An empty lecture hall in Javits Lecture Center. Next semester, about 80% of classes will be taught in person. CAMRON WANG/THE STATESMAN

Anya Marquardt is a sophomore English Education major with a minor in journalism. 

To SBU Students,

Hello! My name is Anya Marquardt, and I am a sophomore english education major. I’m writing an open letter to you all about this past school year …  isn’t it crazy that it’s almost over?

This has been a hard year for everyone, regardless of their circumstances. We’ve all lived our lives virtually in ways we’ve never known before. Zoom became a lifestyle for us for a longer time than any of us had expected.

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Longer. I think that’s a keyword for this past school year. This pandemic went on longer than I ever thought possible. I didn’t think I would be stuck behind a computer for class for over a year now. I didn’t think that my friends and I would be figuring out a time to get tested for COVID-19 together instead of figuring out a time to go to New York City. But that’s what happened for all of us. 

I find it oddly funny and fitting that I am writing this to all of you now. About a year ago, I wrote an article on how COVID-19 changed my freshman year dramatically, and I reflected on many of the events that had characterized my freshman year prior to our online transition. When I wrote that article, all I could think about was how I was losing my “college lifestyle.” I couldn’t imagine losing the freedom that had been granted to me at college. I missed my friends and being able to simply walk around campus and “do my own thing.” Now, I have a different perspective.

I miss learning the way I used to. I miss walking to class in the morning, sitting in a classroom and interacting with my professor and classmates. I finally got to get into my stride with English classes this year (in my freshman year I only took one class for my major) and I was getting to know people in my major. But, unfortunately, when I say I was getting to know people, I mean seeing the same names pop up on my Zoom screen repeatedly. 

I didn’t make friends with people in my major like I had previously because we had no chance to actually interact with each other. We weren’t sitting next to each other in a classroom; we were actually miles away from each other, hiding behind turned-off cameras. I found it so difficult to make new friends because nobody wanted to be in any type of virtual setting for a mere second longer than they had to be.

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It is saddening to think about that aspect of this year. However, I think some positives came out of it for us too.

We dealt with a life-altering situation, and we all adapted. We transitioned to a whole new life, and we did the best we could with what we were given, and here we are, a year later. We have a year ahead of us bursting with promise. The mix of shock and excitement that went through me after seeing buildings listed under my courses instead of “ONLINE,” was indescribable — and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Seeing those words was the light at the end of the tunnel for me.

There’s a lot of positivity on the horizon for all of us, and this past year has taught me not to take that for granted. I realized this year that I took the beginning of my freshman year for granted. When there’s an in-person opportunity to do something, I jump for it. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss the things that made up my daily routine. In my article last year, I spoke more about missing my friends and the social aspects. Now, I’m realizing how much those small parts of my daily routine, even just walking to class (not at 8 a.m. though!) or waiting in a long line at Subway in Roth Cafe. Now, my main commutes are small study spots and my on-campus jobs and waiting in long lines at the COVID-19 testing center.

I hope that all of you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, too. I know things have been difficult for all of us, but we have been working our hardest and we have persevered. We made it through a semester and a half of Zoom University so far; let’s try to finish our second full semester strong and begin to look forward to a new future!

Best,
Anya Marquardt

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