by Eleanor Kelman

When I first received news that my campus would be shutting down and classes would move to remote instruction due to COVID-19, my initial fear wasn’t directed at how I personally would adapt to the change; rather, I worried how my dad would fare. I had been living at my university in Boston, which quickly became one of the hot zones of the virus; however, once it became apparent that I would need to leave the bubble of my university housing, I only worried about the possibility of catching the virus. Though it does seem a bit shortsighted in hindsight, I truly believed I would be absolutely safe from catching the virus. At the time, the news was reporting that younger and otherwise healthy people would simply catch the equivalence of the common cold and recover without issue; therefore, I shrugged off the prospect of becoming gravely ill in the event I would become infected. However, once I realized I would need to head back home, I began to panic.

Like many others, despite not being in the at-risk group for COVID-19, I have family members who are. I’m living with my family at home, and my dad is immunocompromised. Even simply coming home from school made me nervous. Parties were thrown every night, and since I lived in a popular upperclassmen-only area of campus, these parties occurred directly outside my front door. I was at the crossroads of wanting to enjoy the final days of my college experience and not wanting to put myself, and subsequently my dad, at risk. I even considered trying to remain on campus or staying with my boyfriend’s family to avoid any chance of passing on the virus. Neither option would prove particularly feasible, and on top of that, my parents wanted me to come home so I could maintain a sense of normalcy.

My family is doing its best to act like we have the freedom to move around, but our need to be hypervigilant reigns supreme. My parents go shopping once every two weeks when the supermarkets open in the morning. We wear masks every time we leave the house to go on walks around the neighborhood. I’ve been keeping connected with friends via messages and video calls. At first, I found this to be a suitable substitute for actually living on campus close to my friends at all times, but lately, I’ve been feeling more and more antsy and fidgety. I have felt completely lost within my own thoughts for what seems like hours every day. The one time I got some reprieve when I drove to stay at my boyfriend’s house for a few days, I never left the car until I was at his house and reinstated my entire quarantine routine while there. When I returned home, I quarantined inside my bedroom for a week (with my parents placing food outside my door that I ordered by calling our home phone). My parents will crack the occasional joke about paranoia, but we understand that it’s something we all have to do in order to keep my dad safe.

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[Each of us has our own personal mask in my family. I got the groutfit one.]

It’s been difficult, to say the least. When I see friends posting on social media about going grocery shopping, I feel a pang of jealousy — my parents don’t allow my siblings and me to go to the store with them. I got plenty of messages like “Oh, that’s stupid!” when I documented my in-room quarantine to my Snapchat streaks, but it wasn’t stupid in my household. Sometimes I want to hop into my car and drive to the local hiking trail or shopping center just to get out of my head for a while, but I know that I shouldn’t. Maintaining safe quarantine practices isn’t all that essential for me, but it could be literally lifesaving for my family. I still can’t help those feelings of lamenting having to be so tightly-wound from sneaking in, though, no matter how much I know they are selfish. 

Whenever I get caught up in jealousy and a weird new-age type of FOMO I thought I had left behind at college, I find people in similar situations to mine. One of my best friends from childhood is severely immunocompromised and, for months, found themselves unable to leave the house just to take a walk. Many of my friends live with elderly family members and have been more worried than myself. Some people I know have even caught the virus themselves, know people who have caught it, or have come in contact with someone who caught it. I also know some people who are in the exact same boat I am with an immunocompromised member of the family.

In all honesty, it’s been a tough time for everyone. That being said, hearing how I’m not alone in my fears has made it a lot easier to handle. If I need to, I can call up a friend who understands my frustrations perfectly and just vent for an hour without feeling guilty. My support network has truly strengthened during quarantine, which was something I was not at all expecting when I said my “final” goodbyes to my friends before beginning the long drive from Boston. My friends and family have been there for me in a way I’m eternally grateful for, especially given that this has really challenged how close we are!
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[My beloved Google Calendar even has some standing friendship dates!]

Whereas remote learning was, pretty objectively, absolutely terrible, remote socialization has been lovely. People who I hadn’t seen in a while and had accidentally fallen off my radar (sorry!) due to my hectic pre-COVID day-to-day life have become my close friends again. I’ve been more inspired to reach out and initiate conversations, something I have always struggled with, due to the fact that there are no longer any real ramifications. After all, who is going to be too busy to video call? We’re all stuck here with too much time on our hands! And no one has lamented me being more active on social media; in fact, I’ve started commenting on posts of people I haven’t seen since high school who have found themselves elated to reinvigorate our friendships. Navigating and mastering social media to stay happy definitely had a bit of a learning curve for me at the start, but it’s allowed me to focus my energy on the people I really care about and fully nurture those friendships.

