Anya Marquardt is a freshman English major and journalism/political science minor.
I didn’t realize how much I had assimilated into the college lifestyle until I left it. On my second day home, my family had dinner at 6 p.m. I hadn’t eaten dinner at that time since the beginning of my first semester at Stony Brook University (SBU); I went out during late-night hours to West Side Dining and made waffles with my Hall Council friends around 11 p.m. I regularly stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning doing work, or just laughing with friends in our dorm’s study lounge.
COVID-19 has affected us all in one way or another. For college students like me, it meant turning our lives upside down – we lost the familiarity of seeing our peers in a physical classroom setting. The spring weather that allowed us to study on the Staller Steps with our friends was gone, and instead we had to pack up our dorm rooms and go home. Yes, it was for good reason, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t miss college and all of the antics that come with our routines. College is a pivotal moment in our lives. We find ourselves, we grow into new people, and we put ourselves on a path that will most likely determine the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, online classes don’t make up for that.
I am writing about my experience because sometimes we just want to read something to relate to, and I know this to be the truth especially with students in the same situation as me. As an English major and a journalism minor, I am fortunate enough to have small-sized classes. Most of my classes contain 30 students or less, which makes them more participation-heavy and less lecture-heavy. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as well on an online format like Zoom. Sometimes, all of my peers don’t even fit on one screen. Technological issues are unavoidable, and they ruin the “flow” of our conversations, which is an obstacle we didn’t have to worry about when we sat together in a classroom.
But, I’ve also realized how much college has changed me as a person. I have suffered from severe anxiety for as long as I could remember, and being busy was the way I could contain or avoid it. I was never holed up in my dorm room; I would be writing an essay in the Melville Starbucks with a large coffee in hand, talking about TikTok trends with my friends in their dorms, or spending late nights planning events with my friends in Hall Council. It was my way of life for about seven months since I came to SBU.
I didn’t realize how much quarantining and remote learning would impact my mental health. I knew being busy was a big help to my anxiety, but this change was more than I ever could have imagined, and I know that many people feel this way as well. On Tuesdays, I ran from class to class, studied and did homework in Melville Library, attended a meeting for The Statesman, met up with some friends and then went to Hall Council. This schedule spanned from 8:30 in the morning to the early hours of Wednesday. Yes, it could be exhausting, but it was also a time where I felt better mentally than I ever had before.
Seven months is a longer amount of time than maybe one would think. Seven months was long enough for me to assimilate into my college lifestyle, and I realized that when this quarantine started more than ever before. I ate with my friends, studied with my friends and walked to class with my friends. One time, I woke up early to go to a physics class that many of my friends were in so we all could spend the entire day together. It was a new normal for me that I had never felt before in high school, and I loved it.
Now, I see my friends over Zoom or FaceTime. These are the same friends who I’d see for at least four or five hours a day. The people who once lived one minute away from my dorm room now live hours away from my home, which is a mere 40 minutes away from campus. I studied and ate with these people; if I didn’t see them for a few days, it felt like there was something missing. Sure, I had friends in high school, but living in a community like this puts everything in a whole new perspective. Knowing that I almost always had someone to talk to or hang out with was something I had never experienced before. Being able to voice my opinions through my articles in The Statesman and getting to share ideas for events at Hall Council were encounters I never had until I stepped on to campus last August.
Quarantine has made me miss those times of sleep deprivation; those times when a stop to Starbucks on the way to class was necessary; those times when my friends and I were the last people left in West Side Dining. I’ve never valued these times more, and I think that if quarantine has taught us anything, it’s that we should treasure the memories we have.