Granola bar in hand, I await my next online class. It is a beautiful day, and I honestly cannot say I have experienced class with a chipmunk weaving around my feet, and birds chirping around me.
The nature scene paints a stark contrast to my laptop and the online class I’m in the waiting room for.
Around me, about a dozen other students behaved similarly, or sat and chatted with friends.
Here is a bizarre hybrid of technology and nature that seems more alien and futuristic than any scene I could have realistically imagined less than a year ago. All this rapid change has given birth to the new commuter student.
There is a shared sense of community that no single student feels ostracized in, no matter if they live on campus or commute. We are all struggling through this strange semester together, and we all have to deal with COVID-19 in different ways. This is the formation of a new level of respect we all have for each other.
The new commuter travels onto campus and gladly accepts the inherent risks every day. They get up early to fight through the day, followed by staying up late to perfect their work. There is a brand-new focus on getting school done through adversity, and it heavily affects commuters.
That is not to say everything is going smoothly. There are weird cases that continuously spring up.
For example, I have to drive to campus at 8 a.m. to Zoom into my prior two classes, because the third class at 11 a.m. is always in person. I definitely understand the value of having an in-person class, but I am hesitant to clutter campus Zooming into classes I should be home for.
Moreover, what happens when the snow starts to fall?
There is precious little indoor seating, and it must now accommodate students that are commuters between classes, commuters and residents Zooming into classes, everyone eating lunch and students looking for common space.
Suddenly, my cozy spot in the Student Union has become valuable real estate.
Need I mention that a lot of people being inside the same space is not ideal, even with proper distancing, sanitizing and masks?
However, even with these difficult questions and with no easy answers, the pandemic has pushed me to have a new appreciation for the educational experience as a whole. In-person classes are cherished opportunities and walking through Old Main feels more like it did when I was still a freshman.
Other commuters are going through similarly unique challenges and striving to be the best, regardless. There is a new bond forming where silently, everyone understands we are all fighting our own battles on a daily basis.
It is this singular idea that is giving birth to a new commuter student – one that is constantly striving to win the day.
Hopefully, the long quarantine has granted perspective to everyone, especially on the things previously taken for granted.