This isn’t to say that everything has been rainbows and sparkly unicorns and I love having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay home and relax. I’ve been terrified to leave my house, but I am equally afraid of the ramifications that come with staying inside. I miss my friends dearly and wish I could say I am too busy rather than too bored. That being said, the resilience I’ve seen in everyone, including myself in a way I don’t feel uncomfortable bragging about, has been inspiring. Quarantine has had its fair share of negative side effects, but I think it has presented a feeling of “we’re all in this together” that I have never felt before. When I chat with my friends for the umpteenth time about my problems and see them listen intently, it makes everything feel just a little bit better.

by Fiona Rose Beyerle

Even though you cannot physically pack up and travel right now, these films all provide incredible storytelling from different worldwide perspectives. The best part is that there are quite a few films to be discovered that offer compelling stories and perhaps a chance to practice a language you studied but have not practiced in a while. Without further ado, here is a short list of (not so popular) international films to enjoy! 

I Am Not a Witch (2017) 

Director: Rungano Nyoni 

Languages: English, Bemba, and Nyanja

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Google Play 

Synopsis: Set in a local village in Zambia, a mysterious eight-year-old girl named Shula shows up and is accused of witchcraft.  She is soon found guilty and promptly placed in a witch camp.  

Why you should watch this film:  After watching this at the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival, I have spent the past few years searching for it on the internet waiting for it to be released. This is a film that should be known.  Rungano Nyoni delivers this story with authenticity and moving symbolism that stays with you.

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(The official movie poster for I Am Not a Witch.)

The Way He Looks (2014) 

Director: Daniel Ribeiro 

Language: Brazilian Portuguese

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu and iTunes

Synopsis:  A blind high school student named Leo longs for independence.  When a new student named Gabriel arrives, everyone instantly falls for him including Leo.    

Why you should watch this film: This is one of the cutest films!  You will fall in love with these sweet characters.  Another thing I love about this film is that it is not only a love story, but also focuses on friendship and working through the balancing act of friendships, jealousy, and new romances. 

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(The official poster for The Way He Looks, written in Portuguese.)

My Life as a Courgette (2016) 

Director: Claude Barras

Language: Swiss-French

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and Netflix

Synopsis: Icare is sent to live in a foster home after a tragedy strikes. Icare informs the police officer he meets that he wants to be called “courgette” (meaning zucchini in French) since this is the nickname his mother gave him. Courgette befriends the other children and learns about their stories and problems as he works through his own. 

Why you should watch this film: Though this is an animated film, it is not for children. This film deals with tough conversations surrounding alcoholism, violence, sexuality, and other mature content. That being said, this film manages to balance sadness with sweetness.  What makes this film interesting is an accurate perspective of children dealing with these hardships. Oftentimes, I believe that films gloss over children dealing with grief by writing it off as a lack of understanding. This film chooses to dive into the depth of emotions the children feel as they struggle. 

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(The official poster for the film, written in French.)

Monsieur Lazhar (2011) 

Director: Philippe Falardeau

Language: Canadian French 

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, and iTunes 

Synopsis: Monsieur Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, steps up to fill the role of an elementary school teacher after a suicide occurs. Lazhar helps the students work through their loss as we simultaneously learn about his own tragedy before coming to Canada.  

Why you should watch this film:  If you are looking for a feel-good film, this is not your film.  If you are looking for a heart-wrenching yet incredible film, this is a must-watch.  Not only is the main character an amazing actor, but the children are also all wonderful in their roles. 

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(The official movie poster for Monsieur Lazhar.)

Thelma (2017) 

Director: Joachim Trier 

Language: Swedish, Norwegian 

Where to Watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play and Vudu

Synopsis: Thelma is a shy new student at the University of Oslo in Norway who begins to experience seizures which turn out to be part of her menacing supernatural powers. 

Why you should watch this film: If you like unusual artsy horror, this is the film for you.  It reminds me of the film Hereditary by Ari Aster in the way that it is unconventionally creepy and does not sacrifice the element of beauty in a film. This film is also part love story as Thelma falls in love with another student named Anja.  If the combination of all this in one film does not at least somewhat intrigue you, I do not know what will. 

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(The official movie poster for Thelma.)

