As I currently sit in a large open booth amidst a sea of silence at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, my heart sinks. What used to be the social scene for gatherings of friends in-between classes, is now barely filled to capacity with kids sitting a minimum of 6 feet apart keeping to themselves.
A place that used to be the heart of campus, has transitioned from an area most comparable to a crowded subway to empty space. Booths went from being the most sacred, popular and difficult seating to find to now practically a steal.
What happened to the school I love? I spent three years anticipating my senior year of college envisioning a year that would be the most challenging, but most rewarding year of my life. But with our world turned merely upside down, our college experiences came with it, and now masks and online classes are the new normal.
I hesitated to return to campus
I hesitated to go back to school. I had just finished a semester abroad in Prague and hadn’t been on campus since December 2019. The thought of going back to school knowing everything would be different scared me. I had a constant debate with myself weighing the pros and cons of returning to campus knowing I would end my college and educational path during a time of chaos.
But I reasoned that during this time everyone is forced to adapt and be flexible and missing a chance to finish college with my best friends was not something I wanted to sacrifice. It’s times like these where you need to make the best of the worst situation.
The once booming quad is now empty
I want to be completely transparent about being on a college campus in 2020 especially if you know what it is “supposed” to be like. And it’s quite depressing. The quad that would’ve been booming and crowded with students reuniting under the last few days of Syracuse sun, is now empty except for the ever-present campus police patrols.
It almost feels like the Syracuse snow hit early this year and students have resorted to hibernating in their dorms to protect and avoid the cold, but in reality they’re protecting themselves from COVID. The school named the number 1 party school by Princeton Review is now lifeless with not a soul roaming the streets hopping from fraternity to fraternity at 1 A.M.
Even harder is adjusting to seeing my professors and classmates virtually rather than engaging and fostering conversation. I am fortunate enough to have half of my classes in person, however for many freshmen and other underclassmen who take larger courses, their dorm rooms take on the role of a lecture hall.
Being back at school during Covid is just weird
When family members and friends, who chose to continue their education remotely call me asking what it’s like to be back on campus, the response I always give is “It’s weird.” Although we have been all wearing masks in public since March, sitting in classes and only being able to see people’s eyes although a minor irritation, is just weird. Sitting in class shouting from 6 feet away talking and catching up with classmates who you haven’t seen in months, just weird.
Despite how weird things are these days, some things stay the same, which is a comforting feeling as I complete my senior year. I still walk outside my house and can admire the beautiful Syracuse skies. Restaurants and shops on Marshall street are still open and operating, and I am still reporting live from the quad in my Broadcast Journalism classes.
Even though everything around me is crazy, my roommates and I are trying to make do with this new normal. I’m not going to lie, it has been going pretty well, despite the circumstances. Going onto my fourth week of classes, I reflect on the questions we all asked our professors and other administrators at the beginning of school, which is do you have hope?
If you asked me 4 weeks ago I would have told you that I thought I would be back home celebrating the end of summer with my family for a Labor Day BBQ. Luckily, I am still on campus, cases are low *knock on wood* and people are still wearing their masks.
Everyone wants to have a “normal” year, so we try to be safe so we can go back to doing the things we love to do at college.