After nearly a year of being away from Swat’s campus, I am finally back! And things are weird! But also still wonderful! As I anxiously slept on a redeye flight wearing two masks as another precaution, I wondered what being back on campus after all this time would be like especially considering the whole global pandemic thing. Once I was able to get my COVID-19 test done and breathe a sigh of relief at the negative test result, I was able to move into my dorm and make things as cozy as possible. Now that I’ve settled into the groove of classes, Sharples and quarantine, I can say with confidence that it feels amazing to be back even with all of the new weird circumstances to adapt to. Here are a few weird but wonderful things about being back at Swat during a pandemic.
Sharples! You love it, you hate it, you feel meh about some meals and LOVE others and now you have a whole new Sharples experience. Because of the pandemic, Swat has tried to make things as safe as possible for students and staff. This means that instead of grabbing a meal in Sharples and eating indoors, you now make a reservation for your meal times and get take out. This was definitely a strange transition at first. There are two lines that separate students so that they are all 6 ft apart and then you loop around to grab utensils and desserts and such. I felt a bit lost at first, but now I have the hang of it. I actually really enjoy checking the dash and seeing what Sharples is offering. Then, I decide whether it’s more of a Sharples day or more of an Essie Mae’s day and plan my meal times accordingly. This could be because I love planning, but regardless I still enjoy my Sharples time! I can coordinate with my friends so we walk down together and sometimes if the weather isn’t too chilly we’ll eat outside together. Little moments like these have made the isolation of quarantine more bearable and put me at ease.
I really love wearing a mask, especially in the cold weather. It keeps my face warm and there are so many cool masks out there with cute designs and patterns. The only problem is I have a really hard time recognizing other people when we’re passing by each other. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said “Hi Grace!” while I was on my way to my dorm and I’ve replied cheerily, “Hey!!” without even having a slight clue as to whom they were. If I’ve done this with you, I’m so sorry. I promise I know who you are, it’s just tough to tell from the sliver of face I see between everyone’s masks and winter hats. Since I can’t give everyone I kind of know the signature Swat smile (you know the one, the closed mouth with a raise of the eyebrows), I’ve become accustomed to just saying hi to everyone I think I might know just to be on the safe side. Worst case scenario, I just come across as very friendly.
I am so incredibly excited to be able to see all of my friends again! It might not be the reunion we were all hoping for, but after nearly a year of Zoom calls and FaceTiming, it feels absolutely incredible to see everyone in person again. Now because of soft quarantine, we aren’t able to meet up with each other to the extent that we want, but we’re making do. The first night I got here my friends and I all grabbed dinner together and then just had a Zoom call from our own dorms to eat and catch up and it was really nice. Luckily, I also live close to the majority of my friends so I’m able to meet up with them in lounges and stuff. Things are definitely not the same as when I left campus but it is so refreshing and serotonin-boosting to be around my friends again.
- Walking around Campus
One thing that has been especially weird/wonderful is just how empty campus is. I really enjoy going on walks and listening to podcasts to get some fresh air and be out of my dorm for a bit, and on my walks around campus, I rarely see other people. I’ll see a couple of people going to get food or packages but I’m just so used to seeing a flood of people coming out of Sci after morning classes or seeing people get the LPAC stage all ready for a performance, etc. It almost feels like it’s the apocalypse and I’m the last survivor of the human race or something. But then I’ll see another Swattie taking a picture of a big squirrel and know that I’m safe.
Public bathrooms are a wild thing to navigate on their own but, during a pandemic, it is truly a time. I’ve been slowly figuring out the best times to use the bathroom when no one else is around because I have a very long skincare routine and I feel really bad hogging one of the two sinks available for it. I also try really hard to remember to wear a mask when I leave my room to use the bathroom. I remember to wear one when I’m going outside to go and eat or walk, but something about just getting up to walk down the hall makes me almost always forget before the last second to grab my mask. I’m just so used to being in my own home and not wearing a mask at all that it slips my mind here. I know a lot of my friends are also struggling with this though so I know that I’m not alone.
Overall, things are definitely different and a little weird but I’m super happy to be able to be back on this beautiful campus and reunited with all of my friends again. The transitions haven’t been that hard and there are still many wonderful things about Swat that make me happy to be back.