By Marieli Rubio

As appealing as working and studying from home seemed, it has posed various obstacles for college students. Adapting to virtual learning has taught young adults to be flexible, and above all, deal with ambiguity. As uncertainty continues to prevail with internships, an on-campus fall quarter, study abroad, and so much more, students are faced with elevated levels of stress and frustration.

young couple wearing medical masks with laptop and smartphone on city street
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

The global pandemic has made it difficult to focus and seek out opportunities that were once there. We are fortunate that technological advances have allowed us to continue with the pursuit of knowledge, yet we realize it is difficult to replace face-to-face learning and communication. Here are a couple pros and cons I have observed and experienced as a rising college senior studying engineering. 

CON – Loss of sense of independence 

College is viewed as a place where students are responsible for self-regulating their time, health, and money. It is a time of exploration, adventure, and learning about one’s passions and goals. Moving back home, after developing a routine on one’s college campus, is challenging.

We became accustomed to eating with our friends at the dining hall, staying up studying at the library, and going to our weekly club meetings. While those activities have transitioned online as well, we now have to align our schedules with family dinner time and responsibilities at home. Our parents and siblings are constantly asking us if we have finished assignments and at times invading our personal space. 

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Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

PRO – Family time and Home-cooked meals

You have to admit nothing beats a home cooked meal after eating lots of hamburgers, pizzas, and the not so nutritious food offered at dining halls. We no longer have to swipe our cards to eat, but are instead provided with the food available at home. You are also now required to participate in family movie nights, board games, and best of all, household chores. 

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Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

CON – Screen time and Focusing Challenges 

Most college students are described as sitting in front of a computer screen at a coffee shop, at the library, or under a tree. While college students access their textbooks online and complete the majority of their schoolwork on an electronic device, lectures on-campus were a time of the day where students were able to engage in class discussions or manually take notes from the chalkboard in the front of the room.

Now that lectures are all online, screen time has significantly increased and students have found that their majority of their day is spent sitting and staring at the computer screens. This has unfortunately led to a more mundane schedule, where students robotically complete assignments online and are left with strained eyesight at the end of the day. 

man working using a laptop
Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

PRO – Learning at one’s own pace and independent learning 

As an engineering student, I have been accustomed to solving challenging problems in small groups and constantly swinging by my professor’s office to ask pending questions. With virtual learning, this is not the same dynamic. It is now required for students to email and constantly communicate with professors, whether it is providing feedback about how the material is being presented, the amount of workload given, and overall expectations.

Pre-recorded lectures allow students to watch the videos at any time of the day, helping students to complete their schoolwork at their peak energy, and are held more accountable for submitting assignments on time. We no longer can depend on our classmates to re-teach us a lesson, but rather have to figure out our most effective note-taking and studying strategies. 

gray double bell clock
Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

Many students across the globe have very different circumstances, and the transition to online learning varies across educational levels. My experience as a college student during this time does not apply to everyone, but only offers a glimpse of the benefits and difficulties I have experienced thus far. 

This transition to virtual learning has truly been a learning curve for both professors and students. The biggest takeaway is to be patient and appreciative of the opportunity to still pursue one’s degree and being able to communicate with classmates. As we know, this too shall pass. Our college experience may be cut short, but we are becoming more resilient and adaptable to the coming changes.

high angle photo of boy using imac
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

For more of Marieli’s work, head to her blog here

By Nicole Mattson

Normal People is a story worth knowing. Written in 2018 by Sally Rooney, it explores the tumultuous relationship between Marianne and Connell, two Irish students who go through high school and college together. After becoming a New York Times Best Seller, it became a television show on Hulu that premiered at the end of April. I first heard about it when it was featured in model Kaia Gerber’s Instagram Live book club, where actors Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal (who are Marianne and Connell in the show, respectively) made an appearance to discuss the show. Both the book and the show are riveting and ultimately it is your preference whether or not you want to read it and visualize the story yourself, or watch how it is portrayed on the screen.

What is it about?

Marianne and Connell are two people who come from different backgrounds and have different social lives. Their story begins in 2011. In the town of Sligo, Ireland, their lives merge through their parents’ connection. The story starts off during the end of high school and goes until the end of college at Trinity College in Dublin. They have an on-again-off-again relationship throughout the book/show but they always remain friends. Readers and viewers can expect to see Marianne and Connell grow over time and how they adapt to each other despite their differences. 

