One Year In, Students Reflect on the Pandemic

It’s been a year since the college shut down and the Covid-19 pandemic became a visceral reality for everyone in the United States. Few anticipated then that the pandemic would still be continuing to this day. The Student sat down with several students virtually to ask how the past year has treated them.  Though challenges and hardships defined the pandemic, many students highlighted what they have done to make the most of the past twelve months.

The pandemic has brought about tremendous loss in many dimensions — loss of life, loss of time to connect and deepen relationships, loss of day-to-day experiences that were previously taken for granted. Even as life turned upside down for students in the midst of the first lockdowns in the country, many expected the whirlwind changes to blow over as quickly as they had come. As the pandemic dragged on, however, students had to come to terms with the reality that the normalcy that they craved would be a while away. 

“At first, I thought [quarantine] would be something really quick,” said Adriel Roncal ’21. “[So] see[ing] the days go by and realizing that we weren’t getting out of this anytime soon was hard to deal with.” 

“It was very hard [in] the first half of the year, just because you always thought, ‘Maybe it’s going to change soon, maybe it’s going to change soon,’” said Majo Jaramillo ’24. “But then once you start accepting that this is going to go on for a long time, it kind of feels like a new norm.”

Although the disappointment brought by the pandemic has been hard to grapple with, it has also been reorienting for students, giving them a new perspective. “[I’ve learned that] nothing is a given, everything is uncertain and [that] you have to adapt to that and make the most of it in the moment when you can,” said Roncal.

“If [the pandemic has] taught me anything, it’s that you have to learn how to adapt,” echoed Jaramillo. “Nothing is set, so I feel like flexibility [has been] one of the main takeaways for me through all of this.”

Several students reported that dedicating time to introspection has been one way that they have centered themselves in a time when much is out of their control. “At first, the pandemic was a huge disruption in my life,” said Ethan Spingarn ’23. “It threw the expected trajectory of my life way off course, but I think that as the pandemic has gone on, I’ve found [that] it gives me an opportunity to reflect on myself, undisturbed by the normal activities of life.”

“I definitely think I’ve gained an improved relationship with myself,” echoed Mariama-Alexis Camara ’21. “[In] spending a lot more time with yourself, you find things you love about yourself, things that you might like less about yourself [and] the more you know [about] yourself, the better.”

Roncal added, “Even though the future seems really uncertain, I have, more than ever, been planning for the future. I don’t think my future’s ever been sharper or focused than it has now, [in terms of] the direction I want my life to take.”

Staying in touch and spending time with friends and family is another important way that students have coped with the pandemic, one that many cherish even more now than before. “Since the pandemic ha[d] caused us all to go into isolation, it made it so that opportunities that before were kind of a given — like hanging out with friends — were no longer just a natural part of your life,” said Spingarn. “I’ve had to be more intentional about making time for those interactions to happen.”

“Valuing the relationships and friendships that I have — whether that be on campus, off campus, with my friends and family — [has helped me deal with the pandemic],” said Roncal. “[The pandemic] has really put into focus how essential that connection that was absent during lockdown and quarantine is to having a fulfilling life.”

Students also reported becoming more aware of their connection to a larger community as a result of the pandemic. “Living through the pandemic has taught me a lot about the importance of solidarity and having compassion for other people — really looking at the world from others’ perspectives and recognizing that even if you are going through struggles, other people go through the same struggles,” said Sophia Harrison ’22.

“[The pandemic] has definitely changed my perspective on what it means to be a community member,” reflected Camara. “It’s shown me that what I want to do is not the most important thing and [that] it’s really about looking out for the people around you. We’re all connected in ways we might not know, and it’s important to keep those things in mind.”

In reflecting on the compounding crises and immense loss of life that the pandemic has entailed, many students expressed feeling fortunate for their privilege despite personal disappointments. “[The pandemic] really just made me feel very grateful for the life I live now and lucky that my family was not deeply affected by Covid,” said Harrison. “If anything, it’s just instilled a sense of gratitude in me.”

“I’ve been extremely lucky in the particular position I was in at the time of the pandemic, both how old I am and the socioeconomic status of my family,” added Spingarn. “It allowed me to continue living without making major adjustments to my life, but I also understand that for many people, this year was a catastrophe.”

Erxi Lu ’24 echoed, “I do want to keep in mind that for a lot of people, this year has been really bad, and for a lot of people, it’s just been really awful. For me, I don’t think I’ve lost a year, because I’m still in college, I’m doing my first year of college, and I’m really happy that I’ve been able to be on campus for two semesters in a row.”

Such difficulty in reconciling the contrasting aspects of the pandemic certainly presented itself as students attempted to sum up their experience with the past year. “Everything that comes to mind [about the pandemic] is a contradiction,” said Jaramillo. “I want to say [this year has been] eventful, but also it’s been uneventful.”

Several others expressed the same sentiment, with Spingarn calling the year “simultaneously the most isolating and the most fulfilling year of my life” and Camara describing it as “draining [and] confusing, [but] enlightening, [having] refram[ed] what’s most important to me.”

For Roncal, the year has been difficult to endure, but has prepared him to be more resilient for the future. “I’d say it’s been worth it to slow down and really try hard to ground yourself while everything is crumbling away before your eyes,” he said. “Though it’s been overwhelming, I think I’ve had a lot to learn from this past year that will help me throughout the rest of my life, [in] facing challenges at a global scale and a personal one.”