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Virtual College: An Unfortunate Reality

A year ago, I would walk to the C4C dining hall at CU Boulder to grab dinner with my fellow freshman friends. The leaves on the trees were changing to a bright yellow, signifying the joy of my new adventure in life—college. There were hundreds of smiling faces around, chattering about school, social life, and everything in between. There were so many new and different people, it was a world away from Kit Carson, but I loved the sense of “newness”.

This year, I have only walked on campus three times to attend an in-person class. On my walk, not a soul was in sight. The dorms looked eerie, there were no professors in the halls, and there were no smiling faces. The only person I saw was the garbage man driving by, and he raised his eyebrows at me. I knew he was frowning, even though a mask was covering his mouth. I refused to put my mask on until I entered the building, and I knew he was annoyed at me.

I waited outside the building for as long as possible and before I entered I took one last deep breath, because it was and still is difficult for me to wear a mask for 90 minutes straight. I was attending my Operations Management class, and I was eager to see other students. But when I entered the classroom, there were only two other students. Fifteen people were invited to attend, but only three showed up. I couldn’t decide if they were afraid to be in-person, or if they were just lazy. I figured it was a combination of both. We sat in silence for a while because our desks were spaced 6 feet apart, and we were strangers with half of our faces covered. I tried to start a conversation, asking if they were nervous for the accounting test coming up. They were both engaged for a few moments, and the teacher smiled through her clear facemask. It seemed to be a smile of thankfulness, grateful that I made an attempt of being normal.

Nothing is normal now. I remember reading “Harrison Bergeron” back in high school, which told a story about a world where everyone was forced to be equal. Anyone who was above average, such as someone who was good looking or someone who was very athletic, had a handicap placed on them. I thought it would be terrible to live in such an odd and strict world like that. I especially felt like I was in a world similar to Harrison’s when Boulder County issued a stay-at-home mandate for all 18-22year olds. The major consequences of disobeying this order included “a fine of up to five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) AND imprisonment in the county jail for up to eighteen (18) months.” Many houses in Boulder were sent letters that said occupants were not allowed to leave their homes. At first, the order stated that you weren’t allowed to step outside your home with another person to do a task as innocent as grocery shopping (even if it was with one of your roommates). I don’t know if these stories are true, but I heard about people getting pulled over by the cops for having a passenger in their car, and I heard about a student getting fined for trying to study alone in a Starbucks (his studying was deemed nonessential).

When this mandate came out, I expected students aged 18-22 years old to be furious and to feel discriminated against. Were they not upset that 23-70+ year olds were crowding Pearl Street in downtown Boulder and eating out while we were locked up? A good percentage of this age group was furious, but still some would talk on social media about how “this is our fault, and we deserve to be on lockdown”.

What confuses me about some of my fellow Boulder students, is they want to fear coronavirus, they want to blame the young crowd for spreading this sickness, and they never want to leave their homes. They believe they are heroes, helping save our world from this pandemic.

In a world where we only have a short amount of time to live, where you could die of cancer, from a car wreck, or even suicide, why live in fear?

If there’s anything I’ve learned over these past few months, it’s that life is short, and you shouldn’t live in fear. Appreciate your family, appreciate your friends, appreciate your health, and appreciate anything else you’re blessed with. Having spent a great deal of time at home since the pandemic hit, I know that Southeast Colorado is another piece of my life that I greatly appreciate. My first year of college was a blast, and I am eager to return to normalcy.