The Book:

Reading the book went by quickly. It was difficult to put down since it was fun to read and easy to comprehend. Unlike the television series, the reader can experience the inner thoughts of Marianne and Connell, especially with their relationships with other people; Marianne has a terrible relationship with her older brother and mother, and Connell has a close relationship with his mother and a complicated relationship with his friends. It can also be easy to read over certain parts of the story that tie it together; for example, Marianne dealing with her aloof mother and talking about her father’s death is better experienced by seeing. However, reading can help experience events in the book in a creative way. Imagining what the lecture halls, apartments, and even parties are like can be fun, even if they end up being nothing like what the television show portrayed.

The Show:

The TV show showed how different perspectives can be. As a college student in the United States, it can be difficult to visualize both high school and college life in Ireland. For example, colleges in the U.S. are based around a central campus, and colleges in Ireland are more centered around the city. The buildings featured in the show were older than I expected and looked more classic, and the apartments were different than I could have imagined. Certain scenes provoked emotion that I otherwise would not have known by reading the book. When Marianne is talking with Connell at the coffee shop, the camera and background add power to their conversation, and seeing characters cry, as sad as it sounds, adds more emotion to the story and makes me think more deeply about the things happening in the show. Both actors, Daisy Edgar-Jones portraying Marianne and Paul Mescal portraying Connell, did a lovely job and it was better than I could ever imagine, since it felt so real. Not to mention that the show has great music choices throughout the episodes; I forgot about Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”, along with music by Kanye West, Frank Ocean, and Selena Gomez. I also discovered new music such as “Everything I Am is Yours” by Villagers, an indie Irish band. The combination of the cinematography, music, dramatic pauses, and actors transported me to a different story than I experienced reading the book. It felt so familiar yet so different at the same time.

So… which is better: the book or the television show?

Overall, it is your preference whether you want to read the book or watch the television series on Hulu. Both offer a beautiful story about friendship in different ways, but you will not be disappointed with either option. Throughout the last month in what seems to be a never-ending pandemic, Normal People has kept my mind off of what has been happening. If you want my opinion though? I would say the book was easier to get through, and perhaps it was because I read the book first and by the time I watched the television series, I already knew the story. This is not to say, however, that the show was bad; the cinematography in the show enhanced the characters and scenery and is a high-quality show. Sally Rooney is a talented author, and Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald are brilliant directors that brought the story to life.

By Andy Chau

Soon, I will return to Isla Vista with only one goal in mind: to move out. Once everything is packed up and I am ready for my journey home, I will have basically ended my academic career. I would say the class of 2020 was reluctantly forced to “retire” or graduate early after only two years. No more late night library sessions, no more drunken runs at Freebirds or International, definitely no commencement and concerts on bucket lists. Everything is on hiatus until this virus is miraculously eradicated. How did 2020 become the first leap year to leap into BS? 

A part of me is relieved that I can rescue the rest of my dust collecting belongings but a part of me knows I will long for IV for a long time. I guess I fell for the common pitfall of taking things for granted. As surreal as it is, I can’t believe I’m saying this. 

I’m sad that I didn’t get to leave UCSB on my terms. The string of events were slowly becoming a separate chapter that defines the two years of my presence. I know it’s not too late and coming back as an alumni is always an option, yet this whole ordeal with the coronavirus has made it bittersweet. Despite the short duration, I had many aspirations to finish my journey with a bang. Now, I will be moving forward with plenty of “what ifs” and regrets about not doing enough. 

While things won’t return back to a certain “normal,” I’m happy to know that there were at least a good amount of memories I can reflect back on. Besides, two years can fly by so it’s only fair to be involved! The more I think about it, the more I figure out how many experiences I will leave hanging. Likewise, I can’t control what’s beyond my capability. Maybe I can extend my college career by one more year, who knows (it’s expensive though). 

Although this isn’t an official goodbye, I would like to dedicate my gratitude to the following: Alpha Phi Omega [Psi Chapter, Pi Class of Fall 19,’ and Jenny C. (my big)]; Kapatirang Pilipino (KP) [James H. (my big), TUF Fam]; Santa Barbara local photographers; healthcare + frontline workers; my parents; the UCSB Transfer Center; my best friend Michael; UCSB’s Davidson Library; and the entire IV community. Without them all, my college experience would have a lot of missing pieces. It would be absolutely boring but it was not. Obviously, I feel a need to finish what I started but I would rather be safe than sorry. 

