Returning to a Hauntingly Different Campus

This is my last semester as an undergraduate – it’s not at all how I pictured it, but I am still glad it’s at least happening in some form

As the calendar turns from August to September, with the hazy summer days transitioning to crisp fall mornings, another semester begins. Except, such is the case for everyone right now, life at the university I have returned to looks incredibly different.

First, despite the campus technically being open, most of my classes are online. I only meet in-person for a class once a week, and sometimes even that will be on Zoom. Everything else is asynchronous, so it’s really up to me to make my own schedule and stay on top of my schoolwork. Since my classes are mostly online, I really hadn’t ventured onto the main part of the campus during the day until this week, when I reported back to work as an admissions tour guide.

I found that classes themselves are not the only thing that has changed. The campus itself feels strange, quiet. I thought that going back to give in-person tours would give at least somewhat of a sense of normalcy. Instead, actually walking through the campus was bizarre. Pre-pandemic, the campus would have been buzzing at that time in the morning. The bustle of students going to class, grabbing breakfast in the Campus Center, meeting up with friends in the library – all of that is gone. Some students were walking around, sure, but not the way they used to. The first stop on my tour route is the business building. Typically, it’s hard to talk to the tour group in that building because there’s so many people around. Last year, it was where I would regularly meet with my friends for lunch and to do homework. Now, there isn’t a soul there. Nobody was even passing through the building. It was just sad.

There are some things that I do during the day that feel normal – I go to work, I have my weekly show with the college’s radio station, I still have marching band rehearsal in the evenings (even though our season is cancelled). I definitely feel like I am back at school, and I find ways to fill the day with work and friends, but it’s hard to ignore how strange everything is.

This time last year, my friends in the theatre department were rehearsing for their fall play. I was doing 12 hour-long days for football games with the marching band. I would leave my apartment at 9 a.m. and not return until midnight, my day too busy to even think about downtime. My friends and I would go to parties on Saturdays and brunch on Sundays. Now, none of that is happening. We are walking on eggshells, doing our best to be careful and praying that our peers will do the same. This is my last semester as an undergraduate – it’s not at all how I pictured it, but I am still glad it’s at least happening in some form. Nothing is certain about the future, but this experience has taught me to enjoy the present moment as much as possible.

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Student Blogger: Katy Dara