Things I’m Grateful for During this ~Unprecedented~ Online School Year

We’re all probably sick of hearing that Thanksgiving 2020 is “unprecedented,” so I don’t want to reiterate cliches. This year, I’m first and foremost grateful for the health and wellness of my friends and family. But with this “”unprecedented”” Fall semester winding down, I’d also like to reflect on some other things, both big and small, that have brought me joy these past few months at Yale.

1. Not having to walk to class

Just to clarify, normally, I actually enjoy the walks to class. Yes, even the 20-minute hike up Science Hill. Recently, I’ve been missing the little moments these walks gave me: the unimpeded time to listen to music and be alone with my own thoughts, the opportunity to see the beautiful Yale campus throughout the seasons, the confidence I felt when I wore a cute outfit and got to show it off to everyone else walking, the small catch-ups that took place when I by chance saw friends headed in the opposite direction.

I miss walks up Science Hill where I could stop and take photos of the scenery. 

I can’t lie though: that walk ate up a lot of time, and there were some times—like when I forgot an umbrella in the rain, or when I was running late and got stuck in foot traffic—when even I dreaded it.

Well, with online school, that barrier has been removed.

There’s been so many unexpected pluses to this. I haven’t given much thought to umbrellas in months. I can wake up 5 minutes before class and get there with time to spare. Perhaps most importantly, I get to go from one meeting or event to the next, just like that. I’ve been able to take more advantage of so many resources: I’ve met with new advisers, gone to more office hours, and attended virtual speaker events. But I also realized that when this pandemic ends, I should just use these resources more often in general; feeling too lazy to make the trek isn’t a great excuse for missing out on things I’ll only ever experience at Yale.

The promotional banner for a webinar I got to host with Professor Meg Urry, Director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, as part of a series for the Yale Alumni Association and Yale Scientific Magazine, a publication I edit for! 

2. Snackpass

This app, invented by Yale students, is amazing. It’s basically Uber Eats or Grubhub, but instead of getting food delivered, you pick it up yourself, contact-free. It also saves you money. No delivery fees, plus restaurants often offer specials exclusive to the app. And, each time you make a purchase, you get a reward point and can share a point with a friend, which adds up to free food later. Some of the best deals I’ve gotten: 30% off my first order of arepas at Rubamba; 30% of an acai bowl from the Juice Box, and a free noodle bowl from Junzi. Other bloggers have already talked about the wonders of New Haven food, but my oh my am I grateful for Snackpass and its sweet deals, especially in the age of social distancing.

My most recent Snackpass treat, a Pitaziki rice bowl (25% off!)

3. Friends!

A normal school year absolutely bursts with opportunities to really bond with others. We linger on conversations in the dining hall, spend late nights in suite common rooms. But Yale students are busy; when everyone’s running across campus to club meetings or putting in long hours in the library, it can be easy to lose sight of a good friend for a few days.

COVID-19 might have made it harder to see a lot of people, but it also allowed me to see my pod of housemates a lot more than before. We were already good friends, but the little moments we shared throughout the semester—cooking and eating together, staying in to watch movies or play games every weekend, even just passing each other in the kitchen and catching up on our latest Zoom stories—made us even closer. I’m sure some of these things would have happened in a normal semester, though certainly not with the same frequency. For the past few months, my world has centered on this little apartment and the pod that lives inside. On the surface, that might feel restricting, and there have been times when I’ve missed all the scenery and people I used to interact with in a day. But in a sense, I’m grateful that we’ve been stuck here, and I’m grateful that my friends and all our inside jokes, deep discussions, and mundane hang-outs have made this space expand well beyond its walls.

One of my favorite house pod activities of the semester: dumpling making for Max’s birthday!

4. COVID privilege

The fact that I’m even able to be in New Haven says a lot about the vast network of resources that Yale was able to mobilize. It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my head around how us students were able to access amenities such as twice-a-week testing when the country faced a nationwide shortage for so long. Our privilege as Yale students, and the weight of all that we owe to the Yale and larger New Haven community, can’t really be overstated. I’m really grateful that we were allowed to come back on campus with measures in place to protect our safety. Not all schools can say the same, and being able to walk on campus, to live with my pod, and to see other students, both familiar and new—even if in a socially distanced format—helped me stay grounded throughout the semester.

Yale decided to splurge on this inflatable Handsome Dan… effective public health messaging, even if his eyes are a bit terrifying.