Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Southwest is barren: Reflections on a lost semester

COVID-19 made a place filled with life feel like a ghost town
Chelsey Powell / Daily Collegian

It is quarter to 9 on a Wednesday night, and Southwest is barren.

Barren: a word I would have never expected to describe Southwest Residential Area with, as it would always be bustling with life at this time. There would normally be lights on in the majority of the residence halls, Berkshire Dining Commons would be filled with people, there would be obnoxious screaming somewhere in the distance and people would be laughing and vibing.

Now all you can hear are the gentle howls of wind brushing through tree leaves and crickets chattering in the distance. This is the opposite of what I expected to witness in Southwest in my final year as an undergrad.

The walk to a barren Southwest from North Apartments added to the empty feeling throughout campus. Passing by Northeast, although normally quiet, it is now dead silent. While on my walk, I glanced into rooms where you would typically see shades pulled down to hide the existence of the outside world and lights where some changed from green to blue to red. Instead, all that could be seen in those dorm windows as I walked by was a bland empty room, like when you first move in. All the doors in the halls are open, the hall lights are turned on, but no one is there. The same views can be seen in the Sylvan, Orchard Hill and Central residential areas.

The emptiness of campus became more apparent as I sat outside in front of an empty John Adams residence hall, more commonly referred to as J.A. At a quarter to 9 on a Wednesday night, there should be someone at the security desk, and the tall tower should be illuminated with light pouring out from dorm windows. There should be the occasional group of friends hovering around the hall entrance, waiting for their friends to come down and sign them in or leave with them, out into the night.

Instead, I am greeted by an empty lobby, without security, and a darkened building. This emptiness filled me with the unmistaken truth: this is reality. The illusion brought by being away from home and in college is shattered by the silent nature of campus. There is no escape from reality now because this is reality. What has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic has left me and others feeling more disconnected from our own community where we may once have felt so united.

This disconnect and drastic campus life change has given so much opportunity for reflection and regret. Southwest being barren has me reflecting on what I used to think with more certainty; What is in store for my and others future? What are we supposed to do to emotionally get through this pivotal point in our young lives? Where is our foundation? What lies next?

Now, in my last year as an undergrad, I reflect heavily on those questions and wonder if all the previous years of heartbreak, struggle, failures and perseverance amounted to anything. I also wonder how many people are now deprived of the opportunity to have independence because of this pandemic.

It took me all of my undergrad to finally find myself, who I am, my identity. My fellow peers may have found that they may not be the doctor their parents’ made them out to be or the woman or the man they thought they were. They may have never been one in the first place, and they finally realized why they felt so different, so outcasted, so dysphoric, so disconnected from themselves. How much longer now is it going to take for those still in their undergraduate to realize who they are, and who they are independently from their friends and family, now that COVID-19 plays a role in their lives?

Southwest used to be my place of distraction. Now it has become a vivid reminder of how campus life has drastically changed, leaving me to feel as if this is just my first year as an undergraduate again, totally unprepared for what comes after it. Yet, although I feel lost and more uncertain of what is to come, soon I will graduate and be forced into the wild unknown that is our current reality.

Soon, I and my fellow peers graduating with me will have to navigate a world we were taught was never even a possibility, only true in history and in fiction. I can only hope we endure and persevere through this together, united. It is now exactly 9 o’clock on a Wednesday night, and Southwest is barren.

Alexandra Molloy can be reached at [email protected].

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