The time of our lives

Why spending time in person is worth the risk

Micah Lim, Staff Writer

Illustration by Gabrialla Cockerell

Finally, we’re back in person. As a current sophomore, I’ve only ever seen Seattle Pacific University’s campus empty. Looking back, the air in many buildings stood stale with silence. The pandemic limited the experience in person, but with vaccines, Gwinn, Tiffany Loop, and the dorms are once again filled with students and faculty alike.

These first three weeks have been filled with relief, social anxiety and excitement, but all are signs of returning to normalcy. Nevertheless, we still need to remain vigilant in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

The pandemic persists like gum on our shoe; the CDC lists King County as a “high risk” area with over 500 average cases reported a day. Per capita, the numbers are not as severe as other regions, but our near 70% vaccine rate does not mitigate the spread of COVID-19 completely.

With the Delta Variant on the rise, times tell that we’re not out of the thick of it. However, despite the potential risks, returning to campus is worth it.

Last year proved that teaching and learning are possible through Zoom streams and recorded lectures, but whether or not the effort was worth it is up to debate. Many students see school as a means to achieve a degree while others seek the rewards of lived experience. The knowledge and maturity we gain in person have been long overdue, especially for us students.

In autobiographical psychology, memory can be represented on a curve where certain periods of life remain more intact than others. Between the age of late adolescence and young adulthood lies the “reminiscence bump,” memories that appear most vivid in adulthood. Studies show that beyond the age of 40, the years 16 to 25 are highly retained as opposed to years after.

Students at SPU are in the midst of this reminiscence bump. Whether their time is spent in the classroom or at home remotely influences how they evaluate their life.

For education, there’s a lack of substance online. Discussions, group work or even debates are watered down by Zoom. In classes where nobody has their camera on, there’s no telling if an audience is listening to the speaker. Even for science majors, labs completed on the Beyond Labz program don’t compare to a live experiment.

The lack of substance also applies outside the classroom. Last year, there were no attendable sports games, and many teams missed out on their competitive season. Clubs suffered in membership and attendance, and many of the arts programs struggled to create performances online. It just wasn’t the same.

COVID-19 isn’t the determining factor in finding fulfillment, but for many, last year felt like an ambiguous blob of time. Though life stood still under quarantine, the past three weeks pushed time forward again.

SPU has transformed. Lecture halls fill with students, and the line at Gwinn goes out the door. During the day, the streets are busy with students between classes and during the night, the dorms carry streams of laughter and conversation. The reminiscence bump is rising, and there’s an atmosphere to create memories, not forget them.

Freshman to senior year is only a few years in retrospect to an entire lifetime. Rather than spend my time indoors or on Zoom, I want to continue living life in person and around others. Masks, social distancing, and sanitation are all tolerable as long as we get to stay together.

Don’t take this moment for granted.