On Tuesday, August 25, at about 7:45 am, my mom and I arrived in Oberlin, Ohio, greeted by the “Welcome to Oberlin” sign. It was a sign that I had yearned for since the day I left back in March. Moments later, we drove past Tappan Square, and I was immediately reminded of the greenery that I had missed, especially in the fall. But then, as we continued to drive, we noticed how parts of the street were blocked off and signs reading “one way” were placed in some areas that had not been there in March.
It then hit me: I am moving back to Oberlin during a PANDEMIC. Crazy times, right?
What I and my peers would have classified as normal back in March certainly does not apply to the experiences we will have this semester. For example, every student had to register for a time to arrive back on campus. For me, I chose the very first day and time that returning students who are not Peer Advising Leaders (PAL), Resident Assistants (RA), or fit some other criteria that would permit them to be on campus a bit earlier, can arrive on campus.
I am extremely happy with my choice because the campus was quiet and there was little to no foot traffic. Entering the Williams Field House, which is where COVID-19 testing takes place, was slightly intimidating. Although it was and is crucial to get tested once on campus, it is an extremely uncomfortable experience. However, once it was over, all was well in that regard (even though I will have to do it all over again every month until November).
Once I arrived at my new dorm facility for the semester, my mom and I had to quickly unload the car and carry my luggage and other belongings into my dorm. Keeping on a mask and attempting to move as quickly as possible to avoid the rush of people to campus that was soon to occur made the process even less enjoyable. On a more positive note, though, having a double dorm room all to myself is absolutely AMAZING. As you can imagine, it is quite spacious.
And then the anticipation began.
I was hoping and praying that my COVID-19 testing results would come back clear (I was cleared after two days, by the way). I yearned to go outside and sit in the North quad with a few friends in a physically distanced manner. I yearned to walk through campus confidently, knowing that I was cleared and thus not an immediate health threat to those around me. However, talking to friends virtually about this anticipation helped a lot.
All in all, I am saying all of this to say that while everything appears to be so different, it is not. One thing that is consistent, for me at least, is that Oberlin is the same place for me that it was last August and even last June when I was on campus to participate in the STRONG Program (pre-first year STEM research program). It is my happy place. And it is my safe haven.
So this semester, I am choosing to hold on to the things, people, and experiences that have made Oberlin this way for me. Yes, coming back to Oberlin during a pandemic is different and overwhelming, but I am choosing to maintain a relatively positive mindset. My exact mindset at the moment is as follows: Prepare for the worst, but expect the best. Expect the unexpected, and take each day as it comes.
I am welcoming my second year at Oberlin College, COVID-19 pandemic edition, with open arms!