Remember how everyone was so hopeful about 2021 when the pandemic hit last March? I thought 2020 was hopelessly cursed, and that simply changing that last zero to a one would put a swift end to all of the problems 2020 threw at us.
I couldn’t have been more naïve.
I just travelled back to Rochester from India after about 10 months, because I knew I couldn’t bear another semester of 2 a.m. classes. But even with the assurance that my professors and I are finally in the same time zone, I’m still trying to figure out if all the effort I made to get here is going to be worth it.
For instance, I totally underestimated how arduous a 24-hour journey across an ocean is with a mask on and the sheer amount of sweat that gathers underneath said mask. It felt like the bottom half of my face had a tiny sauna all to itself.
I decided to quarantine in an Airbnb, as the University’s hotel option was way outside my budget. After talking to some friends about their experiences in hotel quarantine, I learned that for once in my life I’d actually made a smart choice! UR’s Basic Needs Hub was kind enough to fund me for three days’ worth of great Chinese take-out — and from what my friends told me, this food was much better than the hotel’s offerings.
Ten months away from Rochester has made me appreciate just how cold it really is here. Rochester gave me a characteristically frosty welcome as I left the airport, just before I fell in the snow lugging my mammoth suitcase behind me, spraining my wrist. This series of unfortunate events only ended when my COVID-19 test came back negative, and I could finally meet my absolutely wonderful suitemates.
Seeing my friends physically after months of Zoom calls and group chats felt amazing, and I actually forgot for a while that I’d sprained my wrist. We have the cutest, comfiest little apartment in Riverview which, after a series of small fixes by Facilities and an extremely deep cleaning by its residents, feels almost like a home away from home now.
Again, I don’t know if returning to Rochester will be worth it. I don’t know If I’ll get to enjoy even a fraction of the aspects of college life I took for granted before COVID-19. I don’t know if I’ll make it to an in-person lab more than a few times, or if campus will shut down mid-semester.
What I do know is that 2021 hasn’t completely solved all of our problems, but it has brought some hope in the form of vaccines. Life at the University definitely won’t go back to the “old normal” anytime soon. All we can do for now is adhere to social distancing norms so that we don’t switch to a completely virtual curriculum all over again. We need to learn how to enjoy the simplest of things, like having dinner with our suitemates or even just spotting a familiar face at Target. Exercise gratitude for the moments that bring a smile under that mask.
Hang tight just a little longer — the sunshine of spring is just around the corner!