As we begin our second week of classes, I can’t help but admit it feels weird returning to the normal we once treated as nothing special. Seeing large crowds on campus and entire classrooms filled to the maximum, can make people anxious.
Although I arrived at Shippensburg University in the middle of the pandemic last August, I only recently met fellow members of The Slate in person for the first time.
Last Monday while walking through a crowd, it stuck me how weird the return to “normal” felt. I realized I recognized almost nobody; a stark contrast from the previous year when I recognized hundreds of faces that I passed by each day.
While there has been a lot of change, growth and learning through this pandemic, I could always feel a “what if?” hanging over our heads. “What if the school shuts down,” or “what if I catch COVID-19.” Because at that point we had no idea if there was a successful vaccine coming. This made getting to know people a risk and left many people isolated.
I was ecstatic last Monday to see so many first-year students ready to start their college careers and returning students finally meeting their professors in person. I felt a sense of urgency and purpose as we returned to in-person classes — something that was missing from the socially distanced learning model.
Despite returning to the “normal” we have been craving since 2020, there is some adjusting that needs to happen. Students can no longer mute themselves and listen to music or enjoy their breakfast during an 8 a.m. class.
Now, these may seem like small things, but once you get used to new daily routine, it’s hard to switch back. There are people I know who still can’t get used to being in large crowds again. I myself find myself feeling unnerved in the crowded halls of Dauphin Humanities Center.
This doesn’t mean I think we should all pack up and go home, not even a little bit. No, instead I think we should cherish what we have gotten back but re-adjust at our own rate. Yes, for the most part we went through a shared experience in the past 18-months, but some of us especially experienced loss, solitude and panic. This is a golden opportunity for us to check in on those around us, offer them help if they need it, and if not, simply offer them an ear to talk to.
We as new or returning SU students have been through a lot. But even though we’re not through the tunnel yet, we shouldn’t stop till we’re through it together.