I came to Yale in August 2017, enamored with the campus’ beauty and the northeastern seasons I’d soon experience. When I moved into my Old Campus dorm on that ninety-degree day, I didn’t imagine I would begin and end my final fall semester at Yale from a New Haven apartment in the wake of a global pandemic. I also didn’t imagine just what doing Yale remotely would entail. For better or and for worse, I’m coming to the end of my senior fall semester, completed in New Haven on the periphery of Yale’s campus, without having ever entered a classroom. What follows is a reconstruction of a pretty average day on Lydia’s Zoom University campus.
Coffee and read for my James Baldwin course
Each morning, I coax myself out of bed thinking about the French Press East Rock coffee I’m about to make myself. I drink the coffee slowly, enjoying it (I never took the time to enjoy my coffee before), while I sit by the living room window, reading for my James Baldwin course and watching the day begin.
Covid Test in my Residential College
Twice a week, I get fully dressed (I never have to on days when I don’t leave my apartment) and take a stroll to my residential college, Jonathan Edwards, for my Covid test. My goal is always to see and say hi to one of my fellow JE students or one of JE’s staff. Each time I take the test, I get to talk to Lena, who (before Covid) worked in the JE dining hall for over thirty years. For two of those years, I worked as a student manager with Lena and saw her almost every day. It’s a highlight of my day to talk with Lena about her week.
On nice days, I’ll take my coffee outside of JE to work.
Bike on the Farmington Street Canal Trail, then follow with a home workout
Before the pandemic, I didn’t own a bike or even consider biking as a hobby. (The busy New Haven streets scared me a bit!) But with Payne Whitney Gym only open for cardio, I’ve scheduled two bike rides a week through what is one of the most beautifully-foliaged parts of New Haven. I’ve been biking this trail since the summer, and I still suck in a breath each time I watch the trees change around me. I usually follow the bike ride with a weight circuit.
A vibrant red tree I captured on one of my weekly trail rides.
Zoom Office Hours with my Creative Writing Professor
Before the pandemic, I rarely went to office hours, partly because I didn’t know how to go, but also because my professor’s offices were often a ten or fifteen minute walk away. This semester, I have regularly met with all of my professors in their office hours, especially my “Genre of a Sentence” professor. These one-on-one Zoom meetings have made office hours much more accessible and less stressful. Office hours are by far my favorite part about an online semester.
Eat lunch and attend class
I’ve become a pro at making a butter toasted ham and cheese sandwich that I like to munch on as I go to my classes for the day.
Host Zoom writing sessions
None of my jobs, including my position at Yale’s writing center, meets in person this semester. Because of the online course format, the writing center paired me with three undergraduate classes so that I can meet with the same students throughout the semester. It’s been really nice getting to know some of my students, and it’s a highlight of my day to catch up before digging into their writing with them.
Experience some of New Haven’s amazing outdoor dining (or try my hand at making some classic Southern food)
Living on campus, I hadn’t realized just how much I missed out on by not indulging in New Haven’s vibrant food scene. College and Temple Street are lined with restaurants full of outdoor seating that I’d never tried before this semester. It’s nice taking a break and getting out of the house to grab a meal with friends and try a new food spot. If I stay in, I get to use my apartment kitchen to make the best Southern food I’ve had in New Haven (though Whitney Avenue’s new Nashville Hot Chicken restaurant is giving me a run for my money!).
My homemade biscuits and barbecue pulled chicken cook in the oven!
Homework homework homework!
Though classes don’t meet in person, they still provide a lot of work to keep my mind engaged and occupied. I try to use the time after dinner to knock out some of my English papers or course readings. I’ve definitely learned how to alternate work that requires staring at a screen with periods of work that don’t!
Unwind with some TV or catch up with a friend
I usually end my night with one of these two activities. Given that I now barely leave my house and come in contact with friends much much less frequently, I make sure to prioritize time to spend with them and give myself a break.
Even with an online semester, even when there are days where I never leave the apartment, I find my schedule packed with Zoom meetings and workouts and homework and more. I had not imagined my time at Yale would end this way, but now that I’m here, it’s hard to imagine my final semesters any differently. I’ve explored New Haven and the surrounding area in ways I’d never had the chance to in previous years. I’ve prioritized spending time with friends in whatever capacity I can. I’ve worked to adapt to a situation I never could have imagined when I got here. I can’t say I prefer online classes (because I definitely do not), but I can say the online semester has allowed me to engage with my classes, my professors, and with New Haven in ways I had never thought possible.