Letters from the dorm: Searching for positives in a time of uncertainty

  • Although Covid-19 has caused a lot of instability, there's still positive things to be found in the world.
  • One student marks the unceremonious end of her first year at university.
YP cadet Natalie Kainz |

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Yale University required students to leave the campus due to the coronavirus outbreak.

I am surprised at how easily my life fits into neat white boxes. All of my belongings – winter coats, pictures of a well-spent first semester at Yale, and letters from my family in Hong Kong – are now stored in my dorm’s attic, awaiting my return to campus in August. Covid-19 brought an abrupt and unsentimental end to my first year at university.

Being able to pack up my belongings was a rare luxury. Most of my friends left campus for the spring break on March 7 and their belongings sit just as they left them, blanketed with dust. We all left thinking we would be seeing each other two weeks later. Instead, I’m bewildered, disappointed and, above all else, uncertain about what this new reality will look like.

Yale told students to leave campus on March 15 with exceptions granted for international students from countries with a Level 3 Health Advisory. Given that Hong Kong maintained its Level 1 status, I was told that my family and I should contemplate where I could bunk down until summer.

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Considering the time differences between the two countries, we agreed that relocating to Hong Kong would bring many challenges.

Most of my seminars would occur between 10pm and 4am (Hong Kong time), and I would have to be quarantined for 14 days on my return. I considered staying with my grandparents in Minnesota until I learned that they were stuck in Mexico, afraid of contracting the virus on their flight home. Instead, I am staying with a friend in Chicago, whose family has generously opened their house to me.

Many details are still up in the air. I have thousands of questions and cannot help but worry that months of hard work could end up being pointless.

Yale has done a lot to help students during this time of great uncertainty. The university has offered paid leave to students with on-campus jobs, set up an alumni network willing to open their houses to those with nowhere to go, and is doing whatever they can to bring some semblance of normality to our daily lives.

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Others are not so lucky. I am sure many students will suffer both physically and economically.

Rather than lamenting all that we will miss out on during this tumultuous time, I am challenging myself to search for the positives in my life.

I see many of my peers finding ways to digitally innovate and empathise with others – from creating an online fraternity (which is really little more than a glorified Facebook group), to petitioning for a “Universal Pass” system for those who have lost access to Yale’s many resources.

I can only hope that we will each find new ways to foster mentorship and kindness, even if it is only through a screen.

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