Liam, Trinity News Writer
Trinity College in a pandemic. No matter how surreal it may seem, this is our existence now as the world once again faces a deadly virus, just as it did while the walls of the new Trinity college slowly were rising 98 years ago, during the lethal Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918. Today, thanks to the advancements of remote communication technologies (such as the worldwide web that allows this wonderful article to be published) the university has not ceased educational operations. Indeed, the college even continues to offer limited services physically; nonetheless operations and lifestyles have been altered significantly by the pandemic this past term.
Resident students have found themselves far more fragmented than in normal years, struggling to make friends. Gone is the cheerful everyday bustle of the dorms, lost in a flood of regulations, masks, and social distancing protocols intended to keep everyone healthy and live (although not very merry and bright). Strachan meals and Buttery snacks are now take-out only, to be savored only in the confines of your solitary prison cell – I mean single dorm room, or else devoured in the increasingly hypothermic outdoor seating options, as the thermometer slowly dips to the time of year where the only positive about the weather is Fahrenheit degrees.
However, resident students are not the only ones who faced significant changes and challenges in their lifestyles. These oft-forgotten non-resident members of college also have had their fair share of covid trials, be it distracting work environments, unstable internet connections (as countless members of college can attest, it would seem it is impossible to get a decent internet connection even in metro-Toronto some days). While non-residents have the optimistically bright, silver lining of saving time on the notable lack of commutes and are not desperately looking for commuter lounges and other places to spend time between classes (practically all of which have been closed under Covid regulations anyway), they face other issues as well. Some face lost jobs and bleak employment prospects. Many live alone, and with no in-person classes, and now not even digital classes non-resident students not spending the Holiday season with family (for their own reasons) are facing the prospect of four weeks without regular human interaction; this on top of the other circumstances taking a major toll on the mental health of the Trinity Undergraduate body, mental health struggles that although the college has paid lip service to addressing with various programs, no major supports have materialized (certainly none that everyone is aware of and comfortable taking advantage of).
Looking ahead to the extended holidays (hail the university’s infinite goodness!), there are some fresh challenges ahead for the winter break and spring/winter/second semester. While we may have mastered the changes so far, another series of changes are incoming again.
The ubiquitous UofT Winter residence closure is slightly different this year as countless more students do spend the holidays with family due to travel concerns and other considerations. Unlike normally, the Trinity dorms are not open for a fee of 40 dollars a night, but instead, interested students are to shuffle off to Campus One, for a flat 300 dollar fee (roughly 20 dollars a day), to spend the break there. However, the University does not appear to have specified what, if any, mental health and social supports will be available there – certainly not the full suite that Trinity normally provides, during the school year.
Coming back (hopefully) somewhat refreshed from the break, there is no pretension at in-person offerings at all this term. Instead, all classes that can be taught virtually will be placed fully online immediately.
Looking ahead at the next semester, for which even fewer of us will be coming to campus in person, we should take time to reflect on the lessons we have learned in the First Term, and apply those to our next semester. For my own part, I’ve learned that drinking is not the solution to all your problems, that watching lectures instead of Netflix is a fact of life (follow them weekly, don’t save and binge), and that the internet never ever works when it’s supposed to. Some students have reported countless hours of scrolling through TikTok as being perhaps a less than completely useful investment of time, although greatly helpful in relieving stress for others, making tiktoks, baking banana bread, eating cookies, and learning how to make cocktails as great skills they’ve picked up during The fifth season–Covid 19–as stress relievers. In adversity lies opportunity, and the best tips I have gathered from slightly less than miserable undergraduates over the past few weeks were related to taking time for yourself and picking up and doing something that makes you feel productive — be it working out, drawing, or baking, or any number of more niche hobbies; those of you at a loss for inspiration could try picking up an instrument, bullet-journalling, astrology, writing slam poetry, or even woodcarving. The sky is the limit, the most important thing seems to be to have any kind of positive outlet for your nervous energy and stress.
In all this misery, gloom, and despair it is easy to forget the simple pleasure in life. So break through those covid-Christmas blues, and put on some Trinity and Covid inspired tunes from our friends at the TCLI and pull out the apron to bake cookies with our heroes at the @trineats Instagram , to munch on while you come to a wellness event from Trinity Student Services . No matter how much covid drives us apart, it is a testament to the strength of our community that we find ways to come together even during these “unprecedented times” (™) and forge new community bonds. So take a minute during this stressful time to relax, catch up with your college friends, and consider coming to a Trin event, and if you have musical talent (or even if you don’t), take a deep breath and belt out a verse or two of Met’Agona Stephanos — our favorite cheer set to a Christmas carol; after all, ’tis the season for that stuff.
Whether you have been coping with the pandemic nightmare through adaptation, humor, crying at night into your oversized stuffed snake, or merely rugged endurance, consider trying a new coping mechanism over the holidays, so we can see you even more cheerful in the new term.
Although our lives have been uprooted, changed, and covidified (totally a real word), and as Toronto enters yet another week as a Grey Zone, now joined by York as well, we can look ahead to an equally bleak future, sadder, wiser, and considerably more fatigued, just in time for the holidays. May lessons from this semester serve us in our next.
Yuletide greetings, and a Happy New Year to you all!