As a newly admitted student in the University of Connecticut’s Bachelors of Social Work program, I recently had to attend the UConn School of Social Work’s convocation. In truth, I wasn’t expecting much other than housekeeping-related announcements and a general “Welcome back!” attitude, especially with the event being virtual this year. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the discussions led by the guest speaker Dr. Sheryl B. Chapman, a UConn SSW alumna. Specifically, Chapman discussed how her own background guided her career in the field of social work at UConn and beyond. This idea of your past leading the way to where you will go in the future stuck with me, seeming especially relevant in the age of COVID-19.
It’s pretty safe to say that there isn’t anyone alive that has not been affected by the pandemic in some way or another, with most peoples’ lives facing great disruption over the past year and a half. The unprecedented times that we have ironically become so accustomed to are clearly informing where we go in the future in an everyday sense. We now live by using what we know about yesterday’s infection, transmission, testing and vaccination rates to make the decisions for how today will operate. But in a broader sense, we should apply the messages of hope and perseverance that 18 months of pandemic life have taught us to how to continue in the future. This may seem like an easy task, but it will take mindfulness and daily practice. In essence, if COVID-19 taught us anything, it should have been how to make the most of what we have right now rather than wishing for the times when we had more.
For daily life at UConn, this means actively enjoying what we do have of the 2021-2022 school year, rather than constant longing for pre-pandemic college life. It’s better to relish in the fact that we are mostly back on campus than to complain about mandatory masks and vaccines. (Especially when such precautions are put in place for our safety, as the pandemic continues with no definite end in sight.) Embarking on year two of unprecedented times in the educational world is a scary thought, but it’s less scary when we remember that we have learned it’s all possible. It may not be easy, and it definitely isn’t ideal, but college during a pandemic is possible, especially if we remain vigilant and smart.
I’m not advocating for toxic positivity. I know that it all can seem impossible. I understand the practical, physical, emotional, and social difficulties behind continuing education during COVID-19, and the frustration that we still aren’t done yet. But a mindset of adaptation and determination will get us much further than an attitude of doom and gloom. It’s frustrating to still deal with these same issues, especially with the threats being that of public health and safety. But we’ve done it before and we can continue to do it now as the fall semester begins. In essence, not all of the university-sponsored emails claiming that this semester we’re going to be “back and better than ever!” deserve an eye roll. They make a decent point.