My 88-year-old grandfather’s next-door neighbor had COVID-19. Two of my aunts – one of whom works in the ER and deals with coronavirus patients every day – leave groceries and supplies for my grandpa on the porch, keeping their distance. My home city is shut down; stores, schools, entertainment, everything is closed indefinitely. Back in January, when this semester began, I could not even fathom what the world would be like just a few months later.
I am currently at home in Rochester, New York, as are my three older siblings. My oldest sister is home from medical school in Philadelphia and my other two siblings have returned from their senior years of undergrad. My dad, a dentist, only goes into his office to see a few patients a week when there are emergencies, and my mom, a pediatric nurse, works just a couple days a week.
It’s very strange acclimating to life at home with my family. We have not all been together for more than a few weeks at a time in years. We still have class and homework, but it is all online now, and it has been difficult finding a balance between family life and the obligations of meetings and schoolwork.
But life still goes on, and Mercyhurst is still very much alive. Just as the founding Sisters hung doors and painted walls to finish Old Main in the midst of a workers’ strike in the 1920s, we have risen to this challenge as well.
As the current events coordinator and next year’s vice president for Mercyhurst Student Government, I am involved in several virtual meetings a week as we continue to try and develop new ways to keep engaging with our fellow Lakers. A big part of my quarantine experience has been working with MSG.
Starting on April 6, MSG began running activities on social media on Mondays through Thursdays.
These activities include “MSG Monday,” where members of MSG engage with the student body through a creative, intellectually challenging or entertaining activity; “Trivia Tuesday,” where different members of MSG host a trivia challenge for students to win gift cards; “Wellness Wednesday,” where MSG provides students with opportunities to support self-care; and “Thrifty Thursday,” where students are encouraged to use household items for a creative or entertaining activity.
For me, these four different activities strive to keep MSG connected with fellow students and to provide something to do while we are in quarantine. What’s important is for students to feel like they are still on campus as much as possible. Of course it is not exactly the same, but I think it is important to still come together as a community and have fun!
Activities so far have included meditation, a juggling tutorial and slogan trivia.
I have also been surrounded by a great MSG team who have helped to put on the events.
“While Lakers work hard from home, I think it’s important to maintain a sense of community and Laker Pride. We wanted to roll out our virtual programming, through @msglakers social media and the Campus Involvement’s Virtual Activities and Programming page on the HUB, so we could continue to engage with students,” said senior Adrienne Nannen, MSG PR coordinator.
“I was excited to create a video for “MSG Monday” in which members of our executive board showcased their comical attempts of at-home activities. We hope to be a source of positivity and student connection and encourage students to ‘carpe diem’ even while at home.”
Abby Staub, MSG president, agreed.
“With the switch to online learning, it seemed natural to grow our MSG presence online as well. The focus of our virtual activities is student engagement and how to bring the Hurst home to our fellow Lakers,” said Staub.
With a few weeks of virtual programming under MSG’s belt, students have been able to have fun and get involved.
Mercyhurst Student Government has also been moving ahead with Senate elections for the 2020-2021 academic year. As incoming vice president, I have spent the last few weeks sending out applications and getting all candidates set to campaign.
With the drastic changes and upheaval, we have all experienced lately, it has been nice for me to focus on the future. I am excited to elect our RSCO, class and college senators during April 21 – 23.
I have also been kept busy with involvement in the Ambassador Organization. With campus closed, visiting Mercyhurst as a prospective student is very atypical. However, the Ambassador Organization has still been working closely with the Admissions department to continue meeting with and getting to know prospective students, all through Microsoft Teams.
If a prospective student would like an individualized virtual “tour,” they can set up a meeting with an Ambassador and Admissions Counselor. Although the student can’t visit Grotto Commons or the residence halls, they can still get an idea of what life at Mercyhurst is like. And yes, the Ambassador still wears their green jacket!
Recently, I was a part of the very first Coffee and Conversations event held by Admissions. These events are focused on a specific topic and involve multiple families and a student panel. I participated in the Coffee and Conversations event centered on Campus Involvement. Two other students and I – all Ambassadors involved on MSG – met with about eleven families and were able to share our experiences.
What I think is fascinating about these virtual visits is that they truly bring us all together. Even scattered across state (and sometimes international) borders, and sitting in our living rooms and kitchens, we are still able to share our love of Mercyhurst with future Lakers.
What I have learned throughout the past few weeks is that humankind is incredibly resourceful, resilient and creative. Especially through my involvement, it is clear to me that Mercyhurst is taking the COVID-19 pandemic in its stride and making the most out of a terrible and difficult situation.
Professors have adapted to the limits of technology and the lack of face-to-face interaction. MSG and Admissions have turned to social media and video chats to keep everyone connected and engaged. Friends keep in touch and we can still talk and laugh and be in this together.
When I am not busy doing classwork or in meetings, I have taken the time to appreciate the little things in life, as cliché as that may be. The beautiful sunset views from my house, walks in the slowly warming air, the first Spring flowers poking up through the ground. Earth is waking back up, and soon so shall we.
Of course, I would rather be on campus with my friends, getting to enjoy the last couple months of being together, especially before many of them graduate. But in ten years when I look back at this time in our history, I hope that I don’t dwell on what was lost, but rather on what was gained.
I hope to never take “normal” life for granted again: the ability to sit next to a friend, go to class, try a new restaurant, or go to the grocery store without the fear of spreading or contracting disease. I hope to remember what a privilege it is just to be alive, to grow older and learn new things and meet new people and explore new places.
What I have found: Mercyhurst is not just a place; rather, it is a family that cares for one another even when we are scattered across the globe. The decisions that have been made were in all our best interests and administration and staff continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the Mercyhurst culture and community remain the same.
As Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, said: “we should be shining lamps, giving light to all around us.”
In a time that is so dark and uncertain, let’s be the light. Appreciate what we still have, help those less fortunate, call someone you love or miss and stay home. We will get through this, together. Even when we are apart, we are never alone.
I’ll see you soon, Lakers!