To UCSB, I have no clue where to begin. Over the past two years, it has been a literal roller coaster of character development and mistakes. It would be an understatement to admit that I wanted to drop/transfer out and experienced multiple panic attacks because I thought I made the biggest mistake of my life. I lost a part of my identity, became confused, dug myself a deep hole and slowly crawled my way out. The process wasn’t easy and for a while I felt constantly trapped. Did I fail? Yes. Was it painful? Indeed. Somehow, I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I fought everyday to redeem myself. The repetition of schoolwork and responsibilities challenged me but after every quarter, I stood firm. Santa Barbara, I haven’t scratched the surface of my potential. After all the suffering, I have much more to accomplish. For now, I will be content with ending it in June but I promise I will be back. Farewell UCSB, and until next time.

by Lia Weinseiss

Are you looking for something to do while you’re baking, cleaning, working out, or laying around? Is learning from Zoom University not doing enough for you? Try a podcast! With this list ranging from news podcasts to celebrity interviews to everything in between, you’re sure to find something great for the next time you need to bake some banana bread. 

 1. Harry Potter at Home: Readings – Harry Potter the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone

If you read Harry Potter as a child, you’re reading it right now, or you have never read it, this podcast is for you. You can feel nostalgic while listening to the first Harry Potter book being read by notable names in the Harry Potter world such as Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and many more.

2. Secret Leaders by Dan Murray-Serter, Rich Martell

Learn about famous, successful people from the UK and US and their careers. This podcast gives listeners an inside look on just what it takes to make a successful entrepreneur. After listening, you’ll be able to take your banana bread hobby and turn it into your next business venture.  My personal favorite episode? Slack: How to Work Remotely and Stay Productive with Cal Henderson. 

3. Ologies with Alie Ward

Learn about different “ologies” from philematology (the science of kissing) to quantum ontology (the science of what is real) from special guests in this podcast. Hear Alie Ward ask scientists questions about topics you never knew you needed to know about. My recent favorite is Nasology (Taxidermy) with Allis Markham.

4. Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby! A Greek & Roman Mythology Podcast By Liv, Greek Mythology Geek

If you read Percy Jackson as a kid, or didn’t and are regretting it now, this podcast will inform you on everything myths—casually. Fuel your inner historian by listening to a contemporary take on Greek and Roman myths.

5. The Espresso Series By Honor Crean and Grace Volante

This is a podcast with everything you need from two students at the University of Edinburgh: original music recommendations, special guests with interesting untold stories to tell, news pieces and more.

6. Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard

Dax Shepard interviews different famous names in pop culture, food, politics and more about their lives, with a personal twist that is innately human.

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(Source: Pexel)

7. Don’t Blame Me! By Meghan Rienks 

Youtuber and influencer Meghan Rienks takes calls and gives people advice. Listen to anything from dating advice to advice on navigating friendship from the perspective of someone who feels like a big sister.

8. My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

If you haven’t heard of this podcast, now is the perfect time. Feel like you’re talking to friends while you hear about true crime stories you may not have heard of from two women who approach each story with a serious yet sarcastic twist.

TRIGGER WARNING: Deals with graphic stories of homicide and violence.

9. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil challenges society’s opinions of weight by speaking to influential people about their value—beyond what the scale says. Listen to interviews with people like Reese Witherspoon and Beanie Feldstein and hear about what they weigh.

10. The Daily by The New York Times

A daily podcast about important news stories of our time. Stay informed about both national and global news with a 20-50-minute clip including information from amazing journalists.

11. Pod Save America by Crooked Media

This podcast comes from President Obama’s former aides and features many journalists who give you an inside scoop of the news, tell you exactly what you need to know, and how to do something about it.

12. Dirty John by LA Times

Hosted by a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, Dirty John is a true crime podcast from 2017 about John Meehan’s marriage to Debra Newell and the abuse and manipulation which came from their relationship.

TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic depictions of abuse, homicide, and violence.

by Eleanor Kelman

When I was younger, I was what adults would call a “voracious reader.” Not a day went by that I wasn’t buried in a novel. If I finished an assignment early, it was lunchtime or I simply had a free minute, I would pull my book of the week out of my backpack, flip to where one of my handmade bookmarks was slotted in between pages, and continue on in a little fantasy world by myself. I requested only Barnes & Noble gift cards from my family for Christmas and had a devoted bag just for my weekly library trips, which I would overfill with everything from manga to gossip rags to classic literature. I read anything and everything without discretion; I just wanted to read.

And one day, I didn’t.

I guess the decline was slow in hindsight, but by the time I was deep into high school it was evident: I just didn’t read anymore. I read what was required for class, but the passion wasn’t there and I had no motivation to pick up a book for pleasure at all. By the time I was in college, the only times I read a book outside of coursework were on long plane flights during which there were no real distractions. This brought the grand total of full novels I read for fun in about a seven-year stretch to something to the order of three. That’s how many I could have finished in a typical month as a child.

