I start school on Monday. Between headlines from Notre Dame and University of North Carolina, I felt as though I needed to word vomit out my feelings towards going back to college during a pandemic.
I have never been a social butterfly. I am no where near an introvert, but college has been different for me. Unlike high school, this was the time to really crack down and focus on my studies. I have a group of friends, I even joined clubs and a sorority, but going to college meant I was serious about what I was doing. Sure, you can balance partying and being studious, but for me, it was always focusing all my energy and making my dual major with a degree extension my top priority. All throughout college, I told myself, "When you turn 21 and you're a senior, you can have more fun. You've worked so hard! Go to the bar on a school night, have more sleepovers with friends. Be a young girl celebrating your success." That obviously has all changed because of the pandemic. Now, alongside likeminded people who think like me, that is not a possibility. I have frequently made jokes that I am going to be the only senior in college to never have gone to the bar, got pizza at three in the morning after a night out, and woke up hungover the next day, searching for a place to eat that serves the greasiest food.
Nothing is stopping me from continuing to do these things. Businesses are opening up and friend groups are reuniting as they bunker down, ready to start school. So what is stopping me?
Academics. I love learning. As a dual education major, I already knew my experience would look different this semester. Some schools are only accepting student teachers, while others don't want any extra personnel in their school buildings. I care more than just for field experiences. I care about instruction. I care about hearing from accredited professors in their field. I care about the continuance of hands on learning as much as possible. By going to bars, hanging out with friends, and ignoring guidelines put in place because we are amid a literal pandemic, schools are going to be closing again and I will be forced to follow all online instruction. Last semester sucked, to put it lightly. I think I speak for many when I say we do not want to see an all online semester again. But is that possible to avoid?
College is different. There is no one telling you that you can't go out. No one is saying you can't hangout with friends or you have to social distance and be home by a certain time. With thousands of students, there is no way to police who is going where, who they are sharing drinks with, and if they have a mask on or not. People going to parties don't care if they are less than six feet away from someone.
I am calling out college students across the country. We have to set the example. We cannot have schools being closed because someone decided to go to a house party. You can have fun and be safe about it without jeopardizing yourself or others. Even if you don't feel sick or aren't vulnerable, people around you are. Invisible diseases, anyone?
I'm not excited to go back to school. There are people who you know haven't social distanced, people who don't care if they're sick and will still show up to classes anyway, and those of us that no matter how much it pains us or makes us feel lonely, we will continue to be safe and social distance.
Before school starts up, I guess the question you have to ask yourself is, "Who will I be?"