As my winter break began, I felt torn between a sense of relief and nerves. I was relieved for finally making it through a full semester of online classes while growing closer to my friends.
Last-minute, we had decided to live together in Boston, and luckily, for the most part, it went smoothly. However, at the same time, I was feeling stressed about what to do in the Spring semester. My friends and I were struggling to find a place at a price comfortable for all of us. It was like a blessing in disguise when I was driving back home to Virginia, and I received my email from Harvard College offering me Spring housing.
The following month was full of reading emails anxiously, packing, and praying to be in my actual upper-level student House. Due to the strict COVID-19 guidelines, there were questions in our student group chats of where upper-level students would potentially be placed. However, my worries quickly disappeared when I received my confirmation email from my assigned House, Lowell.
In late January, I said goodbye to my family as I headed up in a car stuffed with “essential items” only. All students moving in had been spread out over a five-day period with specific two-hour slots to move belongings and complete initial tests. I arrived in Cambridge a couple of hours earlier than my 3:00 pm arrival time and was able to grab a last meal with my parents before my initial quarantine would begin. As soon as my move-in time began, I immediately went to Smith Campus Center, a popular hub for student activity and work, where we were immediately tested twice. One of our tests was for antigens and the other was a normal COVID test that was expected to get its result in the next 24 hours.
While leaving the Smith Campus Center, to begin dorm move-in, all students were handed a HUGE bag. In it was food to last a week. Harvard really did not hold back on snacks! It honestly took forever to finish but my roommate and I felt comforted by the fact we would not be hungry.
Afterward, we headed to our assigned living space. I was so excited to finally experience life in Lowell House! Due to the pandemic, my first year was cut shorter than normal and one of the consequences was not having a proper Housing day. Housing Day at Harvard is a very big deal. The tradition is much anticipated as each of the 12 upper-level student Houses produce a music video to promote their house and first-years anxiously try to predict their home for the remainder of their time at Harvard. I remember during my first year spring my blockmates (the group of people I would live in the future with), and I would try to manifest “good energy” to be placed in a desirable river house.
Lowell House is celebrated not only for its beautiful exterior and renovated interior, but also the location and community. It felt surreal that after all this time I could finally live in my House. I quickly got my key and a month's worth package of COVID-19 tests. As my parents and I rapidly moved in boxes, bags, and suitcases, I was ecstatic to finally see my one of blockmates for a long-awaited reunion. My parents quickly departed to get a head start on the long drive back to Virginia. The next five hours were full of frenzy and excitement of unpacking, catching up, and eating endless snacks.
The next couple of days passed quite quickly as classes started that following Monday. I remember this weird moment of waking up and feeling unsettled as I realized I was back on campus. As March 10th passed it was even stranger remembering the spot I was in last year, finding out we were being sent home and being brought back to the present, living in a place I have grown to call home. The best part about being on campus during the second semester has been welcoming the Spring. As the weather has gotten warmer, I have been able to run into more people who live on campus. Some of my favorite activities are our random soccer games in the Mather House basketball courts. There is a new sense of peace that comes with being back on campus. Simply stated, it is strange but comforting.
All public spaces still require face masks. However, over time the restrictions have gotten more flexible. There are a lot of mixed feelings about living on campus. On one hand, it is stressful with initial isolation, consistent testing, limited access, and overwhelming emotions from previous memories that replay as an upper-level student. On the other hand, there is a sense of peace and normalcy that being back on campus brings which may have been missed. The schedule and friendly faces that appear as the weather warms make it feel like a normal future is possible. I am now realizing that I only have two more years left on this campus. This pandemic has taught me that time at Harvard passes quickly, and you should try to appreciate every second of it.
Looking back, with only two more weeks left, I am very thankful for the people on campus who made this Spring semester run so smoothly. I am thankful for all the Harvard cleaning staff and dining hall workers who treated me kindly whenever I lined up to get food. I want to thank the Tutors and administrators for trying their best to create fun Zoom spaces and safe in-person activities for House residents to enjoy. Going forward I am glad I was able to enjoy campus life through the COVID version and without.