Editor’s Note: This story is the first in a series of reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic, written by the University of Wisconsin-Superior Promethean staff and contributors.
This semester is not the spring semester I envisioned back on January 22, 2020.
It feels wrong not being able to hug or give a proper “goodbye” in person to my graduating senior friends. While some of my friends moved to their home state, others abruptly uprooted their life and flew to their home country. These people are not acquaintances who, upon their departure, I would merely wave “goodbye.” These people made a tremendous impact on my life, and I may not see them again for many years. I hope to stay connected with them, and I look forward to the day when we can reunite.
I moved out of the residence halls in March. My younger brother and I are both college students attending class online from our home in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is nice being in a place where I have a reliable source of food and support.
That being said, our parents are in the category of people who are at risk of dying of COVID-19 if infected. With the television always on a news channel, it is hard to escape the anxiety in the air. I understand it is crucial to stay informed, but I feel overwhelmed by the constant updates.
My father owns Video Universe, a movie rental store housing approximately 80,000 movies on tape, DVD, and Blu-Ray. With only two employees besides himself, he is among the many small businesses that closed up shop because they were not deemed “essential.” My father occupies his new-found free time by organizing and sorting through the neglected movies in the store’s basement. We are preparing my home to transfer all the movies in the event Video Universe cannot survive reopening. I am not lonely living in my house, and my immediate family is not driving each other crazy because we have enough space to do our own work; however, being without my friends has been quite difficult.
I remember in February when the university emailed students that UW-Superior does not have any students who are from the parts of China where scientists first identified COVID-19. At the end of March, President Trump used the term “Chinese Virus” to refer to the coronavirus. As an adopted Chinese-American, his rhetoric unsettled me. Even though the disease is global and does not discriminate against who it infects, using such a term perpetuates the idea that the virus and myself are foreign. While I may face racist incidents rooted in people’s fear of Asian-Americans’ connection to the coronavirus, another challenge of social isolation I face is embarking on a long-distance relationship with my incredibly extroverted significant other.
The two of us went from seeing each other in person every day to weekly phone calls. He resides in a single room in the residence halls at UWS. Social media and video calls keep us connected, but it’s challenging not to be able to support him in person. My heart aches when I hear about him handling loneliness for the first time in a long time and his sense of feeling trapped within the confines of a dorm room.
After navigating a nontraditional pathway through his college career, he intends to graduate this semester. Unfortunately, he will not get to publicly showcase his senior capstone video like those who came before us in our Communicating Arts major. I preferred to stay in the residence halls with him, but we know each other well enough that neither of us would accomplish any schoolwork—we social distance for the sake of our academic career and for the health of others.
While the pandemic is frustrating for some and anxiety-inducing for others, I hope there is a positive outcome from this. It is truly amazing how professors and faculty have worked tirelessly to transfer on-campus class into alternative delivery modes even though this is the first year that many of us have used Canvas. Fortunately, I’ve completed some online courses in the past and I’m familiar with Canvas because of my high school experience, which has helped ease the transition for me.
The company I intended to intern with this summer rescinded my internship. While this is a disappointment, I do not think I would have liked relationship marketing anyway. I am fortunate to continue working remotely for the UWS marketing and communications department until the semester ends, and I hope to extend my work into the summer.
From this moment forward, I ask myself, what can I do today to add value? It may be that this trying time is an opportunity for self-reflection and inner transformation. I encourage others to be kind to themselves and appreciate this challenge. We are in a constant lifelong struggle to seek, learn, grow, and ponder. In light of the new economic and global developments, I remain grounded in the present and hope for the future as I reimagine how I want to position myself in a broader context both on the job market and in my personal sphere. While COVID-19 may impact my life and career trajectory, I don’t want it to lead me astray from achieving my goals.