Most of what I’m about to say can be summed up in one short statement: it’s a strange time to be a college student, but an especially confusing time to be a commuter. The past year have been a whirlwind of uncertainty, and it seems that despite circumstances constantly changing we are still far from any sense of normalcy, if we ever reach that point again. In my experience, one of the strangest adjustments was becoming accustomed to online learning, a struggle which many students can relate to. However, as we enter a period of hopeful regathering, we are faced with many new circumstances to navigate, especially as commuting students.
As someone who attends classes on campus and works off campus, it can be nerve-wracking to consider just how many communities I belong to, and the implications of spending time in each one. One of my primary motivations for commuting was so that I could remain close to family, but now it is hard to justify spending time with them out of fear that I could either risk making them sick, or become sick myself and unknowingly carry that with me as I go about my daily life. While these fears are natural, and justified given the circumstances, it still casts a pall over the joy of being able to return to on-campus learning. On-campus life and off-campus responsibilities have become intertwined in new and worrying ways as we are forced to fully take into account our actions and how they could potentially impact others if we are not careful, and that is a harsh reality to face.
Despite all this, it is also worthwhile to consider the fact that, while we are certainly not under ideal conditions, the past year has presented countless opportunities for growth as well. We have been forced to truly take a look at how we interact with others, and the value of relationships. We have learned to adapt, and to hopefully reach out when it all becomes too much to bear to rely on support systems. While it’s unlikely that any of us considered the possibility of biweekly COVID tests and daily health check-ins through masks covering half our faces this time last year, we have learned about ourselves and our communities in new depth. While everyone’s future remains uncertain, we are all working to find a sense of balance as we find our place both on campus and outside of it.