New York Post intern Brooke Kato is entering her senior year at Syracuse University. Here, she shares what it’s like to be in the prime of her exploratory college years during the age of a pandemic.
College is supposed to be the best four years of our lives — we’re living it up in carefree bliss, everything the world has to offer right at our young, eager fingertips.
But COVID-19 dashed away any hopes I had of living out my Carrie Bradshaw-esque moments in New York City post-grad, pressing pause on my blossoming social life and demolishing dreams of a fruitful job market. Now, as students — myself included — begin to flock back to our campus stomping grounds for in-person learning, coronavirus restrictions are shifting our once-familiar college landscape.
Syracuse University is encouraging its students to sign a Stay Safe Pledge, which limits social gatherings to 25 people and includes a promise to keep 6 feet apart. New York University is requiring students to complete a daily questionnaire before entering any campus building. Cornell University is halving the occupancy of libraries and dining halls, and will have hybrid-style teaching to include both virtual and in-person learning.
Not only will university courses and learning be different, but so will an equally as important part of our college experience: socializing. We, as 20-somethings, will now be forced to choose risky normalcy or valuing our health.
Prior to returning to my home away from home, I’m already seeing my Gen-Z peers putting their health on the line for the sake of a can’t-miss party experience. On their Snapchat stories and Instagram feeds, they’re flocking to sandy beaches in droves, hosting pool parties with dozens of attendees on the Fourth of July and kissing a stranger they met on Tinder on the first date.
Despite studies showing high infection rates and severe forms of COVID among young people, the very people I’ll be learning, living or socializing with seem to think they’re immune to a virus we still know so little about. They’re taking summer vacations, tanning on public beaches and jumping at the opportunity to go to a now-open bar. In turn, health and common sense are sacrificed for a taste of 20-something normalcy, making a return to campus all the more anxiety-inducing.
NYU Professor Ralph DiClemente, Ph.D., put it best: It’s “COVID complacency.”
Such complacency, he said, is driven by political figures who, back in the days of more unknowns, said that younger people were not affected at a high rate, and even if they were, it wouldn’t be severe. Although there is information clearly stating otherwise, DiClemente said young people aren’t necessarily going to deviate from what they were originally told.
“Knowledge is not sufficient,” he said of the new scientific findings about the virus. “People distort that knowledge, so it loses some of its impact and validity.”
For the number of us who are choosing to become the “mom friend” at the ripe age of 21, there are just as many, if not more, of our peers risking it all for a night out or a first date smooch — innocent, in theory, but dangerous when taking coronavirus transmission into account.
But scolding friends for socializing sans masks has taken on a sour note. I have become a killjoy in a sea of people who seem like they just don’t care.
When I’m back on campus, I’ll be proceeding with caution, but who knows if the person sitting next to me in class is doing the same. After all, if my friends won’t listen to me or the medical experts, they probably won’t follow the university-enforced restrictions, either.
If that’s the case, this is about to be one long, anxious semester.
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