Every single new year brought forth that resolution to “read more” and each summer gave me a theoretical new wind to pick up and finish even just one book. And, of course, not a single declaration of “this is the day I become a reader again” actually came to fruition. It didn’t take long for me to become jaded despite still hoping I would one day be able to find my passion for reading again.

I was not shocked that I once again found an opportunity to read when I was kicked off of my college campus and quarantined within my home. But even that dream was quickly squashed when I found out that all local libraries were closed for the foreseeable future. I do have plenty of books at home, but my most prized ones I had already read (two of the novels I’ve read four times each) or hadn’t considered starting because they just didn’t pique my interest that much. While I did pick up a science fiction novel from my shelf, it only took about a chapter for me to realize I was not interested in the bland setting and unrelated storylines of multiple characters (I’ve always disliked that writing style). I relegated myself to yet another half-hearted attempt at becoming a reader that went nowhere.

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[A snippet of my personal bookshelf, er, bookfloor]

The thing was, I still really, really wanted to read. I mean, it wasn’t like I had much else to keep me busy! My hectic schedule, from classes to multiple clubs to constantly seeing friends up on campus had come to a screeching halt; I had exponentially more downtime now than I had had in years. Fumbling around on the internet eventually led me to a way to access e-books through the library cards I already had (one for my local library at home and another for the one closest to my university), and once I downloaded that app I only had one final excuse left to not start reading. I still could just forget to get around to it, no?

Once the semester ended and I was officially done with classes, the website I had used for the past four years of college to track homework assignments had lost its purpose. This actually disheartened me a surprisingly good amount, as I had become weirdly attached to it after it practically single-handedly saved me from failing every class I took. I was so fond of this website that I decided against unceremoniously giving it up, and swapped the course subjects for categories of things I’d need to do that summer and didn’t include class periods. One such thing I added was a way to track my reading, something I’d previously used it for to track the chapters professors had assigned weekly. Now that I had nullified that excuse, I had to read.

Okay, I’m not going to pretend I dove headfirst into hundreds of novels and can now say that I’ve polished off half of the Library of Congress. However, I did actually start successfully reading for fun, which is a much less lofty and much more vague goal but a goal I finally achieved nonetheless. I finally have flipped the final page of Thomas Cullinan’s The Beguiled, which wasn’t my favorite in the end, but what it represented was so much more than just a mediocre Civil War-era thriller novel. I’ve moved my e-book endeavors on to two books at once: John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, a book that has been on my radar since I became engrossed in a podcast about the white collar crimes of Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos, as well as Henry James’s novella The Turn of the Screw, which has a forthcoming adaptation in the second season of The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix.

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[The porch has quickly become my favorite place to engross myself in a book]

It’s not even about the quality of these books per se but rather about how they show me how I’m maturing. I feel better when I’m reading, sort of like one of those “self care queens” on YouTube. They give me a jolt of “wellness,” and some feel-good nostalgia. Reading brings me back to a simpler, less chaotic time when I didn’t have any adult fears and anxieties looming over my head. They remind me of a childhood when I did something for no reason other than truly enjoying the escape. And when I finished one book, the only worry on my mind was to pick which one to read next.

 

By Catherine Duffy

Two-thousand-nine-hundred-fifty-eight kilometers, the distance between Regina, Saskatchewan and Moncton, New Brunswick. That’s how many kilometers stretch between my mom and I during this time of crisis. I didn’t think the distance would bother me. I’ve lived on my own for almost four years now since I started college, only staying at home for a few weeks during the summer and at Christmas. However, I’ve found myself envying those going through the pandemic with their families…as crazy as it might be making them!

I’ve always kept in touch with my mom with daily texts and FaceTime calls a few times a week, but there’s something about a global pandemic that makes me wish she was here with me. It would be comforting. With such a threatening disease to the older population, I wonder if I am missing out on last moments with her. She is in her 60s, and to someone like her, the risks this disease imposes are just that much higher.

I also miss my furry friend and can’t relate to those improving their bonds with their pets with this extra time at home. The life of a cat is already painfully short and I can’t help but feel that I am missing out on precious time.

My mom and I, Mother’s Day 2018.

I look back regretfully on the month of March wondering if I had missed my chance to make it home to my mom and my cat. I had a flight booked for the end of April but as COVID-19 became rapidly worse, I soon got an email that my flight had been cancelled. The day we found out classes would be held online for the rest of the semester, one of my friends reminded me that this was a chance to reunite with my mom. I guiltily admit that I hadn’t even thought of that opportunity. Somewhere deep down I still thought all this would soon be over and I worried I’d be too far away from my university when things restarted. I also knew that my family home was filled with distractions and wondered how much work I’d be able to complete in the environment.

