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#SafeReturn: My journey back to campus

When the Coronavirus brutally hit the United States in March, the only place I wanted to be was back home with my family in California. Once I was home and safe, I was amazed to find out a few months later that UMPI was going to reopen and welcome back students to campus in the fall. Although my return to campus is filled with mixed emotions, I’m keeping two things in mind: this pandemic is nowhere near its end and UMPI is one of the luckier schools because we were able to open our doors. I am still unsure about this country’s safety and the status of the pandemic, but I am grateful to be here in Presque Isle for my senior year.

Coming from California, which is a state with over 700,000 cases, and traveling back to Maine where there are a lot less is very relieving. Maine is adapting very well to the pandemic and since they have a fraction of the cases compared to California, it is nice to be in a safer place, despite being away from my family.

It was still a difficult decision, though, on whether or not I should come back to attend in-person classes. On top of leaving my family and most likely being homesick, I still had to think about my safety at school and traveling in the airports. Although I would prefer to be with my family during this global pandemic, it was important to focus and prioritize my education. As a senior in the English program with a concentration in Professional Communication and Journalism, I will be working on my field experience and practicums this year, so I felt that I needed to be on campus to complete my work.

My arrival on campus this semester was a bit different since it started with a 3-day quarantine, and there have been no reunions with hugging or large-group socializing. Many of the usual activities they have on campus are not being held. The CIL, which is one of my favorite places on campus, is closed off in many areas. Campus feels much different because we are all required to follow CDC guidelines by social distancing, wearing a mask at all times, and hanging in small groups. The buildings and classrooms look different with plastic barriers and traffic flow stickers and signage advising people where to walk. It is going to be tough getting used to these new guidelines, but I am thankful to be here during a time when many college students are taking their classes inside their rooms. Getting to see UMPI this way is unusual, but I remind myself that there were many people behind the scenes who worked endlessly to make campus safe for students.

As a senior on the softball team, I still think about how our softball season was cancelled in March. It was a tough couple of months since we could not play in the games we had planned. Once I arrived on campus, I couldn’t hug my teammates. We could not hit grounders or play catch outside like we normally do. We are not able to push tables and chairs together in the cafeteria while eating dinner. Although we are still having a fall ball season, it will not be the same because we have to social distance, wear masks, and sanitize the balls as we play. However, I am aiming to be grateful and content knowing that I can even be in the same room as my teammates, especially knowing that other students across the country don’t have that opportunity.

The reality of the situation is that this is hard: I am grateful to be able to be on campus and go to class in person, but it’s still hard to have to do things so differently than what we’re used to. I think one of the main reasons I am here, though, is because of the faculty and staff members who worked so hard to make it safe for us to come back to campus. Going through this pandemic has taught me a lot and I am thankful that I am in Presque Isle–a place I’ve learned to love and appreciate–for my final year of college.