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It’s week nine, and you arrive at Baker-Berry Library at 8 a.m. There are no people to be found, but belongings were left overnight, claiming the circle tables on 3FB and 4FB. You settle for a cubicle instead. Foolishly, you bring your belongings with you to grab lunch — a freshman mistake. When you return, every single cubicle is taken, and now you struggle to find a study space anywhere in the library. There is a palpable feeling of tension in the air. It’s finals season.
It’s week nine, and 20S is quickly approaching its conclusion. The final weeks of spring, as seniors prepare to graduate and another academic year comes to a close, tend to be particularly significant. However, with remote learning, many of the rituals and traditions that occur just before the transition to summer have presented themselves in different ways. Instead of scrambling to spend our last bit of DBA on delicious King Arthur Flour pastries — relishing in the purchase of full pies and massive bags of granola — we’re recreating our favorite blueberry muffins from home. Finally making a move on our recent Last Chances match in a frat basement has transitioned into sliding into their Instagram DMs. And deciding what to wear for a senior thesis presentation is now making sure that your camera is tipped high enough to block the pajama pants you’ve worn for the past week.
“For the first time since freshman fall …”
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many restaurants to lay off employees or even close permanently. In Hanover, a town defined by the charm of its mom-and-pop shops, the future of iced mocha lattes, cruller French toasts and modern Mexican bowls looks more uncertain than ever. This week, I spoke with Boloco founder John Pepper ’91 Tu’97 to discuss COVID-19’s impact on local restaurants and how the customer-dependent burrito company is reframing the crisis.
What was the last thing you did before social distancing began?
Dartmouth students live in 10-week cycles. The start of a term is always exciting — fresh classes and activities make Dartmouth feel new again, even if you’re in your fifth consecutive on term. By week three or four, club meetings, social events and midterms all settle into a steady rhythm. But in the blink of an eye, finals arrive. Weeks eight through 10 flash by, then the whole cycle begins again.
There are about 17 clementines decomposing in my dorm right now. What can I say? I’m just a boy who loves citruses. Unfortunately, those citruses got caught in the crossfire of COVID-19. Like many other students, most of my belongings are stuck in my dorm. Those belongings include the pencil box I’ve used since kindergarten and a pair of the ugliest handmade slippers anyone has ever seen.
Decisions we make in quarantine are very different from the ones we make in normal life. A question like, “What will I wear to class today?” has simplified to “Which old pajama T-shirt will I put on?” And deciding whether to wear jeans or sweatpants has become a no-brainer. On the other hand, quarantine has also made some of the most menial deliberations seem more important. Suddenly, the choice between eating cornflakes and Cap’n Crunch for breakfast has become a 20-minute debate, ending with you deciding to dish out both.
“Et tu, Maggie?” I asked myself after taking my first batch of cookies out of the oven. Google searches for “bread” have more than doubled since the pandemic started. I’m sure that you, like me, have been flooded with Instagram stories of banana bread, friends’ new baking accounts or one of the 168,000 and counting #quarantinebaking posts on Instagram. And as with any good cultural movement, everyone channeling their inner Barefoot Contessa has spurred a counterculture of Twitter humor mocking quarantine bakers.
COVID-19 put an end to spring and summer study abroad programs. Dartmouth students who once dreamed of wandering through Tokyo or Toulouse now dream of leaving the house. For the Class of 2019, 42 percent of students participated in a language study abroad or foreign study program. In light of the pandemic, that percentage seems destined to go down for current students. But a handful of students already know that they will not be part of that statistic — pandemic or not.
This week in my Business French class, we have mock interviews with real French professionals. We spent last week learning how to craft our resumes and cover letters in French, and now our fluency is getting put to the test.
It’s a little early in my academic career for me to be writing a reflection piece about choosing my major. I’ve only been a Dartmouth student for two-and-a-half terms, and I just submitted my first D-Plan. But strangely, it feels like I’ve been in the process of choosing my major for years.
I hesitate before I open DartBoard. Navigating the present is hard enough, and grappling with an uncertain future is daunting. Clicking the center of the DartBoard bullseye, I see “Attention!” written in bold, bright red letters at the top of the screen. I brace for bad news. We all know these announcements too well now: The COVID-19 notices on Instagram and Facebook and the popup panels on websites always bear unsettling information. But this one is different. Beneath “Attention!” I read, “Seeking a job or internship? These sites are sharing new postings daily.”
Sometimes, it’s a question: “How do you know so many people?”
Sometime around my Webkinz and Limited Too phase of the early 2000s, I developed a strong belief in the power of fortune cookies. I swore by them. Every time my family would dine at our favorite Chinese restaurant, I’d scarf down my food and count down the minutes until the check — and with it a bundle of fortune cookies — would arrive. As my family went around sharing their fortunes, I clung tightly to mine in the hopes that it would provide a glimpse into my future.
Despite having hours of alone time and access to a seemingly endless stream of inspirational posts about self-improvement in quarantine, I’ve found myself more stressed than ever. And as it turns out, I’m not alone. Anxiety levels have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and college students –– an already stress-prone population –– are no exception to this phenomenon. This week, I sat down with psychological and brain sciences professor Bill Hudenko to learn more about stress induced by the pandemic and its impact on students.
What do pearls, fake Gucci, Baby Yoda, Billie Eilish and Donald Trump all have in common?
There is a small portrait of William Shakespeare stuck to my computer, mustachioed and smiling under the sunglasses drawn onto his face. “Today is the day,” I tell Shakespeare every morning when I sit down at my desk. “Today is the day I make you proud!”
As I sprint down the untamed grassy hill, I take a nervous look at the road below — people are looking for me, and I don’t know where they are. I’m more anxious than ever, but I know my friends have my back. The sun is blaring, and I’m utterly exhausted. The intensity builds, and all the anxiety, nervousness and exhaustion comes closing in on me. Then suddenly, right when I reach the tipping point, all that weight disappears, and I get the best news I’ve gotten in a while: “Warzone Victory.”
Well, here we are: week six of spring term, and week eight or so of social distancing. The curve of coronavirus cases may be flattening, but most of us are still exactly where we were a month ago — at home, alone. And by now, isolation feels almost natural. Amid talk of what the post-pandemic world will look like, it seems we’ve already arrived at a “new normal,” even if we hope this normal won’t last for much longer.