By Dalilah Melkumova ’21 NEWS Reporter
The alarm clock rings. I grab my phone from the nightstand and squint at the screen in a futile attempt to check the time. As soon as I open my eyes, the midday sun hits my face, clearly with an intent to blind me. “1pm,” the clock says. Sigh. 1pm has long ago become my 7am. Sound familiar, Virtual ‘Burg students?
According to my on-campus peers, I am currently living the teenage dream: I go to sleep in the morning and wake up somewhere around noon, I never have to leave my room and am free to celebrate the start of each day with a 6:00am trip to McDonalds. Tired of quarantine, students crave “normal” life, and some of them do not even understand my burning desire to come back to campus. “I mean, you can at least go out,” they say and then post a “first day of my senior year” photo with a friend on their Instagram. Sure enough, our fall Virtual ‘Burg 2.0 is very different from the virtual experience last spring.
Although we all have the same class schedule, the gap between virtual and on-campus students appeared at the beginning of in-person classes and has been growing ever since. “Out of sight – out of mind” is a famous saying for a reason! As I scroll through my feed, I feel a heavy sense of longing instead of happiness. There is no sense of community like last spring, when we were, in the tradition of High School Musical, “all in this together.” Now, virtual reality seems more like a wall that keeps me from accessing my friends and my dorm’s snack closet. As much as I try to keep up my (virtual) Mercersburg spirit, it is inevitably slipping through my fingers, and last week I heard a virtual freshman refer to Mercersburg as “just classes.” “Just classes”?! You can tell this person has never tried our pretzel pie ice cream.
However, with the current situation regarding vaccine development, it is hard to predict when we will be able to gather all together, international and domestic, in our dining hall and have our signature dessert. Till then, we should strive to make every effort to bridge the gap between those who are currently on campus and those who have yet to arrive. Virtual events, virtual speed-dating, virtual eating contest – you name it! Focusing our efforts on online education might not only be the best decision at this moment, but also the best investment for the future. With the current technological progress, there is no way that designing new ways to connect with people all around the globe can hurt, especially for a community like Mercersburg.
Of course, I miss being on campus: eating pesto sandwiches in the corner of the dining hall with my friends, getting my writing edited in our cozy Writing Center, or, with the current restrictions, waving at familiar teachers from a 6 foot distance. However, missing all of that does not mean I will fall into a slump of sadness and despair. While the gap between in-person and virtual students might seem hard to bridge, I believe it is not impossible—it might just require a little bit of effort from both sides. As we move forward with Virtual ‘Burg 2.0, the ways in which it can be improved will become more apparent, and if we are willing to make these improvements, our campus reunion will not feel like we have been away from each other for too long.