In my Why Tufts essay I focused on the academic aspects of the University that I found appealing such as small class size, and particular course offerings…
Well folks, the time has come. To my absolute astonishment, the end of the semester is upon us. How did that happen? Where did the time go? I ask myself these questions every single day. I am writing this on Friday, December 11th, on the last day of classes of my third semester at Tufts, and to be completely honest, I never thought we’d get here. Before the semester started, my friends and I all took bets on when Tufts would shut down and send us all home—the earliest guess was by Indigenous People’s Day, and my guess was by Thanksgiving. Turns out we were all wrong! The restrictions that the university put in place actually worked to keep our caseload down and the majority of students coronavirus-free, and I for one am incredibly thankful that I was able to spend the entirety of the semester on campus, living with my friends, and even taking some in-person classes.
I’m currently sitting in the Science and Engineering Complex on campus—it’s about 1:30 PM and the afternoon sunlight is streaming through all the glass in the atrium, bathing the quietly-studying students in faded winter light. I’ve found myself coming to the SEC a lot over the past couple of weeks; as my workload has increased with finals season, this atrium has become my favorite place to grind down. Not only is the natural lighting an absolute joy, but the ambiance of muted chatter and the bustle of Kindlevan Cafe is the perfect amount of noise for me to focus on the many essays I need to write before I go home for the break.
I also love the SEC because I think it’s a perfect microcosm of how Tufts has been operating this entire semester. It’s never empty; although it’s unlikely you’d struggle to find a table to work at, there are always students here, masked and distanced, working on their assignments, drinking their caffeine at inappropriate hours, and, most importantly, interacting with others.
With all of the restrictions that Tufts has enacted this year to keep us safe as we take our classes, campus very easily could have become desolate. But instead, Tufts students made a deliberate effort to still socialize with their loved ones, even in a social environment that’s incredibly different from previous semesters. When I think back on this semester, I remember socially-distanced dinners on Prez Lawn, masked Sarabande rehearsals in Jackson Gym, catching friends spontaneously in the SEC and getting much less homework completed than originally planned. Within my residential cohort, I’ll remember paint nights and murder mystery games and building snowmen on the day before Halloween. I wrote at the beginning of the semester that what I missed most about pre-COVID life was the spontaneity that constitutes so much of the chaotic wonder of college. Well, turns out that spontaneity wasn’t lost completely. I found that most people were receptive to impromptu study hangouts or meals on off-campus house porches. I was even able to make friends in my Zoom classes—just a quick Instagram DM or personal chat message to a classmate resulted in a weekly correspondence highly akin to what I was used to in an in-person class. I hate the term “new normal”—nothing about our world right now is normal, and I don’t think we should get comfortable in this isolated life—but humans are built to adapt, and the Tufts community adapted to the pandemic in a remarkable way.
So while I would never choose a semester like this one over a “normal” semester, I’d say that these past four months have still been relatively triumphant, in spite of all the obstacles we had to overcome and the unfamiliar routines we had to adapt. I recognize that, throughout this tumultuous semester (and 2020 as a whole), I have enjoyed enormous privilege in being able to come back to school, take incredible classes with amazing professors, and not catch the coronavirus in the process. Despite all the challenges this semester threw at me, I would still consider this semester a success.