For all of us in the 2022 Class, this period marks the beginning of our “last” ones. Our last first day of class. Last time we go back to the Collegetown apartments. Our last semester ever. Even as I’m writing this, it doesn’t feel real, mostly thanks to Zoom University.
Like so many other seniors, I continue to fear the inevitable questions about postgraduate plans. Part of me feels like it’s somehow wrong to plan for a while after Cornell – the part of me that doesn’t know how to imagine life any other way. After all, like many of us, I’ve spent 16 of my 21 years in the education system; being a student is a huge part of my life.
That said, the other part of me can’t wait to leave and face the elusive “real world” I glimpse every summer. This time, however, there is no expiration date; there is no red circle looming on the back to school calendar. The real world seems limitless. The other part of me can’t wait to stop the world from burning or go out in flames by trying.
Even with the pandemic looming over half of my college experience, I am so incredibly grateful for all the struggles I’ve had to go through. It’s a cliché, but Cornell really taught me how strong I am and I’m proud of it. It’s a trait that will serve all of me well no matter what else life throws at me.
Still, I’m sad that COVID has stolen such a solid part of our college experience. After two years, any semblance of normality seems virtually impossible (pun intended). The class of 2022 straddles two university eras; we are old enough to remember what a college year was like before the pandemic, but now we are old. We are the last of the student body that remembers, and our memories are muddled too.
We’ve had three regular semesters, and honestly, that feels like a luxury now. In a way, it makes everything worse because we know what we have lost. To be honest, as much as I tried to stay positive, my college experience was irrevocably changed and I’m not sure it was for the better.
There’s no other way to put it: Zoom University sucks. I have no doubt that the pandemic has posed unique challenges for everyone, but being in college right now is quite a roller coaster. Politics, discussion, stress; it reaches all levels, from friends and family to administrators and politicians. And it won’t go away anytime soon, as Cornell’s spate of cases reminded us at the end of last semester.
I am fully in tune with the desire to return to normal: stop testing, stop wearing masks and return to the world without fear. I get that, because I feel that urge too, especially as a second semester student. But the fact is, as terrible as it is sometimes, it’s not just about us. It’s about the communities we interact with. It is also about our families and our friends.
It concerns my severely immunocompromised father who spent the entire last week in the hospital with the virus, despite being fully vaccinated and potentiated. Throughout the pandemic, my entire family has taken all possible precautions to prevent it, including the sacrifice of the holidays together. Even if I were 100% sure I didn’t have the virus, my dad would still wear a mask in the house around me for both his safety and peace of mind. It was heartbreaking.
Our efforts to keep my father COVID-free paid off until January 2022. That said, we have no idea how he got the virus; our family had been home together for over a month at that point. In a way, it’s comforting to know that my family now has natural built immunity, but I can’t help but fear what will happen if the restrictions are relaxed, if more variations occur. What will it mean for me and my family? As much as I want to get back to normal, I’m afraid what the consequences might be.
And I know I’m not alone. As frustrating as all these ongoing measures are right now, I will gladly continue to do it all because it helps all families out there like mine.
With anyone else in the Class of 2022, I am sorry that this is what we have had to contend with. I can only talk about my experience; if yours is anything like mine, I’m sure you are also facing a lot of mixed and confused feelings about graduation during the pandemic right now. Hold on. I cheer for all of us.
Lorelei Meidenbauer ’22 (she / she) is a senior at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected] Snacks and handshakes runs every other Tuesday this semester.