College-bound and wondering if everything I worked for is in jeopardy | Opinion

Published: Aug. 22, 2021

By Zegale F. Talmadge

Zegale F. Talmadge graduated from Don Bosco Prep this spring and is headed to Northwestern University this fall. He wonders how COVID-19 will affect his first year in college.

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This spring, I graduated from Don Bosco Prep High School at Granatell Stadium in Ramsey. A moment so surreal and one that I had been waiting to experience since I entered high school in 2017 as a 14-year-old kid.

Now, I am embarking on another four-year journey at Northwestern University, but how that will look come September is still up in the air due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over a year ago, COVID-19 began to spread rapidly across the globe from country to country leaving a trail of destruction along the way. And in March 2020 it was officially declared that we were in the midst of a pandemic.

At that point nearly everything was taken from us –– schools, malls, indoor and outdoor dining, seeing your grandparents, concerts, bars, and so much more. Life became very quiet. Even the noisy Garden State Parkway was silent with few cars making their way either north or south.

But even though we were in the house for months with nowhere really to go besides the grocery store. We found ourselves connecting with other people as well as our own families on a level that was deeper than anything we had ever experienced.

Celebrities were going live on Instagram interacting with fans, DJ D-Nice created Club Quarantine for us to enjoy some of the greatest hits, past, and present, and even something as small as TikTok, a social media outlet aimed at highlighting the talents of content creators, brought us closer together as people began to share their stories, talents and skits, which brought joy to people all over the world.

For once we were all connected and not separated by social status, race, gender, or sexuality because we were bonded together by one common thread –– surviving the pandemic. This virus has created so much pain and agony through the hundreds of thousands of deaths but we often overlook the “collateral beauty.”

Just as there is darkness there is light and just as there is evil there is good. So even in death, we can find the meaning of life. COVID-19 has such a hold on our daily lives that sometimes it makes stepping outside the comfort of your home difficult especially now over a year removed from the start of the pandemic.

It’s hard to imagine that we would still be in almost the same situation that we were last year as this year. After the release of the three FDA-mandated vaccines for emergency use authorization (Johnson & Johnson/ Janssen, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna) it appeared that life was slowly making its way back to normal.

And for a while it was; infection rates were down across the country, hospitals were becoming less overwhelmed, a majority of places opened back up at a full capacity, and even the mask mandate was lifted for those who were fully vaccinated.

Unfortunately, the narrative that the pandemic is over has officially been put to rest. As infection rates begin to rise to levels not seen since the early stages of the pandemic and hospitals once again are becoming flooded with infected patients mainly the unvaccinated.

The highly infectious Delta variant, which now makes up a majority of cases, is more contagious and may be more deadly than previous variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now recommended that in areas of high transmission rates of COVID-19 individuals should wear mask whether you are vaccinated or not.

It now looks like everything we have worked so hard for is in jeopardy, including how schools will look in the fall, specifically colleges and universities.

As an incoming first-year student at Northwestern University, I’m a bit worried about how things will look come this fall.

Even though Northwestern has required that its students be fully vaccinated before coming to campus, I am still worried about whether or not that will be enough to limit the number of cases that we have that could completely alter the routines that a first-year student needs to get acclimated to college life.

Being able to do the small things like going into the dining hall to eat with your friends, being able to have a group of friends in your dorm, going to those college parties that you’ve thought about since you got accepted, or even just being able to simply stand closer than six feet away from someone.

You don’t realize how much the small things matter until you can no longer do them, and that’s what scares me the most: the thought that even after getting vaccinated we will still be subjected to the same regulations that were put in place when the pandemic started.

In a few weeks, I while begin to pack my bags and boxes and leave behind the state of New Jersey, a place that I have called home for 18 years, and head to a new home in Evanston, Illinois where my fears will either become a reality or fade away.

Nonetheless, this is a journey that I have prepared to take my entire life and I can’t wait to get started. Mask or no mask. Virtual or in-person. I am ready for the next step.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-08-23 03:14:28 -0700