【明報專訊】It has been a week since I started my Sophomore (second) year at Cornell, but my university experience has been nothing like last year's. I find myself taking notes in a lecture hall packed with 1000 other students, sitting shoulder to shoulder with no social distancing; roads to classes are now a constant stream of people; professors and friends that I had only seen on Zoom before are now in front of my eyes; it is almost impossible to get food without queuing for half an hour. Suddenly I am striking up spontaneous conversations with the stranger sitting next to me again, and I no longer have to pinch myself to stay awake watching recorded lectures. Last weekend, I joined a trip to the farmers' market organised by my residence hall, and attended a stand-up comedy show performed by a famous YouTuber. These are events that would not have been thinkable last year. I used to roll out of bed five minutes before my lectures started, join the Zoom bleary-eyed, camera off, then make myself a coffee whilst listening to the professor. Now I wake up at 7 a.m., eat a bowl of cereal in record time and walk to the classroom in the morning mist, mixed with the heavenly fragrance that plants effuse at dawn. As foreign and new all this feels, I am grateful to catch a glimpse of the "normal" college life.
Yet my new way of life is already under threat. 235 COVID cases were recorded in the past week on campus, despite the fact that 95% of us have been fully vaccinated. While most of these cases are asymptomatic or mild, it would be reckless to let the virus spread unchecked. Thus many in-person gatherings have once again been cancelled, postponed or moved online. Although I believe that this wave will eventually subside, it has been sobering to acknowledge that vaccines are no longer the silver bullet we thought they were, and that COVID is not a nightmare we can wake up from after a year or two; it is and will be the new reality for quite some time.
Alice is a freshman at Cornell University intending to major in Economics and Computer Science, having previously studied in the UK for six years. A lover of languages, she studies French, Italian, Japanese and picks up bits of other languages when she can.