I remember, almost two full years ago, a time when we did not have to worry about having a mask on us when we left the house, we didn’t have to worry about not being able to see our friends and family because of health issues, a time when the idea of a global pandemic wasn’t even on the radar, let alone at the forefront of our social consciousness. I remember thinking about preparing for the next phase of my life and wondering about all the new faces that I would get to see. As it turned out, that next phase of my life would be put on hold as the world faced a brand new challenge. By the time I arrived here at Hope, those faces that I had looked forward to seeing were, in fact, hidden behind a mask.
Within the last couple of years, our world has changed in a vast way that seemed to have happened in a blink of an eye. With that being said, I would be lying if I went on to say that COVID-19 has not affected my life and everyone else’s around me. Before coming to Hope College, I knew that the dynamic of my life was going to change, but the one thing I did not know was how different our experiences would be than those who were already at Hope College. The present pandemic has changed the way we live our lives, but we can already see a little bit of normalcy coming back into the world that we now know. Obviously, the health of the campus is the most important thing to consider, but I can’t pretend that I am not excited to see the return of some of those pre-COVID freedoms that I had taken for granted.
Throughout the pandemic, I never got the Hope College experience, but there were stories about the Hope College that it used to be. Before every class was online and we had the luxury to be able to lay in bed and listen to lectures, those who were here before us were actually able to go to a class full of their peers. For some people, online classes work really well, but I know that it has been a struggle for a lot of people, too. And on top of that, the people who studied here before the pandemic didn’t have to worry about whether or not they misplaced their mask in between classes. I was told about how people were allowed in other rooms, without having to worry in the back of one’s head if an RA was on the other side of that door. These were the kinds of things that made me excited to be a part of campus— in addition to the small things like the ice cream machine in the dining halls. In this day and age, college life is not even within reach of being what it used to be, but we are slowly integrating back into the old ways. In some ways, we may never get back to complete normalcy, but I think that trying to integrate some of those things to help with mental health is important to the culture of our campus.
Just this year, Hope has changed many of the rules that have to do with COVID-19, and students on campus are already saying how much of a difference they are seeing. Students are now able to go into other dorms without having to wear a mask, and even be in each other’s rooms. This week the rules changed yet again, now allowing students to be able to go to the dining halls and academic buildings without wearing a mask as well. These may seem like trivial things to people who aren’t living on campus right now, but I can tell you from firsthand experience that these small steps feel like huge strides towards a form of normality and structure that we had all been used to before the pandemic began. The ability to interact with each other and see each other face to face has been a breath of fresh air.
I hope that going forward we can all work together to ensure that the Hope campus remains a positive and safe place. I think that we can address the issues we face together as a community and look forward to the better things ahead!