Since the pilot in November and the beginning of STAC 4, a lot about the coronavirus pandemic has evolved, and so have the concerns of boarders and their family members about returning to campus. Towards the end of March break, many boarders will be returning to campus, including not only those who were present for STAC 4, but boarders who have been remote this year up until STAC 5. Some of these students include Selayni Torribio ’23, and Aina Tasso ’23. They offer unique perspectives on the boarding community as students who have been a part of it – from a distance – for the past year.
First, for some background, what prevented these students from returning in the previous STACs? And why have they decided to return now? According to Selayni, it was complicated.
“My mom just didn’t really want me to go back, and I feel like in January there were more coronavirus cases so it didn’t seem safe to go back,” Selayni shared. Although she had this concern initially, her feelings have changed as this STAC has progressed — not only have coronavirus cases gone down, but she also expressed that she feels more comfortable coming back now because CA has figured out a more concrete plan.
While Aina did not return in the previous STACs for similar reasons, she also explained that the weather played a factor in her decision to not return until now.
“It was just getting really cold and you’re not going to want to hang out [with your friends] when it’s really cold outside,” Aina commented. Contrary to what Selayni said, Aina explained that “nothing has changed,” except for the warmer weather and the progress in distributing vaccines. She also expressed, “I couldn’t not go back for the rest of the year, just because I feel like I’m going insane being stuck in this small space.”
Aina’s point about feeling like she couldn’t not return led to the next question: how does it feel being remote and seeing some of your boarder friends back on campus during classes or on social media? To this, Selayni had a particular moment that stuck out to her: “I was in a club… and half of the people in the club were in person, because we had an in-person meeting even though it was also on Zoom. And so it was just me and [two other students] that were at home, and everyone else was in the classroom. Everyone was having such a good time and laughing and me and [the two other remote students] could not add to the conversation because it would’ve been awkward…” She continued, “I just remember feeling so sad that I wasn’t there in person and knowing that everyone has all of this time to talk and stuff, meanwhile I have to make the extra effort to just call or send memes or whatever, that’s just the only way I can communicate.”
Aina seemed to feel a similar way, while trying to keep a positive outlook, explaining, “Sometimes I just get jealous because I was kind of robbed of my second half of freshman year and first half of sophomore year of being on campus, and a bunch of CA traditions that I have only heard of because I haven’t been able to experience them. But at the same time, I know they’re still there. I know CA is still CA.”
With all of these feelings about seeing their friends back on campus, the question of whether or not boarders felt as though being remote for STAC 4 will impact them socially came up. To this question, Aina and Selayni both had a similar perspective, stating that they didn’t think this would affect them.
“If anything, being at home has made me more social because I am trying to talk to people more than I did last year,” Selayni explained. Aina agreed, “ [I have been good about] keeping in contact with people and just interacting.” She continued, “I like interacting with people and being around people, and I need somewhere to put all of this energy because I have nowhere right now.” She explained that this idea has played a big part in her excitement to return to campus.
Finally, a question that may interest the faculty and parents at CA: Has the way that COVID has been handled so far at school, through protocols and the way students have followed them, impacted your decision to return? Both students emphasized that the transparency of what CA is doing to prevent the spread of coronavirus has played a big factor in their decision to come back to campus. Selayni explained that she can see the effectiveness of the protocols through her zoom screen during classes. “In some classes, I know that my teachers are like ‘Did you guys wipe your desks?’, ‘Can you show me your [MyMedBots]?’” She also explained that contact tracing and knowing that there are weekly COVID tests has made her feel like “I will be safe there.” Finally, she explained that the members of the CA community and their responsibility has encouraged her to come to campus, “I feel like everything honestly depend on who follows the protocols and who doesn’t, and I feel like a lot of people do [follow the protocols], so I feel like I will be safe.”
Aina’s perspective was almost identical to Selayni’s. She added, “If they were just letting people do whatever without any sense of safety, I guess I probably wouldn’t be going back.”
Knowing that students already on campus and students arriving on campus for the first time in months are all excited is a great feeling for the CA community. Hopefully, the introduction of more students living on campus will go safely and reintroduce a sense of normalcy to the community that we have not experienced in a while.