I would have only had a few days to pack up everything I had gathered during these last four years of school if I had chosen to go back to New Brunswick. The thought of a panic-filled packing session caused stress to race through my veins and in the moment, I just wanted to stay put. So much was still undetermined and I relied on the news to give me the updates I needed.

Flights being cancelled wouldn’t necessarily be the reason I’d have to stay in Saskatchewan. I soon decided that I would drive, aiming for the end of March when we’d get confirmation that our final exams would be online. Strangely enough, not flying home would almost be a good thing. I’d get to drive across the country, something that had always been on my bucket list, and I’d be able to pack more of my belongings than the airport’s strict suitcase policies would allow.

Again, things changed quickly on a day-to-day basis. By time I had made my mind up to drive, it was no longer an option. Both the United States border as well as those in the province of Quebec had been closed. There was no other way to New Brunswick. Though “essential trips” would be allowed, I had nothing to prove that I had New Brunswick residency, having changed my license when I moved away from my parents for school. 

The border closures made it official: I was stuck in Saskatchewan. Luckily, my landlord was understanding and reassured me that I could stay as long as I needed. Again, I wasn’t totally disappointed. This was my home after all, and finally, it seemed like my questions had been answered: I knew where I’d be staying for a least a couple months. It’s hard to ever really know your future plans with how fast the situation is changing, but I had finally formed a temporary plan. I looked forward to the football games and concerts I’d be able to attend with my friends, finally spending summer in Saskatchewan for the first time in four years. Naïve little me did not realize that such large gatherings didn’t stand a chance with the pandemic.

I know that many people have been separated from their loved ones in this time due to the new social distancing regulations. However, I believe there would be something comforting in knowing that your parents are still in the same city as you. Perhaps you’d head to their house for a conversation through the window like those feel-good Internet videos show.

Moms are so important. They’re the ones who make us realize that everything will be okay when we’re still young and frightened about the unknown world around us. From bellyaches, to thunderstorms to losing a balloon, Mom is always there to hold us and to reassure us that everything will be alright. So, as the world has stopped and has been filled with fear and uncertainty, yes, my twenty-two year-old-self needs her mom.

My mom and I enjoying a visit together.

Next time I’m with my mom, I won’t take my time with her for granted. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder and I’ve seen a lot of truth to that since being separated from her at the beginning of my post-secondary career. Though you may have plans to see someone, you never know how they might fall through. When survival is threatened, whether on a big-scale for the vulnerable population or a lower-scale for those in good health, it’s comforting to be able to run to your mom for a hug. I can’t wait to see her again.

by Andy Chau

It seems that as the “yellow peril” strikes again and now, the Asian-American community has reverted back to the early days of racism and discrimination. Ever since the announcement of COVID-19 arriving in the United States, hate crimes average 100 per day with “at least 1,000 hate crimes incidents being reported against Asian-Americans” according to Democratic Californian Representative Judy Chu. Additionally, I don’t necessarily find it pleasing to hear our president using provocative language that incites opportunities to assault Asian-Americans when we have no direct relationship with the origin of the virus. I don’t understand and maybe I never will because ignorance itself is like a powerful religion. 

On one spectrum we are the “model minority.” We are perceived as great American citizens who work hard, remain within the law, don’t complain about anything, and produce a cohort of offsprings with academic and career success. Then there is the perpetual foreigner perception that we “brought” diseases such as SARS and COVID-19 and/or that we steal jobs, are communists, etc. As idiotic as this sounds, I don’t believe I have encountered a marginalized group that is versatile with being praised and demonized by the public opinion. Yet, it seems as if that isn’t enough for people to stop instilling their anger and frustrations towards innocent groups of people. Is it so hard for those people to realize that we are all fighting the same enemy together? Why are we repeating history when we should be progressing from it? 

On a daily basis, I often worry about not only my safety but my parents’ safety. Knowing that they are amongst the older group of first-generation immigrants, any abrupt health concerns can dramatically worsen their matters. Especially when the pandemic fades, I still have this eerie feeling that gaslighting will continue to traumatize our already tense community. If this is the reality that I and many others will live through, I sure do not want the future generation to experience anything similar to what we are enduring. 

