The start of a new semester always gives me mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement. This year is unique in that my anxiety and excitement are at equally sky-high levels, for obvious reasons. I am excited to be back on campus because it has been so long since I had to unexpectantly had to leave it in the middle of last semester. I love the pursuit of knowledge and the fact that everyone around me is so willing to share that knowledge. I am anxious because there is a pandemic that has been ravaging our country for months now with no end in sight. I have no way to predict how my body will react to the virus, if at all.
These conflicting feelings made it nearly impossible for me to choose between staying home and doing my classes online or coming back to campus for in-person classes. To add to my stress, many aspects of my major stress that I practice with expensive equipment that I simply do not have at home. I love working with our radio station, but there are many things about our station that I cannot control from home.
I have never been good at motivating myself to do assignments without some outside force pressuring me to do them. I vividly remember my struggles with online classes last semester. While I tried my best to set goals and reminders to myself, I still could not bring myself to do more than go to work or get out of bed most days. Every day started to feel like a blur. After a few weeks, each assignment was a new weight placed on my chest suffocating me. Each class meeting was a painful reminder of everything taken away and all the people I did not get to see anymore. I swore that I would never do online classes again if I had the choice.
As this fall semester approached, several of my classes switched to online. Many of my friends on campus decided to stay home. Some of them told me they were afraid of getting the virus themselves or passing it to their immunocompromised family members, which are both fears that I share. One friend shared her concerns about feeling isolated on campus and how the lack of a social life would hamper her motivation to work. It was starting to seem like I may as well stay home since my choice was made for me already.
The more I considered the thought of staying home and only doing virtual classes, the more uncomfortable I felt. We still do not know what will happen with spring semester. I thought to myself, “What if I never see campus as a student again?” Writing it out now feels cheesy, but I do want my senior year to feel somewhat special. Other than sentimentality, what opportunities would I be missing out on if I did not return? I do not know the answers to these questions. Nobody does. The decision to stay or return was based on a million hypothetical scenarios. There did not seem to be a right or wrong answer. Everyone has a different situation.
In the end, I decided to return to campus. I placed my trust in the campus body that I have come to know over four years and my feelings. Westminster has placed much more focus on safety than other schools I have seen. I know that I will learn better in an academic environment that challenges me to get out of bed and stay as active as possible on campus. Even though many of my classes are online, I can still pursue opportunities outside of my classes to work with the radio station here on campus.
I know that I am still taking a risk by returning, and it may turn out to be the wrong choice for me. I have felt lonely without my friends and uncomfortable with the new guidelines for COVID-19. Wearing a mask is nothing new to me since I worked through the pandemic over the summer. Social distancing feels awkward and it is an easy thing to forget in the heat of the moment. Despite my discomfort, I try to remember that this is the choice I made for my education and mental well-being. My friends and many other members of the Westminster community chose a different path than I for their own reasons, and they are dealing with all the baggage related to their decision too. It helps to remember that we are all facing similar problems and that we are not alone as we adjust to this new normal.