By Doris Zheku
Since March, it’s felt like the world was put on pause. Even though time never stopped, life has continued on as an alternate version of itself: similar but not the same.
I miss my professors. I miss having actual discussions with my classmates and I’m not talking about those forced discussion boards for participation on Zoom. I miss running into friends in the dining hall or campus center and taking a seat next to them. I miss the bowls at Friends Cafe, which has unfortunately closed.
I miss Tuesdays, when I had 3 hours between classes and would sit in Starbucks with a coffee made by my favorite barista, Tye, who would always greet me at the register with a smile and slightly flirtatious rapport.
I miss seeing my bad-ass teachers in the flesh and watching the light spark in their eyes when they become passionate about a subject.
I miss the downtime in between classes and sitting in the quad. I miss campus in the spring when everyone and everything is bubbling into life.
I miss running into events happening on campus like job fairs, guest speakers, and car smash events for charity. I miss bake sales and the free food. I even miss the NJPIRG canvassers.
I miss seeing people’s outfits like Vivian in my French class, who was my style inspiration.
I miss the PATCO. I don’t miss looking for parking but if it means that we’re back on campus, then so be it.
I miss rushing to class, rushing to print, racing to hand something in. I miss walking in the minute before class starts, out of breath with my paper in hand and placing it on the teacher’s desk knowing it is no longer in my hands. Perhaps that is what this pandemic feels like: burdensome. Like a load we used to all share has suddenly been placed on the individual.
As a primarily online student when I started college, I could hustle two jobs and then come home and do my assignments late at night, in the wee hours of the morning, or during my few and far between spare afternoons and evenings. However, the current structure of remote courses doesn’t really allow for this. Now, I have to be present for Zoom meetings in the middle of a work day in order to receive a good grade. I am lucky to have been able to transition to a job with flexible hours during this pandemic. Otherwise, I would truly have to choose between earning a paycheck or earning my degree. I believe others are also facing this dilemma.
The first day I was ever on campus, we had a student involvement fair and I felt so brand new to all the wondrous possibilities at Rutgers-Camden. I miss our campus, our community. We are not meant to be so detached and isolated.
I’m not going to say remote instruction is all bad. I have been able to make and grow meaningful relationships with other students despite the distance. I became Editor-in-Chief of this paper this fall, and was able to recruit through text, email, and Zoom by using contacts I had already made.
I have also made Zoom friends. Like one of our colleagues at The Daily Targum in New Brunswick said, “I used to think that “Zoom University” would make it impossible to create and substantiate meaningful friendships…But thankfully, I was wrong.”
Without an end date to this pandemic in sight, it seems as if the pseudo-living we’re currently doing will continue for a long time. Yes, a vaccine is coming soon. But still, it is unclear when a return to “normal” will take place.
Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway promised a 50% return to campus but if you are like me, you no longer live anywhere near campus. Moreover, there are majors like mine where only one major class is being held in-person.
Rutgers, bring us back. Make it as safe as possible. Give us –, students, faculty and staff –, the option.
We should not accept this change forever. We should be fighting to reclaim our lives pre-COVID while simultaneously accepting where we are and learning to make the most of it. Take advantage of the good things that come with it. There is a middle ground to be found.
Most of all, we should be cutting our professors some slack because their lives, jobs and ways of teaching and learning have been upended, too. It is abundantly clear we should be investing in our relationships. It is up to the administration to invest in the infrastructure and technology that won’t be so easily upended by another public health crisis and that can better simulate a classroom environment.
I urge everyone to take this break and breathe in some fresh air, spend time with loved ones (if they are in your bubble or have been practicing social distancing themselves). Go for a hike if you can or a walk on the beach. Spend time with your pets. Try out a new hobby. Enjoy every moment of rest because if next semester is anything like this one was, it will be challenging. If you are taking a winter class, then try and have a relaxing holiday. I opted out of a winter class this semester because I need the rest.
The Gleaner is also here for you, in any way we can be. If there’s anything on campus you’re curious about and want to know, or a story you think isn’t being told, or something you think should be investigated, or an event you want to see promoted and discussed, let us know. We will look into it for you. Or maybe you want to join our team and look into it yourself.
Our status as reporters allows us to ask questions and seek answers. This is something we should all be doing. Especially now, when the world seems so obscure and the future so uncertain.