Junior Spring: Leaving

- 3 mins

I’m writing this on the plane to California. Although I am relieved to return home and be with my family, I can’t believe junior year is pretty much over. As I leave Harvard, my home away from home, surrounded by friends I love—who I’ve laughed and cried with, went through the ups and downs of growing up with—I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Grief may be too strong of a word to describe how I’m feeling, but I feel a strong sense of loss towards a community that has changed and challenged my being. As cold and harsh as it was at times, there was always so much brightness. College is so much more than what we learn in the classroom. As much as I love all of my classes, it’s really the people. They are everything, and I miss them so much already.

I think crises bring out the worst and best in people, but in the last few days, I have experienced so much support—from people offering places to stay, to helping me pack and move when I realized my short-sightedness, to opening their hearts to our collective worries and struggles. I’ve seen the strength in so many people, especially those who are low-income or come from international countries, who take the rapidly changing situation in great stride. I’ve also felt privilege in ways I haven’t felt before, and I’ve seen some with little regard for the severity of the situation.

I look back on the late night laughs, the conversations that end up lasting hours, the dance parties, the dining hall meetups, the smiles and waves in hallways, the difficult problem sets, the professors who genuinely care, the charming New England streets, the bustle of tourists around Harvard Yard, the runs along the Charles River, the bike rides to and from MIT, the infinite freedom, the intellectual stimulation. I miss it all. Junior year was when I felt like I really started to stabilize and blossom, personally and intellectually. Even as an inherently anxious person, I somehow learned to feel at peace with the future. It’s a shame that it had to be cut short.

As much as I hope to be back for research over the summer, it’s unlikely for things to return to normalcy before a reliable vaccine is developed, which will take at least a year. The US is far too individualistic and freedom-loving for the necessary precautions to take place, and if other countries are any indication, the number of cases is far from slowing down without a massive crackdown and an abundance of testing. Pandemics like these will only become more common, and we are ill-prepared for the consequences.

I worry about the millions whose death could have been prevented with better governance. The state of democracy and the rise of authoritarianism. The economic recession and the closing of small businesses. The elderly and at-risk people with no one to care for them. The health of our large homeless population. The climate change crisis, which will take many more lives. Racism and xenophobia. But worry can only do so much. If anything, this situation has reminded us of how unstable humanity truly is—how completely reliant we are to our environmental circumstances. A small virus can cripple our entire population. We are all interconnected—the actions in a wet market can create waves across the globe for years to come. But in the long run, things will stabilize and continue with new normals, as they always do. We will adapt, because we are human, because we are part of nature. That is what we do, and the only thing we can do.

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