hope. That’s when everything started to set in, I wasn’t going back to school, I was staying at home in my Fennell-sized bedroom, with no friends to accompany me.
In deep quarantine, there was a lot of bad, but as we slowly came out of our chrysalis and blinked in the sunlight of a new era, hope shone on the horizon. I was to return to school, albeit with some (many) precautions in place, but mostly I was just happy to be back in Friartown. Being away led me to appreciate the tiniest details from campus that I had missed: the squirrels in the trash bins, the smell of the mailroom, hearing people laugh and joke. Existing in deep quarantine was like someone had turned off the lights and put a pillow over my head; everything was muffled and dark- now, in 2021, the lights are back on and things aren’t so muffled.
Tested twice a week, online classes, masks always, limited visitors, sports games cancelled. A lot of bad, but so much to be immensely grateful for. A lot of bad, but also a lot of good that came out of this crazy timeline that isn’t yet finished. For example, via Zoom, businesses and companies can now extend their reach further, making connections all around the world. Teachers can now show their students that they don’t live at school and that they have pets and kids and a life. Students can see that their teachers are more like them than they may seem in the classroom.
Since I started my junior year, I’ve been reflecting on the timeline that has unfolded since March of my freshman year. If I could change it, of course I would, but in all honesty, the timeline of COVID has taught me to observe more, to appreciate, and to be grateful for all there is. I’m sure it sounds like a cliché, but I think if we all just stop and take a breath we’ll be better off for it.