A reflection on the past year.
Originally, I started my journey as an undergraduate student at Wayne State as a biology major. However, after taking a few bio classes, I found quickly that this would not be the route for me and got on track to become a public health major instead.
At the beginning of my second semester, now public health major, my life went on as normal. Besides beginning to hear of the coronavirus in the news and discussing it with my professors and peers, it had no major presence in my day-to-day life.
I was a happy, normal college student. I ate in the dining hall, went to all my classes in person, and slept in the on-campus dorms. It was a conventional college experience. I went out with friends, studied in the library, suffered through my midterms and was even planning a trip to New York at the end of the semester.
I had made wonderful connections with Hillel of Metro Detroit’s Jewish Student Organization on campus and met some amazing new friends. I attended Hillel’s events and even organized some of my own. At Wayne, I felt safe expressing my Jewish faith and religion openly, knowing that Hillel was like a family on campus that would always welcome me for a Shabbat dinner or a coffee and understand me spiritually. Everything was going according to plan!
The email students received extending spring break for another two weeks was at first a welcome surprise. I, along with my friends, took it as a bonus, a chance to relax a bit more before the insanity of finals fell upon us. However, about three weeks in, we noticed this seemingly small change in plan was nothing short of a single falling domino in a cascade of changes that would alter our daily lives.
A Drastic Change
As the pandemic came upon us in full force, my normal happy college life shifted dramatically. Classes were transitioned to a virtual format, which came with its share of complications. My lovely dorm I had been enjoying for the last five months had to be emptied prematurely. I moved out with the help of my family one rainy afternoon, clad in masks and gloves. No longer could I meet my friends in the dining hall, hang out in the Hillel lounge or simply walk about without a mask.
The changes hit me hard. My precious independence I’d gained over my time in college was suddenly cut off, and I was forced to resort to Zoom and Facetime calls in order to connect with my loved ones. School online was totally new territory. Above all else, I felt I was missing out, that I was squandering these precious few years I had before I would need to join the workforce and become a full-fledged adult.
Being a student during the pandemic has been a learning experience, one that has certainly shaped more than just my appreciation for the field of public health. It made me appreciate the smaller aspects of on-campus life I had previously taken for granted, such as the ability to study freely in a library or the chance to get a meal with friends in the dining hall before having a dorm movie night. It was these little things I miss most.
It has now been over a year since I have been inside of a classroom, over a year since I have last been on campus. Now, I am poised to return. The dawn of the new fall semester rapidly approaches, and I look forward to it with hope. While it may not look like the student life I left behind all those months ago in March 2020, it is a step toward healing from the many rugged changes the pandemic foisted upon our daily lives. It is a step on the road to normalcy.
As I begin down this path, I walk with a newfound appreciation for all things small, a moment chatting with a friend, a second in a library, and I thank God for the opportunity to begin my college life anew.
Loren Safta is a junior majoring in public health at Wayne State University.