JBU One Year Since COVID-19…What Has Changed?

Do you recall your 2020 spring break plans? What summer programs and internship opportunities were you looking forward to? What about that trip you had saved for and had to postpone? Do you remember being in the cathedral and hearing the devastating news?

A year ago, around this time, we suffered the loss of what could have been a remarkable semester and summer. A year ago, we anxiously packed our bags and cut our time short on campus to endure one of the most distressing moments our generations have experienced.

410 days, and over 28 million COVID-19 cases later, our lives under current COVID-related norms don’t seem to have changed all that much despite of vaccines against the virus gradually becoming available to the public.

Nevertheless, it does not come as a surprise that this new normalcy has shaped our perspectives on society – for the better or for the worse. Picture our campus now, compared to a year ago. What comes to mind first?

To some, the transition from communal worship to chapel groups is perhaps the most palpable and challenging change resulting from the pandemic. A year ago, we would be gathering at the Cathedral of the Ozarks, scanning our IDs at the entrance and hoping that the chapel band plays our favorite worship songs. Instead, we worship quietly, mouthing the words through our masks six feet apart from each other.

One of the perks of John Brown University being a smaller campus is that you know everyone’s names and faces. A year ago, you would run into your orientation group and know each person by name. During the pandemic, you may not know half of your peers sitting in a classroom. You may not even remember your dorm room neighbors or recognize your professors outside of campus. 

Swapping our unhampered college experiences with friends with sluggish nights in, life on campus is not the same, even after a year since the pandemic hit. Nonetheless, we have learned to embrace intimacy despite the distance, community despite the hardships and faith despite the current uneasiness.

If you could talk to your “pre-COVID” self, what would you urge them to appreciate about a year ago? Would it be the beauty of seeing random strangers smile as they pass you by? Would it be hugging your grandparents tightly? Would you exhort yourself to appreciate the words of encouragement taught by chapel speakers as we all gather in one spirit of worship?

A year ago, normalcy was taken away from us and replaced with uncertainty. Today, we welcome change while also recognizing what could have been but wasn’t, what we had and lost. Today, we encourage to ask your present self, “What do I have today that I would appreciate if I were to suddenly lose it?”

Photo: Bailey McKenzie, The Threefold Advocate