October 12, 2020—In the present day I ate lunch exterior in Cambridge with three of my mates, all fellow Course 16 seniors. I’ve eaten numerous lunches with them earlier than: burritos within the Unified lounge, grain bowls at each picnic desk in Kendall Sq., sushi within the Stud, Chinese language meals within the foyer of the Koch constructing. This time was a bit totally different. We have been capable of eat collectively on this explicit fall afternoon as a result of we’d all examined adverse for covid-19 twice this week. We wore masks, ordered takeout utilizing an app, and sat six ft aside exterior as we sipped our ciders and ate our sandwiches.

The Class of 2021 was given simply 12 weeks within the dorms, stretching from the tip of August to mid-November. Twelve weeks is all I want. I spent all spring and all summer time 3,000 miles from MIT, attending digital courses from my mother and father’ basement in Seattle. After lengthy and eye-melting days of video lectures and on-line p-sets, I’d lastly shut Zoom and instantly open FaceTime to speak to a pixelated model of my girlfriend, our dialog flickering out and in with my overburdened web connection. Some days, I wouldn’t shut Zoom in any respect; I would depart one assembly and be a part of one other, a painstakingly scheduled group video name for mates dwelling in 4 totally different time zones. Regardless of frequent walks and bike rides exterior with my household, I felt like a mind in a jar, a thoughts and not using a physique, dwelling a life mediated via my 13-inch laptop computer display.

Podmates Ben Koenig ’21, Ellery Rajagopal ’21, Rolando Rodarte ’21, and Alex Meredith ’21 on the Seventh-floor terrace at Simmons Corridor.

COURTESY PHOTO

When weeks quarantining at house with my mother and father and youthful brothers stretched into months, all I wished was one final likelihood to see my mates in particular person, to say goodbye from six ft aside earlier than we graduated and scattered throughout the nation and the world for good. My time on campus this 12 months could also be quick, however I’m extremely glad that I bought my likelihood. Furthermore, the boundaries on this time have given me a powerful sense of readability—I can’t flip down an invite to lunch when there are so few lunches left.

This fall, after spending one week in quarantine at first of the semester, MIT allowed me to see a small group of 5 mates, known as my “pod,” with out bodily distancing. So long as our dorm isn’t on a “pod pause for public well being,” we are able to hand around in one another’s rooms with out masks, and we are able to trip in one another’s vehicles. Hungry for contact with individuals my very own age, I do virtually the whole lot with my pod, a gaggle of mates I used to dwell with in MacGregor. We moved to Simmons collectively this fall, intent on getting greater dorm rooms with further desks for our take-home lab kits. We eat, we play limitless rounds of Guitar Hero, we argue over the deserves of assorted 2.009 venture concepts, we watch The Boys and dissect its juxtaposition of political allegory with epic, gory, unsubtle battle scenes, and we do all of it collectively. Past my pod, I can p-set with my mates open air on a terrace, and it’s a serious improve over our common p-set Zooms. I can see my girlfriend, who not too long ago graduated from MIT and lives in Somerville, for picnics in a neighborhood park; now we have to sit down on separate picnic blankets, however six ft is nothing in comparison with 3,000 miles.

On Monday mornings, earlier than my digital 9:30 a.m. class, I stroll to the Z Middle with two mates to get examined for covid earlier than breakfast. We’re all on a compulsory meal plan now, and we’re all on a compulsory biweekly covid testing plan. We get our nostrils swabbed, after which we get takeout oatmeal and eggs from the Scholar Middle, the place our weekday breakfasts and lunches are served, and we eat exterior within the morning solar. This feels regular, and my months at house in quarantine really feel faux.

Typically, biking via video lectures, in-person recitations, covid checks, weekly Zoom calls with my rowing workforce, and pod hangouts, I neglect that I can’t keep at this new and totally different MIT perpetually. An N95 masks sits on my shelf as a reminder of my airplane trip house in November. My mother biked six miles to select it up from certainly one of her mates, and confirmed me YouTube movies demonstrating discover the right seal. She helped me match one other N95 to my face in August exterior the airport, however I’ll must seal my masks myself for the flight house.

In November, once I rigorously don my N95, I’ll board my third flight house to Seattle in 2020. I flew again in January after my rowing workforce’s coaching journey to Florida, bought my knowledge tooth out, and spent most of IAP on my mother and father’ sofa, consuming smoothies and watching the HBO miniseries Chernobyl with my dad. I believed that might be my final lengthy keep at house throughout faculty, or presumably ever. Barely six weeks later, I used to be clutching a valuable container of Clorox wipes whereas boarding a airplane out of a abandoned Logan Airport. I used to be house once more by Pi Day. 

After we bought phrase this summer time that seniors may return to MIT for the autumn, I initially jumped on the likelihood, however my resolve to return pale because the summer time went on, eroded by waves of pandemic nervousness. I anxious about outbreaks within the dorms, inedible quarantine meals, deep social isolation, the price of on-campus housing once I can be taking principally digital courses, the prospect of being expelled for forgetting to fill out my day by day well being attestation. And if I contracted covid, I risked infecting my household and each single particular person on my flight house.

However in a pandemic, there’s no group with out belief. Terrified as I used to be, I trusted MIT sufficient to return again. And in return, MIT trusts me to get my biweekly covid checks, preserve bodily distancing with everybody exterior my pod, and comply with the ever-changing guidelines of life on campus. It’s a tenuous belief, simply damaged by one dangerous apple, one off-campus occasion that turns right into a superspreading occasion. However I’ve chosen to belief my fellow MIT college students; I’m liable for defending my classmates’ lives, and I belief them to guard mine. 

hiking with pod
Podmates Ellery Rajagopal ’21, Alex Meredith ’21, Rolando Rodarte ’21, and Ben Koenig ’21 on a hike within the White Mountains.

COURTESY PHOTO

The Class of 2021 gained’t get Senior Nights or Senior Ball or, and not using a vaccine, an in-person commencement. As an alternative, we get MIT-branded masks and a deep sense of mutual belief and camaraderie. It’s unusual to have a fall semester with out morning rowing practices or in-person lectures or any gatherings in any respect of greater than 10 individuals. However I’m glad I’m right here on campus with my classmates as I navigate this new actuality. I’m grateful for these 12 weeks of hikes with my pod, outside films with my Simmons floormates, and lunches with my mates—12 weeks to make some reminiscences and say our goodbyes earlier than we slip into the unsure future.

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