It was a cold morning in early March of 2020. I do not normally listen to the news on the radio, but I was beginning to become concerned about this virus that seemed to be spreading worldwide, the newscaster called this virus Covid-19. As I continued to listen on my way to campus, the reality of this situation began to sink in. I thought “This is going to become a serious problem”. What I did not know then was how serious a problem it would become. As I pulled into the SUNY Oneonta commuter parking lot, just in time for my 11:30 AM history of Soviet Russia class, I shut the car off. I did not realize this would be the last time I would be on campus to attend classes.
As my day progressed, other students and I began talking about all of the sports leagues that were just put on “pause” because of the growing concern over the virus. As we spoke about the cancellations someone brought up the question if we would be able to come back to campus after spring break. I immediately said, “Of course we will come back”. I never dreamed that this would become a global pandemic that has affected everyone’s life in some way. At the time I simply thought that medical professionals would come up with some type of treatment before it got that bad. Boy was I wrong on so many levels.
On my way home from campus the final day before spring break, I again listened to the news on the radio. The newscaster had a guest on her show, the guest was a professor of Infectious Diseases at some Ivy League University. The doctor was telling of the precautions people could take to limit their risk of catching Covid-19. He spoke about masks and handwashing. I thought to myself, handwashing should always be a top priority, but there is no way anybody going to wear a mask in public. Once again, I could not have been more wrong. I think that like many other people I did not want to face the reality of this pandemic, so I just minimalized it and hoped it would just go away. If you would have told me nine months later I would be sitting in my living room writing this blog, still in the middle of a pandemic I would have said you are lying or simply wrong.
Over the next week the slow drip of cancellations and postponements became a tidal wave. First it was the NCAA Basketball tournaments, then professional basketball and baseball. The Olympics and tennis tournaments were cancelled next. Finally these cancellations hit home as my daughters’ school was going to be closed for two weeks. After that they would be attending virtually from home. I remember saying to my wife “How did we get here?”. Is no one who is in charge of anything in this Country or World capable of stopping this? The sad answer to my question was, of course, no. The next couple of days brought no good news on this front. Businesses would have to shut down, people were going to be out of work, making them vulnerable to food and shelter insecurities. It was becoming clearer that this was going to last a while, and people were going to suffer, and in many cases even die. As the days went on finally, we got the word that the college as well as all other SUNY schools, were going to be closed for the rest of the semester, and we would shift to an entirely online model of education.
The college cancellation came as a surprise to me, even though it should not have. Quickly the school shifted to online classes only. This was a bit of an adjustment for me. I do not do well with online classes. I would much rather be in a classroom, but sadly this was no longer an option. The slow trickle of news from the school was maddening. I do realize that the college was just trying to keep everyone informed, and that there is no precedent for our current situation. But that being said, the emails that something else on campus was cancelled or postponed that came daily the first month of the lockdown was depressing. I feel one email with all of the cancellations and postponements would have been better. I am not trying to fault anyone, this is just my opinion.
The shift to online learning went much better than I expected. All of my professors were able to adjust their method of teaching and implement the new system. This must have been a monumental task, but they all did it like professionals. The hardest part for me with online classes is simply staying on schedule. I do much better with a rigid schedule that does not allow me the opportunity to procrastinate. With the help of all of my professors, all of which were extremely understanding of any difficulties I had. I was able to overcome my character flaws and have a successful semester. The worst part of online classes became the isolation. I enjoy being on campus and around people, I love the back-and-forth discussions that are so hard to duplicate with a class that is conducted over Microsoft Teams or Blackboard. But once again, my professors would not stop at anything to replicate this as best they could, given the current circumstances.
As the spring semester drew to a close, I thought that things were starting to look up and we would be back on campus in the fall. This gave me hope that things would soon go back to some type of normalcy. I ended up taking a summer course because I discovered that online courses were not that bad, and I should not be afraid to utilize them. This went well too, again the professor was incredible, and I feel that I got every bit the education that I would have received in a classroom setting. In fact, the class I took was the history of New York City and it was one of my favorite classes to date at Oneonta. The class started with the Dutch settling the city and ended with modern times. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who has a love for history. My summer was actually pretty good considering the current situation. I am sort of a homebody, so I do not go many places anyway, so the restrictions did not have much of an effect on my day-to-day life, other than financial implications of no longer having a place to work.
On a personal note, I am a non-traditional student at SUNY Oneonta. I am a bit older than my fellow students and I am married with children. The hardest part of this pandemic for me was always being scared. Scared that my wife or kids would get sick. Scared that I would get sick and end up in the hospital all by myself. The fear was almost constant, and at points was all-consuming. My wife is an emergency room nurse, at a hospital an hour or so outside of New York City, right in the heart of the outbreak. This was extremely stressful for us as a family. My wife lived in fear that she would bring the illness home, as well as being overwhelmed by patients at work. Watching my partner in life and my best friend be burnt out by constant stress and being overworked was difficult. But like always she handled it like a champ and never wavered in her duties as a healthcare professional. As I sit here writing this, we are over nine months into a pandemic that I thought would never happen. But we have hope, there are several vaccines that are set to be distributed soon. We can only hope that they work and we can return to some form of normalcy in the future.