Positive Outlooks Found in the Pandemic
When reflecting on the spring semester, it's clear that each of us had our own unique struggles amid change and uncertainty and a time that was only four months ago feels like a world away. Despite the loss of the spring we expected, we now face the greater uncertainty of returning to the St. Lawrence we know, love, and look forward to.
I am going into my junior year at St. Lawrence. The past two summers, I felt that itch to return as August approached. I experienced the excitement building as I thought of friends new and old, and I made personal goals for each new and challenging academic year. As I, like many Laurentians across the country and world, wrap my head around the ways St. Lawrence will change in the new reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am also reminded of the many comforting experiences I had during my time away from campus.
I have asked myself how to get excited for something that does not look the same, and I have realized that while SLU may not look exactly the same, it is still going to have the same people that make the experience what it is. And now more than ever, I truly believe those people are better equipped to help the Laurentian experience only evolve to be more meaningful to all of us.
Intentionality in Reaching Out
One of the things I have always loved about St. Lawrence's small student body is how easy it is to see your friends. You see so many people just walking from the dorms to Dana, through the Student Center, or to class, that it's easy to maintain a lot of casual friendships throughout your time on campus. A big struggle for me during quarantine was the lack of human interaction I was so used to experiencing every second of my days.
Today, I am uplifted by the stories I've heard of friends reaching out to and checking in on each other when they aren’t able to see them in the same capacity. I have been invited to Zoom birthday celebrations—some even with themes for attire— and heard of friends FaceTiming while watching their favorite movies, sharing a laugh at the same moment from different places. I received and sent more letters than I have in a while, and appreciate the personal touches different people add to their writing that I don’t normally get to see when all that's needed is a quick meet-up text.
I am just as excited as anyone to be able to see my friends whenever I want and to randomly run into each other without having to make any plan to do so. I miss the casualness of joining a group in Dana for a meal, studying with others in ODY, and walking past the picnic tables at the Student Center to find them full of people I haven’t seen in a while. I miss the effortlessness, but I am grateful for these last few months for teaching me the importance of intentionality in our interactions. I know that the trend of doing more for the people we care about will only continue when we return to campus, and I am excited to see the creative ways in which Laurentians reconnect safely and meaningfully.
New Hobbies and Interests
I am always blown away by the creativity and talent of Laurentians, but I'm sometimes shocked by how long it takes me to find out about other’s abilities outside of the classroom or my immediate friendship with them. There is not always the time to expand our hobbies into something bigger when we have schoolwork and social lives outside of the classroom to focus on. However, during quarantine, my classmates inspired me with the ways they used their extra free time to master new skills and create artwork, music, crafts, and so much more.
Many of my peers even created social media platforms showcasing and selling their work. As the Black Lives Matter movement started gaining momentum, many of these students chose to use their work to support the movement, donating a portion of profits to various organizations and funds. It makes me proud to be a part of a community where people are inspired to use their skills in order to amplify important voices and causes. It gives me hope for the continued creativity and innovation that will come from these hobbies, talents, and small businesses that my peers started during a time of so many unknowns.
The Classroom as a Safe Space
The last experience I wanted to reflect on is the one I had in the classroom, or rather, outside of the classroom this past spring semester. There are many reasons why we all chose to receive our eduation from St. Lawrence. We have all experienced the ability of the Liberal Arts to foster well-rounded insights and interests. We have felt the energy of a small classroom in which the discussion is personal and each individual contributes to the class.
This past spring, we didn't share a learning space in the same capacity. This experience, while not always easy, gave me a whole new outlook and made me feel even more fortunate for the education I'm receiving alongside my peers at St. Lawrence. I thought I understood the value of diverse backgrounds in a classroom, of hearing others’ perspectives and experiences, and of learning about my classmates with an open mind. However, after experiencing a St. Lawrence semester on Zoom, I have learned so much more about each person in my classes than ever before.
When you are in the classroom, it is easy to forget about people’s lives outside of St. Lawrence. Peers often share outside experiences in classroom discussion, but it is easy to know your classmates only as fellow Laurentians you’ve met during your time in Canton. While the virtual experience was difficult at numerous points, in a way, it was a nice wake-up call to the different lives we live outside of St. Lawrence. It was shocking to me that professors took so much time at the beginning of each class to give each student a chance to update the class on their wellbeing and their experience with the pandemic. What shocked me even more was how transparent my classmates were about their feelings, worries, and situations, many of which were different from my own.
It was important for me to understand the struggles that many international students faced while traveling home and trying to make it to Zoom sessions from different time zones. It was important for me to hear the updates from students that I hadn’t had much of a chance to talk to in class before, to hear where people lived and what their families did during this time. It was important for me to understand that I am very privileged to take classes with so many unique people, and I no longer want to wait for a global pandemic to force the extra effort that goes into getting to know people at the level I did this semester.
Upon reflection, the experiences from my spring semester only give me hope for the St. Lawrence we will soon be returning to. The times are uncertain and there are so many things changing before we even have the chance to adjust, but I am inspired by all of the work our University is doing to ensure the safety of our community while maintaining the integrity of the Laurentian experience as much as possible.
The experience is not going to be the same as it always has been, but I don’t think we should view that in a negative light. The discoveries we have made about ourselves, our classmates, and our world during the global pandemic we are currently facing will not be forgotten when normalcy returns to our everyday life. It is imperative we continue the conversations we started, whether it be in person or over Zoom. It is important we continue to foster the sense of community we have at St. Lawrence, and it is important we value it just the same when we are not on campus.
I can’t wait to be back on the campus I love with the people I have grown so much with, and I am convinced that the time we have spent away is only going to make it all the more special when we are back. I am thankful to have found a place like St. Lawrence that I will always be beyond excited to return to.