Alumni Perspective

From disappointment to determination: my reflections on the Coronavirus as a college student

Kayla+Butera+on+the+hill+at+Tufts+

Photo by Kayla Butera

Kayla Butera on the hill at Tufts

Kayla Butera, R2 Editor-in-Chief

I am currently a freshman at Tufts University.  As with many students across the globe, Coronavirus has changed my life.  And like many people my age, we didn’t expect it to change our lives to this degree.  I didn’t realize how grave it was until my grandpa in Milan told me that he hadn’t seen Italy like this since WWII, that hospitals were triaging patients, and that there were police officers ensuring children wouldn’t get too close in his quiet town’s playgrounds.  

Tufts decided to close for the rest of the semester on Mar. 10 and later confirmed a case of Coronavirus on campus two days later.  The person attended an event which may have exposed up to 80 people, who are now self-isolating. Because of the possibility that I could have been exposed, my family and I quarantined for 14 days upon arriving back home.

I miss Tufts, both based on what I have experienced and what I was yet to experience.  So many things happen on a college campus; hearing guest speakers (like Antoni Porowski from Queer Eye), learning from incredible professors, and grabbing impromptu meals with friends was just the norm.  Being back home with my family is comforting, but there is a sense of living in an apocalyptic time warp – I’m a college student, learning material back in my hometown, where presumably most of the Class of 2019 is, but I don’t see them like in high school because of a pandemic.  

I moved out of my dorm three days after Tufts decided to transition its courses online, and as per social distancing tactics, my goodbyes to friends were exchanged air hugs.  In particular, it was a stressful scramble for my international and non-Northeast friends to figure out housing (stay, if allowed, or go back home?), pack their entire dorm, and question how their classes will function with the time zone difference.  In the back of my mind, I still think I’m returning to my college on the hill. In reality, I’m logging into Zoom. One of my summer plans to get my yoga teacher certification is now up in the air.

For me and people in my age group, it can be easy to feel like we’ve been cheated and are missing out on experiences.  I’ve found that it’s important to optimize under these circumstances by outlining the invisible or intangible elements that I miss the most from normal life: communication with friends, creative thinking, and autonomy.  

Ask yourself: How can you structure your days to make you feel productive and satisfied?  What can you try or accomplish that you haven’t done before? How can you serve others? Personally, I’ve set up three goals for myself: 

1) Once a week, cook a meal entirely in an international cuisine, learn words from the country, and virtually visit some of the land’s famous spots.  Devouring pakoras next to the Taj Mahal? हाँ (Yes in Hindi), I’ll be there.  

2) Make a dress.  I used to sew often when I was younger, and it’s time for me to tap into my passion once again.

3) Check in on my friends and family members regularly – which may seem like a given, but can be lost in the commotion and fear of this virus.  I also find that by checking in on friends, I’m also checking in on myself by verbalizing my current emotions, struggles, and victories.

I’ve observed that although we are living under uncertain times, there are some things that are certain.  The earth is renewing itself.  Communities are educating and helping each other, locally and globally.  Many are spending more time with their families. Individuals have more time for self-reflection and discovery.

By stripping the chaos of everyday routines, we are left with so much more awareness and compassion.  This challenge we are presented with is a collective battle of patience and hope. Let us unravel our fears and take this virus as an opportunity to holistically take care of ourselves and others.  I am certain that these are uniting times.