March 14, 2020. The day my world was turned upside down. The day that it was officially announced that classes at the University of Regina would be taking place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I looked out of the window of my dorm and saw dozens upon dozens of students loading their cars or their parents’ cars with supplies. This was the kind of thing you usually only saw at the beginning of the year, with new students moving in, or at the end of the semester, with students going home. Right in the middle of March?
All in-person events were cancelled, gatherings were strongly discouraged, and facilities like lounges and public kitchens were closed down. Almost as soon as the news was announced, people started leaving. With everything being online, what was the point of staying?
International students, in my opinion, had it the worst. We had come overseas to live in Regina; right from our first year, we were already separated from our families. Domestic students had the luxury of being able to return home without any trouble, but international students could not.
With unpredictable flight schedules and the ever-growing fear of the spreading virus, most international students were stuck on campus. Being alone in the city with so many of my local friends gone and my world completely changed wasn’t ideal.
However, it turned out that things weren’t as bad as I thought. I met so many wonderful people and had so many wonderful interactions during the pandemic. I met fellow students and other campus visitors walking in the hallways and sitting at socially distanced tables; what’s special about that, in my opinion, is the interconnectedness of those meetings. Normally, running into people in the hallway and having a long conversation would be tough considering the constant flood of students and staff pouring through the halls on their way to class or work, but with the hallways and seating areas empty, it made conversation so much easier.
Meeting people this way was different compared to how I’d met people prior to the pandemic. Normally, I’d make new friends at dorm parties or playing games in the lounges. In those instances, it was the setting and circumstance that brought us together.
With the onset of the pandemic, I found myself connecting with people just for the sake of connecting with people. Going out of your way to meet people, in my experience, leads to better conversations and overall stronger relationships.
The pandemic was awful, but once we start looking at it in a more positive light, it becomes clear that it changed each and every one of us for the better. While COVID-19 socially distanced us, it also brought us together.
Let’s appreciate what we had taken for granted before the pandemic, but let’s also look back positively on the challenges we’ve overcome and the growth we’ve all experienced during the last two years.