1. We are planning to return to Grounds in August
I am sure everyone is feeling anxious about the return to Grounds and the changes that will be implemented for the upcoming semester. While students will have to be more careful about following social distancing measures amid new regulatory steps, there is news that should put your mind at ease. In President Jim Ryan’s email to the University community in mid-June, he notified us that the fall semester is planned to begin on time with undergraduate courses beginning Aug. 25. The fact alone that we are able to return once again is enough to bring us all a sense of both hope and relief.
2. Things will get better and there will be a treatment eventually
We must remember that there are countless physicians and public health professionals who are working around the clock to help keep us healthy, happy and safe. While it can be hard to see through this cloud of uncertainty, we must remain strong as a community and trust in the decisions of our health professionals and administrators. University researchers are working to investigate coronavirus treatments and vaccines, collaborating with colleagues across the country. In April, they tested the antimalarial drug — remdesivir — which was found to be effective in helping patients to recover from the virus faster. Eventually, there will be tested treatments for COVID-19, which will make things better.
3. Warm weather is here
When we return to Grounds in late August, there will still be sunshine and warmth all around us. In Charlottesville, we know what that means — beautiful walks around Grounds, ventures to the Downtown Mall, outings to vineyards and trips up and down the Corner. It would be objectively much worse if we were trapped inside with a foot of snow covering the ground. The weather can encourage us to spend time outdoors and be together as a community — and it goes without saying that it’s much easier to social distance outside than if we were stuck indoors.
4. We are being further united as a community
While the pandemic may accentuate any feelings of disconnection and isolation due to the need for social distancing, it can also inspire us to find meaningful connections with others. We are all sharing this experience with one another — us as a world — and we are certainly not alone. Communally living through this experience allows us to focus our attention on acts of generosity, cooperation and patience towards everyone in our community. For example, students are forming coalitions in order to help ease the return of students to Grounds, and University alumni are donating coffee to healthcare workers in over 30 hospitals in New York, among other gestures.
5. We are learning to savor the small moments
Rather than returning to the University and diving straight into the hustle and bustle of a normal fall semester, things are undoubtedly going to be different in the fall, especially after last semester was unexpectedly cut short. This experience will force us to step back and admire the things we may not have always appreciated or gave our attention to. When we return to Grounds, let this be an opportunity to invest ourselves in the small moments — savor the in-person conversation with a friend, the walk across Mad Bowl or the stroll down University Avenue. When we stop to take in these moments, we allow ourselves to process the joy and happiness we feel and this further increases our positive emotions.
6. We are able to think more clearly
The way that we feel emotionally influences our awareness of our thoughts and behaviors. In the past few months, we have had a lot of time to reflect and to practice positivity, particularly when media coverage felt so dark two months ago. If we make it our goal to remain hopeful and optimistic during a time of such uncertainty, we can embrace a more open-minded way of thinking. If we as a community are able to be positive, we will be more prone to effective decision-making and cooperation. This will increase our ability to collectively progress through the pandemic in safe, healthy ways and come out of this experience more united and resilient.
7. We can get creative
By finding ways to adjust to this new way of life, we are seeing an increase in everyday creativity. With more downtime, we are finding time to return to our favorite hobbies such as painting, cooking and writing. Creativity can be as simple as experimenting with your favorite dinner dish or as innovative as writing your own novel — all of these moments of creativity matter. As we transition back to life on Grounds, it is important to continue to pursue innovation and creativity as it helps us to reduce our stress and maintain a positive mood.
8. Many of us have already had a taste of online classes
As Ryan told us in the Fall 2020 update, the University will be offering as many in-person classes as possible, though larger classes will be held online. With nearly half of a semester of online classes under our belts, returning students are more than prepared to tackle virtual learning and succeed in the upcoming semester. While there may be bumps along the way, we can have hope in knowing that the University is doing everything in its power to help us reach our highest potentials.
9. We are already accustomed to virus-related restrictions
Upon our return to Grounds, we should feel a sense of comfort in knowing that we have already been exposed to social distancing regulations and have been learning to practice healthy habits. With the collective efforts and awareness of everyone on Grounds, we should continue to prioritize health and safety. Our experiences with practicing healthy habits will better enable us as a community to apply these practices to classroom settings and housing environments.
10. We will soon be reunited with our friends
Community is a central aspect of our experience at the University, and having a sense of community is what unites us and allows us to be a part of something that is greater than ourselves. Seeing our friends and peers whom we may have not seen in months is something I am sure we have all been waiting for. Being together once again will provide us with the support and assistance we need to weather this pandemic together.