Headshot of Lilian Abells

Pandemic Bingo

We asked creative writing students to distill their feelings about returning to campus into a 500-word essay. Here’s what one had to say.

By Lillian Abells, third-year English student

When tragedy strikes, our options are to either collapse or to cope.

If you told me two years ago that a modern plague could be turned into a game of Bingo, I might have laughed — but I don’t think I’d be surprised anymore. Though it was hard to resist a little existential dread, joking made it easier to deal with a pandemic occurring halfway through my college career.

Let’s play a quick round. Receive another email that begins with “In these unprecedented times”? Fast food chain claiming that buying its burgers keeps the country going? Click the wrong Zoom link and sit alone for several minutes, wondering why class hasn’t started yet? Professor holding their webcam at an awkward angle? Feel like tearing your hair out because you opened Twitter? Congrats! You just won Pandemic Bingo!

After the past year and a half, I’m approaching the upcoming year with both excitement and trepidation. My feelings on the matter are complicated, which I think is to be expected given how complex the situation is.

Out of the three classes I’m taking this quarter, two are virtual and synchronous, and one is in person. Even though I won’t be on campus as much as some other students, I still feel some anxiety about my return: The recent rise in cases of the Delta variant is concerning, and I’m itching to get my booster shot.

I’m also worried about the enforcement of COVID safety restrictions. The masking, vaccination and testing requirements are important — but the onus is on university staff to enforce them. Though I trust most of my professors to be smart about the pandemic, professors are still people, and sometimes people don’t make the wisest decisions. I know I’ll be keeping my mask on and maintaining as much physical distance as I can. I can only hope that the same goes for my classmates and professors.

Though it was hard to resist a little existential dread, joking made it easier to deal with a pandemic occurring halfway through my college career.

Despite my worries, though, I’m still giddy with excitement. It’s one thing to analyze literature on my own or listen to a professor’s lecture; it’s another thing to be able to hear my classmates’ thoughts and bounce ideas off of each other, allowing us to come to a deeper understanding together. Though I have had some online classes attempt to replicate the experience, it simply isn’t the same when we’re not in the same room together. That is what I missed the most this past year.

Not only that, but as an English major, I want to take advantage of our remarkably small major and get to know all my professors and classmates. I can’t wait to actually meet everyone outside of their little boxes on Zoom.

Life is complicated and college is no exception to this — the pandemic has only proven just how complicated things can get. I think it will be a long time before I manage to distill my feelings into something devoid of contradictions, but until then, I will focus on the excitement I feel returning to campus.

As for the worries, well, I can always revise those Bingo cards. Just one more Campus Pass text at 4 in the morning, and I’ll have won Pandemic Bingo: Returning to Campus Edition!