I’m Not Ready for a Return to Normal Colgate


By this point in the semester, it feels as though everyone has learned to adjust to Colgate’s COVID-19 campus. Rolling out of bed for online classes, waiting in line at Frank to be seated when the capacity is full, grabbing a mask when leaving your room like its second nature and, of course, positioning your computer strategically so your whole class doesn’t see your roommate changing in the background over Zoom.

As a first-year student, I’ve mastered the dynamic of eating, taking classes and doing homework all within the walls of my dorm room. After a total of 30 days of universal quarantine (and thankfully, no additional days at the Wendt), I’ve become accustomed to treating my room like my own small world. But lurking in the back of my head is the feeling that I’m missing out on my first year of college. I think it’s reasonable to assume that many first-years feel the same way. While what we’re experiencing now is all we know, we’re also keenly aware of all that we are yet to experience: late-night Frank, Fraturdays, sports games, all the way down to in-person classes. Pretty much every routine we’ve learned this year, we’ll need to unlearn when our small worlds erupt to allow room for a non-COVID-19 campus.

When our campus allows for a return to normalcy, I fear that my class will initially be wholeheartedly unprepared to face these newfound freedoms. It won’t be because we are suddenly allowed independence, but rather because for the first time we won’t need to be exclusively independent. From our initial arrival on campus back in August when we trekked up the hill alone, contemplating what lay ahead, and lugged our bags into our sweaty dorm rooms, much of the challenges we’ve faced at Colgate have been a lonely affair. And while there are always benefits of learning to live independently, the opening of campus will ask us to learn to rely on one another again, and confront challenges together.

As much as I’m excited to finally say I’m “going to class” without it meaning rolling out of bed onto my chair, I know there will be a few adjustments that in-person classes will require from me. For one, to be completely honest, I know I will need to finally pay attention to where things are on campus, so that when someone asks me where Olin Hall is, I won’t need to turn my brightness down on my phone and check GoogleMaps before answering. I’ll also have to prepare myself to get back into a real-time class environment, where the awkward Zoom silences are even more unbearable and the cramps in my hand from notetaking more severe.

Beyond the classroom, the mass of new opportunities to expand our social lives will test the sense of community my class was able to establish this year during COVID-19. Attending sporting events and being free to socialize in groups larger than 10 will require us to reconsider our small worlds and find a new balance. Rather than structuring our days around our scheduled COVID-19 tests, we’ll be able to plan our work around, well, actually, so many things, including sports games and social events. Not to mention, of course, the beloved Parents Weekend and permission for visitors on campus. After two semesters of isolation from our families due to Colgate’s necessary COVID-19 restrictions, we’ll finally be able to grab breakfast with our parents at Flour and Salt and show our siblings our dorm room setups.

Above all, the biggest change that I anticipate will be the loss of masks. The day I walk outside to a campus full of faces, rather than masks, will open my eyes to a new world. Being able to recognize people from my classes and read people’s emotions, and just experience a simple smile again, will be a thrill unbeknownst to my class now.

Now, to say that I’m not ready for the return is not to say that I’m not excited for it. Trust me, I’m itching for the jailbreak too. But I feel that coming to a non-COVID-19 Colgate campus will be coming to college again for the first time. I anticipate feeling a rush of finally not having to worry about restrictions and being able to discover what it was that we missed out on this year. And at the end of the day, in a twisted way, my class has come to appreciate many things that I bet went unnoticed by other classes. Taking advantage of common rooms to socialize, for example, and hitting the quad on a warm September Friday night to wander around and meet people. While I’m definitely taking for granted the extra sleep that online classes allow me, it’s safe to say that when the campus reopens and our entire class rushes down the hill for a night out, I’ll be the first in line.