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(the American flag)

Growing up as a multi-ethnic individual, I always thought the “American Dream” would be fulfilled through all the stereotypical characteristics of what a “good Asian” comprises. Growing up, I mesmerized about how I was born in a nation that was free of racism and discrimination and that I can live a life full of role models who look, act, talk, and relate to me. Growing up, I assumed that the “land of the free” was the greatest country ever until I swallowed the red pill. The truth hurts and as a Chinese Vietnamese-American, the truth has forced me to question the society I live in. 

As pessimistic and cynical as I internally feel, I have accepted the fact that this is only the beginning. It’s a new beginning for us, where Asian-Americans both young and old must unite against the persistent existence of racism. This is the time to educate ourselves and hone our communication skills for the necessity of broadcasting ideas of progress. Once COVID-19 is eradicated, it is vital we plan and carry out events, assemblies, rallies, and conferences that enhance the empowerment of marginalized groups. With the enormous losses being shown in glimpses around the globe, I believe that we still have the capabilities to get through this; everything, especially this pandemic, takes major patience and commitment. While life is inevitably cruel and unfair, I think that as each day passes, I know there will be change. As Kobe Bean Bryant (1975-2020) once said, “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise” and for us, this new beginning as dark as it is is our opportunity to rise and never look back. 

By Catherine Duffy

Throughout my life, I had never been that into fitness. I grew up dancing five days a week, so staying active had never been something I had to worry about. However, things changed when I started university. As much as I want to deny the existence of the “Freshman fifteen” I did start to notice a few extra pounds on my body as my lifestyle changed. I accepted the change and put a lot of pressure on my weekly yoga class to keep me fit!

I began working out in my third year of university. Between societal pressure to look a certain way, and the $100 I paid for the campus gym, I figured a few visits a week to the campus fitness centre definitely wouldn’t do any harm! I made at least two appearances at the gym every week, heading straight for the cardio machines to make sure I burned as many calories as I could. I didn’t focus on strength training, as I had no idea where to start, and feared the many judgmental eyes around the gym. 

I continued going to the gym over the summer paying a reasonable monthly sum at the local “Fit 4 Less.” Again, I would constantly head to the elliptical feeling more and more satisfied as the number of calories I burned increased on the equipment’s screen.

In March, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to worsen in Canada, the university gym quickly informed students that it would be closing its doors. My heart sank as I got the email sharing the news. Where would all of my pent up energy go? I had gotten into a really good habit of going at least twice a week. What would I do to stay fit now?

While the first two weeks of quarantine resulted in my adopting the lifestyle of a sloth, I knew that I couldn’t stay healthy continuing such a routine. I began taking daily walks around my neighborhood. The fresh air made me feel much better and my Fitbit vibrated with joy as it noticed my movements! Feeling frustrated with my 10,000 steps a day goal that now seemed impossible to meet in light of the new situation, I changed the settings on my Fitbit so that my goal would be 5000 steps every day. The goal felt more attainable, and consequently, I felt motivated to reach it every day knowing it was something I could do with just a half hour walk.

Since the gym was no longer an option, I decided to open my own little fitness studio in my room! Though the only equipment I had was a yoga mat, I found the Internet had many exercises I could do with just that. I began to do an ab workout daily alternating between arm workouts and leg exercises to go along with it.

I found a Youtuber online named Pamela Reif who demonstrates exercises clearly and has many videos designed for beginners. She offers daily workout plans for those seeking a bit more structure and provides some innovative ideas for those with no equipment at home. No free weights lying around in your basement? No problem! She suggests water bottles as a replacement.

Paula Reif’s Youtube workout video. Photo courtesy of Catherine Duffy.

After two weeks of committing to exercise every day, not only did I feel healthier, I already felt stronger. Core strength had never been a focus of mine, but in the privacy of my own room, I felt comfortable struggling to do a simple ten rep exercise until I became a pro. Putting an hour aside every day also made me feel less lazy, and when I did put time aside for TV, I knew that I had at least been active for some time throughout the day.

The pandemic has taught me that I don’t need to invest in a gym membership to stay fit. The internet is filled with free fitness videos, and with enough discipline, you can combine daily walks and strength training at home to stay in shape! It’s so much easier to squeeze a ten-minute ab workout at home than to make your way to the gym. Instead of finding two times a week, in my formerly busy schedule to go to the university gym, I’ve found a way to incorporate a little bit of fitness in my everyday life. Furthermore, I’ve learned that staying active in order to feel healthy is much more important than exercise with the sole goal of losing weight. This pandemic has given me the chance to make a lifestyle change that has been feeling better about myself and my daily routines.