A year ago I was in Honduras receiving my last high school class, and I said my last goodbyes to my high school teachers and friends. Everything that was going to happen in the next few months seemed so unknown yet so exciting. Going to college was already a huge step on its own, but moving countries just added so much more excitement and nervousness to it. Everything changed for me, all the way to my name! Well, not really, Isabel is my middle name. I went from incredibly warm and tropical weather to extremely cold winters. The difference between those huge changes and the changes I’m facing now is that coming to Hope College was a gradual change, a change we were all facing together and we had a fixed path to follow. The changes due to COVID-19 were abrupt, and no one knows for sure what’s going to happen and how to deal with it.
I’ll be sharing some insights into life on campus during a global pandemic.
How I’m Keeping Myself Entertained – Part 1
As the coronavirus kept spreading at a fast pace, we were all forced to stay at home and practice social distancing. Most Hope students were able to do this in their homes with their family. For me, this turned out to be a big challenge because on campus I had little to no human interaction most of the time. What was I to do with all the free time I had in between or after class?
One of the first things I did was to rearrange my dorm room. I might as well make it as comfortable and personalized as possible if I was going to spend the entire day in it. This, of course, took hours if not days to complete because it was my tiny weak self trying to move the heavy Dykstra beds around. I got so many cuts and bruises because of this, but it was absolutely worth it. I might even say it looks like a little apartment now.
How I’m Keeping Myself Entertained – Part 2
With time, I had to do grocery shopping. Hope College provided Meijer Shuttles Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but here was the tricky part: I had class during the time the Meijer shuttle was available, so I had to excuse myself with my professors several times.
In one of my Meijer trips I decided to walk around the crafts aisle. I thought I could find something to entertain myself with. After much wandering around empty aisles because of course other people thought the same thing I did, I found a few little canvases. I used to paint when I was back home, so what better time to start painting again! I bought a few of those canvases, paints, and brushes and headed back home. Painting took a great portion of my day, sometimes I even forgot to grab food at Phelps and ended up having cereal as my lunch.
It was definitely a great purchase.
Keeping Contact With My Family
As a latina, I was raised in a family-centered environment. Family is always the most important thing no matter what. This means that even during the normal school year I would call/video call my parents every day at least once a day. Now, in quarantine believe it or not this became very hard because we simply didn’t have anything to talk about anymore. Every day is the same day all over again, I call my parents to ask about their day and they tell me it was exactly the same as the day before. I tell them that my day was exactly the same as the day before and at the end I insist for them to watch Money Heist on Netflix. So, when the calls started to become very monotonous neither my parents or I had the motivation to do them. Nevertheless, we still try and now we are trying new things. I even had lunch with them yesterday!
I apologize for the quality of this picture, but I thought it was a good representation of our calls. We are trying to do fun and creative things every day. We’ve done video calls with my best friend for her to finally meet my parents and we’ve taught a little bit of Spanish to another friend via phone call! We try to have as much fun as possible and what better way than giving something to do to my friends!
More Than Staff – A Family Now
During these circumstances, all a student who is staying on-campus wants is a family who’s close to them. Hope College’s staff who have remained on-campus during this quarantine period have been such a blessing to everyone.
People at Phelps, Campus Safety, Residential Life Coordinators, even President Scogin have greeted me with smiles and love! During Easter, I got a little treat package from Dykstra’s RD wishing me a happy Easter. Every now and then when I go to Phelps I bump into President Scogin, who is always wearing a smile and is always so kind and welcoming. People at Phelps are always trying to make everyone feel at home, especially when it comes to dessert there is always a little extra you can take! Everyone I see around campus is willing to have a little conversation, just to make sure I’m doing okay.
As an International Student, I am close to the Center of Global Engagement staff. They keep on doing an excellent job of making sure we are happy and doing well, ever since day one. We get updates on what the staff is currently up to, we get recipes from all around the world, and we also get to know what other International Students are up to. It is a fantastic way to stay connected to the people who are in the same situation as I am.
We even got costumed-made masks this past week from lovely people who were willing to help us. I can definitely say I’ve been taken care of as a daughter of Hope’s staff.
I can’t be more thankful for today’s technology. If this would’ve happened at least 30 years ago, school would’ve been completely canceled and I can’t really imagine the outcomes of that. Remote learning was both a blessing and a hardship. Every time I woke up early for my 9 am, I felt no motivation because it was only going to be me in my dorm room, still wearing pj’s, with a cup of coffee in my hand trying to not get distracted by whatever was happening in my phone. I missed the warmth of having my friends with me during class, or being able to raise my hand if I had questions or something to add to the lecture and it definitely took a toll on me. Thankfully, some of my professor, like my Psychology professor, tried to maintain contact via zoom every now and then just to check in and answer any questions we might have.
After a while of not feeling motivated to do class or any assignments, I thought that maybe if I started going places around campus I could get some motivation to do things. This helped in so many ways! Changing the environment to go to class helped me finish this semester strong. I even found new places I never saw during the school year. I spent most of my time in Campus Ministries because this place feels like a little home, plus the chairs outside are perfect to see the sunset! As I’m writing this, I can see the whole Pine Grove from Campus Ministries’ second floor.
Truly, I feel blessed to have all the technology we have today, especially during these uncertain times. I feel that remote learning was hard for everyone involved because as humans we need social interaction all the time. Nevertheless, professors were so kind to everyone and always available if needed.
Editor’s Note: Isabel and several other students still remain on campus. The staff at the Center for Global Engagement organized a #KeepingHope food pantry that they may access at anytime. If you are interested in ways that you can support students at Hope please visit hope.edu/give2hope.